The Place for Static Stretching

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Pic: rjs1322

Written By Dave

There seems to be some confusion about where static stretching fits into a volleyball program. Before training? After training? Does it prevent injuries? Just exactly what is the deal with static stretching?

Studies have shown that a warm up based around static stretching can impede vertical jump performance and power outputs. In some cases this has scared people off static stretching completely, and there has been an overreaction. In other cases the original message has still not quite gotten through. Hopefully this will clarify the role of static stretching in a volleyball program.

Static Stretching in the Warm Up

A previous post, Static Stretching in the Warm Up, explained that the relaxation of muscles and the dulling of the nervous system can decrease power output and jump performance. To fire up the nervous system and prepare the body, an active warm up is a better option.

However there still could be a place for static stretching in the warm up. It is unclear how long the effects of static stretching last on jump performance. Some studies indicate that the negative impact on vertical jump has worn off after 15 minutes. Other studies suggest the effect could be as long as an hour.

Static stretching may be so ingrained as part of preparing for a game that many athletes feel they cannot play without doing it. Static stretching can be ok as part of game preparation if performed at least an hour before playing. This may mean doing individual static stretching before the team starts its active warm up for the game or training.

Static Stretching After Training or Game

After training or a game static stretching is great to promote muscle relaxation, and restore muscles to their normal resting lengths. The stretching done after training is not done to improve flexiblility, it is more for restoring the muscle to resting length, promoting more optimal performance in the next session, relaxation and recovery.

Injury Prevention

Whilst dynamic mobility and an active warm up are best for preventing injuries in the short term, poor flexibility can be a factor in overuse injuries. For long term changes in flexibility static stretching certainly has a place.

Ideally players will do specific flexibility sessions, however it is not a perfect world and players often don’t have the time for extra sessions. The trend now is to work on flexibility at the beginning of a session, and then follow it up with a dynamic warm up to prepare for the training session. It is thought that this is the time when the most long term improvements to flexibility occur.

Performance Enhancement

Having adequate flexibility is important in achieving optimal performance in volleyball. Volleyball requires a reasonable range of motion to achieve the various positions that you get into in a game.

Adequate flexibility allows you to accelerate your limbs through a full range of motion which can enhance power. If you are limited and cannot rotate the hips and shoulders through a full range of motion you won’t generate maximum power in a spike, for example.

Adequate flexibility enhances movement efficiency as there is less resistance to movement. For example, when trying to extend the hips to jump, tight hip flexors require more energy to overcome and can impact jump height and general ease of movement.

Many stretching techniques can be valuable when trying to improve flexibility. Dynamic stretching, static stretching and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching can all be beneficial. I would recommend a variety of these techniques are employed when training for flexibility, and static stretching definitely has a role to play here.

Recovery

Static stretching can also be used as a recovery method. Check out more detail on recovery for volleyball.

Recommendations

  • For warm up purposes dynamic warm up is the best option.
  • Static stretching is good post training or game.
  • Adequate flexibility is required for injury prevention and optimal performance. Specific flexibility sessions should involve a variety of stretching techniques including static stretching. This could be done before training as long as it is followed by a dynamic warm up to get the body going.

Hopefully this clarifies some issues with static stretching and its role within a volleyball training program. Implement some of these strategies into your program, and let me know how you go.

9 Replies to “The Place for Static Stretching”

  1. You have answered many questions that I’ve had.

    As new research and information becomes available and accepted (dynamic stretching better for explosive action), then the old paradigm often is discarded completely (the trend toward thinking that static stretching is bad).

    You’ve made valid and logical points that the moderate use of a variety of stretching techniques is probably the best course of action to ensure maximum physical performance while decreasing the probabilities of injury.

    Great post.

  2. Would you have to do a separate warm-up for static stretching if you’re going to stretch before your team starts their active warm-up? I’m assuming you warm-up a little before doing flexibility training.

  3. Im gonna jump in and answer these ones for Dave!

    @ Chris
    It was an awesome article…people do jump on the bandwagaon and if they hear static stretching is bad,they will never touch it again. There is a place for it.

    @ Katherine
    Pre-game personally and Dave does the same thing, we tend to go for a very light jog and then get some stretches done, areas that are extra stiff. Then start slowly transitioning into easy dynamic work. So yeah, you do sort of a small warm up before that, but it is all pretty light. Pre-stretching before a game isn’t really flexibility training, more so just an extra loosening up.

  4. We recently completed a study that demonstrated that although our static stretching in the warm-up (15 minutes) did cause an acute decrease in jump performance, if we follwed that part of the warm-up with a dynamic aspect (15 min of ball work), jump performance returned to normal. This will be published in a medical/science journal this year.

    Our finding is aligned with many athletes’ instincts on how to prepare. You’ve made some very valid points. An athlete’s experience is also a ‘level of evidence’ and shouldn’t be ignored when evaluating it with other forms of information.

  5. Hi JS,

    I agree that an athlete’s experience is a level of evidence. Its good to see what works in the “real world” being backed up with some research.

    Thanks for the comment.

  6. When talking about static stretching, you have to keep the goal/purpose of the stretch in mind: gaining ROM/elongating the muscle Vs. warming up the muscles and having sufficient ROM do to the sporting activity.

    Sarcomeres are the basic unit of the myofibril (what allows it to contact) in striated muscle. These need to be in an optimal arrangement in order for the muscle to be it’s strongest.

    A muscle that is in a shortened position, or a lengthened position (or too tight or stretched) is weaker and therefore doesn’t contract optimally or generate maximum power.

    If you are using static stretching to ensure sufficient ROM and to warm up the muscle, the stretch should be held for a minmal time with few repetitions (ie. 2-3X 10seconds). This is ok to do prior to sporting activity.

    However, if you are stretching to lengthen a muscle, or to gain ROM or flexibility, the stretch would need to be held for longer and with more reps (ideally 4X 30seconds). This should NOT be done prior to engaging in sporting activity. This disrupts the sarcomere allingment. Although this is temporary, it can still cause injuries if done prior to sport.

    This type of stretching should be reserved for after the activity to, as previously mentionned by others, to help the muscles relax after sport and also to gain flexibility and ROM. And if you are looking to increase flexibility, it should be done at least 2 X per day, everyday in order to really be effective.

    Hope this helps.

  7. One more thing…

    Dynamic stretching is a completly different thing and perfectly acceptable to do prior to engaging in sport. In fact, along with sport-specific movements, plyometrics and drills, dynamic stretches are an excellent way to warm up.

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