Static Stretching in the Warm Up??


Pic: Superfantastic

Written By Dave

Static stretching has for a long time been a staple part of volleyball warm ups. Walk into a lot gyms and you will see teams sitting in circle for several minutes performing static stretching, before they launch into their training or game. Research shows that this might not be the best way to prepare….

What is static stretching?

Static stretching is basically when you move into a position of mild discomfort and hold that position for a period of time (typically 10s-30s). This is a type of stretching you see regularly, and I’m sure anyone who has played volleyball has done. An example is a seated hamstring stretch, where you have one leg out straight and the other tucked up, and you lean forward to the point of mild discomfort or stretch, and hold this position.


Seated hamstring stretch (Pic: jsmjr)

How does it affect your muscles?

Static stretching elongates muscles and reduces tension within them. As the stretch is held for a period of time, stretch receptors in the muscle become used to this new length and a consequence the neural signals to the muscle drop off. So basically your muscle gets a bit longer and relaxes.

Effect on power and vertical jump

Decreased neural output or relaxed muscles are not what you want when you are trying to produce power and jump. Many studies have found that a static stretching warm up has a detrimental effect on vertical jump and power outputs. The static stretching prior to jumping decreases the neural signals to the muscles telling it to contract. When you’re jumping you want the nervous system to be switched on, with strong messages going to the muscle enhancing the efficiency between nervous system and muscular system and hence improving power output.

A great way to switch on the nervous system is by doing an active warm up. Keep your eyes open for a later post on this.

When should you do it

The research tells us that static stretching should not be done immediately before any activity whose performance depends largely upon achieving high amounts of force. This means don’t do it before jumping, as it impedes performance.

However, after training static stretching is great. After training you want to achieve muscle relaxation and elongation, to help return muscles that have just been thrashed in training back to their original length and tension. This promotes recovery.

Static stretching in the warm up is not all bad. The dulling of the nervous system does not last forever, and can be reversed if some mobility and active warm up activities are carried out following the static stretching. This will fire up the nervous system again preparing the body for max force production and jumping.

So, you can include static stretching in a warm up, but it is best to do it at the start, and follow it with an active warm up. The key point is not to do it immediately before jumping as it dulls the nervous system impairing performance.

Leave a comment

13 Comments.

  1. Good article.
    I especially like that it does recommend static stretching still take place, just has to be at the right time (after practice or a game).

    It would be great to see some active warm up suggestions for volleyball players.

  2. So Dave- the $1,000,000 question….. Even though this information has been around for 20 years or so – why do people still coach it and do it???

  3. VballCoach,
    There will be some information on active warm ups coming soon.

    Alexis,
    I guess people follow convention. “Thats how it was done when I played, so thats how we’ll do it now.”
    The information is out there, in some cases it is a matter of coaches seeking out this information, or advice from the relevant people. Hopefully this site can provide some of this information and eventually develop into a good resource for coaches to use.

  4. I like the thread of this forum. The only problem is the people who are reading it are most likely going to be the converted. As a PE teacher for the last 28 years the change to convince people that static stretching before ‘the event’ can impede performance is like running into a brick wall. The philosophy that ‘this is how we use to do it in my days’, is imprinted. Running coaches courses and clinics you quite often get the same reaction.
    I have been using active warm-ups for volleyball for a number of years. I also allow the players to do some static stretches but I move players on quickly if I believe that this is becoming the main focus of the players.
    Whilst many coaches use various mobility exercises as their dynamic warm-ups I prefer to use the ball in their warm-up. Mind you I am always looking at new ideas. Like we all should be.
    Well done on this site.

  5. Thanks for your thoughts Ross. It can be quite a battle to educate people that static stretching before the event can impede performance. In some cases this message is getting through too well and people are turning away from static stretching at any time. It does have many benefits, it just needs to be done at the right time.

  6. Hi there,

    I think some of the challenges faced go back to the reason for stretching – prevention of an injury.

    In my opinion coaches feel that unless there is static stretching done, if a player injures themselves, the coach will be held to blame, because he / she did not do static stretching.

    I too have been doing active warm up for years, with a ball – aking sure players knew that this was a warm up drill.

    I had a coach work with me two years ago and she was shocked that I was not doing stretching at the start for 10 minutes or more.

    She was from a club who’s Head Coach has been coaching for over 30 years. That’s where her prior knowledge comes from – for sure.

    Then last year, the S & C coach (who is now on Western Bulldogs staff) said at te end of training he did not want the athletes to do ANY stretching as it damages tissue!

    So what is the best course of action?

    What do you guys recommend is up to date warm up for Volleyball and why?

  7. Hi Dan,

    I can understand that as a coach you feel responsible for the well being of athletes and could be blamed for injuries. However, there is no research that indicates static stretching in the warm up will prevent local muscle injury. There is also the decreased neural firing, and negative effects on vertical jump. So static stretching is certainly not the way to go in the warm up.

    As for stretching after training I would recommend some static stretching to help return muscles to their resting length.

    There will be a post shortly with some active warm up ideas.

  8. Thanks for that Dave.
    It would be great to get some links to some well known and well documented people in the field. I love the site by the way. If I can get links to articules then I think all coaches will feel more empowered. I will definitely share these.

    Dont worry, I love the active warm up at the start. What are your thoughts on not doing strectching at the end of a session using the reason that muscle tissue is already damaged?
    Regards,
    Dan

  9. Dan,

    After training athletes can experience muscle soreness or DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). This is due to microscopic damage to the muscle tissue. There is a bit of a myth that stretching after training will reduce this soreness. It may provide some temporary relief but does not really impact on muscle soreness. This may be why your S&C coach said not to worry about stretching post training.
    I would recommend stretching after training to restore muscles to their resting length. No post training stretching could lead to some chronically tight muscles. I would still include stretching post training, but keep in mind muscle damage is done and it wont really cure the subsequent soreness.

    Hope this helps.

  10. booo it doesn’t even tell me any streches for static streches

  11. Sorry Justin, I’ve been terribly slack with the blog. I’ll put static stretches on the list of posts to do.

  12. You basically make seriously posts I would say. That is the initial time I visited your website and so far I?m amazed with the study you made to create this put up wonderful. Fantastic Job!

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