Warming up before a workout or before a competition is indispensable. In addition to the injury prophylaxis is the performance increase in the foreground, in which the athlete prepares his muscles for the stress. The fact that warming up can have a positive effect on performance is considered assured. However, what content is available for this is by no means clear. Today, we want to introduce you to the importance of stretching in sports in preparation for top performances. At the same time the contradiction of the current research situation and the applications in practice will be discussed.
Static stretching or stretching is still very important in sports practice when warming up. Just before a competition, in addition to the possible injury prophylaxis, the preparation of the muscles is linked to the highest performance.
The goal of stretching: the preparation
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The speed and maximum speed of movement are crucial in many sports and disciplines. In addition to athletics are in ball sports from volleyball to basketball sprints and jumps or throws performance relevant. A start or a quick sprint can decide on victory or defeat.
In order to be able to achieve an optimal performance, the right warm-up is in the foreground of the considerations. The preparatory exercises increase your muscle temperature and core temperature so you optimize your motor performance. In addition, there are preparations at a coordinative level to prepare your technical skills. With this list you will see that a multitude of different functions must be found in the warm-up program.
Stretching during warm-up in the sports practice
It can generally be observed that the sport-specific low-intensity strains form the basis of the warm-up. Loose running is the foundation and the intensity is slowly increased. Furthermore, stretching exercises and stretching are common, with static stretching usually being observed in which the athlete slowly assumes a stretch position and holds for 5-30 seconds. (1)
In the training literature, which is closely related to sports practice, there are still statements to be found, according to which stretching can increase performance. Stretching is supposed to improve performance before a competition and is therefore routinely used in sports practice. You will surely come up with examples. Of course, as an athlete or trainer you are interested in the question of whether stretching really has the supposed effects. Does Stretching lead to performance improvement when performed during warm-up?
The effects of stretching on performance
The effects of stretching on performance have been investigated in a variety of studies. A number of studies have shown negative effects in terms of subsequent power output. (2) A strong reduction in performance has also been noted for fast reactive power such as sprints and jumps. These effects are explained with 3 possible causes:
- Psychophysical processes such as deactivation
- Changes at the neuromuscular level
- Changes in the biomechanical properties of the muscle
On the biomechanical level it is assumed that a change in the force-length ratio of the musculature can be the cause of the reduction in performance. Performance degradation in reactive requirements, such. Low jumps, for example, are explained with reduced neuronal activity. (3)
Measurements of electrical muscle signals (EMG) supported this assumption. These effects persisted even 30 minutes after stretching. After stretching and for up to half an hour, the excitability of the motor neuron pool was reduced by up to 20%. Further studies demonstrated these effects. (4)
In other comparative studies, the negative effect of static stretching was also shown, with dynamic, elastic stretching exercises not resulting in performance degradation. Similar effects as static stretching also seem to have relaxation exercises, so that the psychic effect of stretching can also serve as an explanatory pattern.
Can the inhibitory effects be reversed?
Due to the fact that the performance-reducing effect still occurred 30 minutes after stretching, these results suggest that these results are of great importance to sports practice. However, the question arises as to whether non-activating measures such as maximum sprints or short bursts of energy can reverse the negative effects. In a study this question was followed and after a stretch a sprint or jumps were carried out. (5)
Again, the negative effect of pure stretching on performance was shown. However, after sprints were performed after stretching, the negative effects could be reversed again. Another group, which performed rebound jumps after stretching, could not achieve this and remained below the starting level before stretching. However, an increase in intensity compared to the one in the study might be similar to the sprints. Maximum static contractions as well as jumps did not reduce the negative effects of stretching.
Make your warm-up varied
If you want to prepare fast-acting loads with a warm-up program and at the same time want to perform a stretching workout, you should definitely incorporate activating training contents. Short and maximum sprints are a great way to counteract the negative effects of stretching training and at the same time to prepare the coming loads as best as possible.
However, it has to be taken into account that in the mentioned study the sprint training could negate the negative effects of stretching, but it was not examined whether a warm-up without stretching could not have even resulted in a stronger increase in performance. However, this question is very important for services that are affected by maximum performance. Less significant, however, is this for the game sports. Here, it is sufficient to say that maximum sprints can restore performance after stretch-induced reduction in performance, and therefore no loss of health, while at the same time avoiding muscular injuries.
Stretching in the warm-up: Many questions remain open
Now that you have gained some information from studies on the effects and potential effects of stretching, you also recognize that there is very little information on stretching and stretching so far. In particular, the important information about the basics of such a training is missing completely. We can not make any recommendations on the scope of training, frequency or even intensity that go beyond practical experience.
While in the agility training of gymnasts or figure skaters, large proportions of stretching training need to be a foundation, to the scopes in the warm-up, no statements are possible. It is desirable that the assessment of stretching be more closely related to the current study situation, taking into account the existing deficits in knowledge. Neither the fundamental rejection of stretching nor the incontrovertible insistence on this form of training is to be endorsed.
A dosed application depending on the individual question and the weighing of advantages and disadvantages must rather form the basis for an intelligent use of this training form. Listen to your body and try to defend against generalizations.
- Do not stretch too much before fast-acting loads.
- Stretching to increase mobility can be an independent training session.
- When you stretch while warming up, you should install maximum sprints to counteract the power reduction.
1st competitive sport, 2005. Vol. 35 (2), p. 20-23
2. Spectrum of Sports Science, 2002, Vol. 14 (1), pp. 53-80
3. Güllich, A., & Schmidtbleicher, D. (2000), Method of Strength Training. Structure of strength abilities and their training methods. In M. Siewers, (ed.), Muscle Strength Training, Volume 1: Selected Topics. Kiel: Self-Publishing, p. 17-714
4th Journal of Sport Science, 1995, Vol. 13, p. 481-490
5. Sports Science, 2006, Vol. 36 (3), pp. 306-320
EMG - electromyography - is the measurement of the electrical activity of the muscle
Motor neurons - nerve cells that activate the muscles of the body