Stretching tips: Creating a Stretching Program Easily
Learn how to stretch properly with Function360
If you read the previous blog ‘Stretch Tips for Athletes to Perform’ you now know a little bit about stretching for sports. If you didn’t read it, I suggest you take a moment to read it HERE before reading on. This will make a lot more sense, I promise.
We’ve discussed a few different types of stretching, but since we are discussing sports specific stretching we are going to discuss ALL the different types in more detail, and then choose which ones suit YOUR sport and WHEN.
Does that sound like a plan? Do you want to learn how to put together you own stretching program, and tailor create this stretching program?
1. Dynamic stretching –
Dynamic stretching uses speed of movement, momentum and active muscular effort to bring about a stretch . Unlike static stretching the end position is not held.
Dynamic stretching is similar to ballistic stretching, except it avoids bouncing motions and tends to incorporate more sport-specific movements.
2. Ballistic stretching –
Ballistic stretching involves active muscular effort similar to dynamic stretching. However, ballistic stretching uses a bouncing or jerking movement to increase the stretch
3. Static Active stretching –
Static stretching is simply the opposite of dynamic stretching. The muscle groups are stretched without moving the limb itself and the end position is held for up to 30 seconds.
Static active stretching requires the strength of the opposing muscle groups to hold the limb in position for the stretch. For example, standing on one leg and holding the opposite leg out directly in front of you is classed as a static active stretch. The quadriceps actively hold the stretched limb.
4. Static Passive stretching –
This is just static stretching. Please refer back to the previous blog for a recap on when this SHOULD and should NOT be used.
5. Isometric stretching –
One of most effective methods for improving static passive flexibility is through the use of isometric stretching. Placing an outstretched leg on a chair and using your bodyweight to bring about a stretch is an example of static passive stretching. If, during the stretch, the hamstrings are contracted (i.e. trying to bend knee by pressing the heel into the chair) the activity becomes an isometric stretch.
6. PNF stretching –
PNF stretching (or proprioceptive muscular facilitation) is one of the most effective forms of flexibility training for increasing range of motion. PNF techniques can be both passive (no associated muscular contraction) or active (voluntary muscle contraction). All PNF stretches facilitate muscular inhibition. It is believed that this is why PNF is superior to other forms of flexibility training.
Which Should You Pick for your stretching program?
As discussed in the previous blog choosing which stretching is relevant and what stretches are best depends on the sport and the athlete’s outcomes.
When preparing for an event you must ALWAYS start with a light and easy warm up. It is important to get your muscles warm by creating blood flow around the body. It is important the warm up is light because at this point you have not yet stretched.
Following your warm up, dynamic stretching should commence. The dynamic stretches you choose should start small and slowly increase in movement and power as the muscle gets warmer. Ballistic stretching at this point could take the lead. With every repetition the stretch should aim to get larger, increasing range of motion and sending messages to the muscles to PREPARE them to activate. Preparing the muscles to activate in movements which mirror your sport is key to optimising performance. For example, a footballer that runs and kicks the ball must prepare the legs for such movements. Here are 2 exercises a footballer could therefore consider using:
1. Standing Leg Swings
- Start by standing with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Keeping your upper body perpendicular to the ground swing one leg forward and backward.
- Do not swing your leg so hard that you cannot keep your upper body from moving.
- Repeat for 10 full swings and repeat on other leg. 5. You can also swing your leg across your body stretching the abductors and adductors.
2. Banded Hamstring Stretch
Do you see what we are doing here? We are replicating movements that occur in the sport and turning them into a stretch in order to prepare the body to perform at its best.
Post-Event Cool Down
Your cool down does not need to be too vigorous. Firstly start by cooling down your muscles before completely resting. It is important to do this gradually rather than suddenly.
The stretching you want to be using at this point would be a combination of static passive stretching, static active stretching, isometric stretching and PNF stretching.
*THESE STRETCHES SHOULD NOT BE USED PRE-EVENT AS THERE HAS BEEN RESEARCH PROVING THAT THEY MAY IMPAIR BALANCE AND REACTION TIME AND REDUCE POWER OUTPUT, WITHOUT ANY BENEFITS OF STRETCHING AT ALL.
Your stretching program should take a prominent place throughout your training and not just pre- and post-event. Tailoring your stretching program throughout the year will ensure your training is optimised and therefore your performance peaks.
Maintainence stretching should follow the same rules as the pre- and post- event advice given above, but structured around your training session.
If you are doing a mobility session alone, focusing on the post-event more static stretches will do a lot more for you, than the dynamic/ballistic stretching will. It is with the PNF stretching you must BE CAREFUL. Although PNF stretching is believed to be superior to all other types of stretching for athletic flexibility, there are some risks associated with it and must therefore be carried out with care.
Here are some guidelines for PNF stretching:
- Leave 48 hours between PNF stretching routines.
- Perform only one exercise per muscle group in a session.
- For each muscle group complete 2-5 sets of the chosen exercise.
- Each set should consist of one stretch held for up to 30 seconds after the contracting phase.
- PNF stretching is not recommended for anyone under the age of 18.
- If PNF stretching is to be performed as a separate exercise session, a thorough warm up consisting of 5-10 minutes of light aerobic exercise and some dynamic stretches must precede it.
- Avoid PNF immediately before, or on the morning of competition.
If you’ve got any questions or you are struggling to choose the right stretches for you or your athlete, contact us.
I’ve also created a video for you to watch to see how I stretch before and after I train. The idea of the video is to show you how to plan your stretching and structure it around YOUR needs. I hope you enjoy it…
*PLEASE NOTE THAT THE STRETCHES IN THE VIDEO ARE NOT FOR EVERYBODY. STRETCHING MUST DEPEND ON WHAT YOU ARE PREPARING FOR.