A warm-up is essential prior to sports activity or competition. The goal of any warm-up is mental and physical activity preparation (Gray, NSCA). The warm-up is also intended to enhance athletic performance and decrease the risk of injury.
A general warm-up period may consist of 5-10 minutes of slow activity such as jogging, skipping or cycling. The general warm-up will likely vary based on the requirements and environment of the sports. For example, a general warm for a basketball player would be jogging while dribbling a basketball up and down the court.
The main goal of a general warm-up is to increase body temperature. Moreover increase heart rate, blood flow, muscle temperature, respiration rate, perspiration and to decrease the viscosity of joint fluids (NSCA).
A specific warm-up period incorporates movements similar to movements of the athlete’s sport. It involves 8-12 minutes of dynamic stretching focusing on movements that prepare the athlete for the demands of their sport. Dynamic warm-up exercises are usually followed by sports-specific movement patterns of increasing intensity depending on the sport.
The warm-up period should gradually progress from general to sport-specific. Its purpose is to increase core temperature without causing fatigue or reducing energy stores. The optimal warm-up will likely vary based on the sports, the athlete’s position, the individual and the surrounding environment (NSCA).
The maintenance of a full, non-restricted ROM has long been recognized as critical to injury prevention and as an essential component of the strength and conditioning program (Prentice, 2006).
Stretching can be categorized as active or passive, static or dynamic, and acute or chronic (McNeal, 2006). Stretching to promote muscle lengthening and increased joint range of motion relies largely on the achievement of stretch tolerance (Sands 2013/Magnusson, 1998/Magnusson, 1997/Magnusson, 1996).
Stretch tolerance requires focused practice in an extreme and uncomfortable range of motion positions. Stretching discomfort is difficult to quantify but relates directly to stretching intensity and pain tolerance (Sands 2013/Borg, 1998/Cronje, 2006/Harden, 2007). As stated earlier in this chapter the movement of the stretch will likely be based on joint structure as well as the elasticity and strength of the ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
Active stretching includes flexibility exercises performed by the athlete without outside assistance from another person such as a coach or teammate (Houglum). Active stretching refers to a limb position that places a joint at its extreme range of motion by virtue of the agonist muscle. (EG) Active stretching positions are opposed by the antagonist muscles elastic and viscous resistances (eg)(Sands, 2013).
Passive stretching involves placing a joint in an extreme end range of motion by the use of equipment, another person, gravity or inertia (eg: a gymnast sitting in the split position). The most effective stretches involve the steady application of force over a length of time. This prolonged passive stretch produces a better plastic deformation of connective tissue, primarily because of the length of time it is applied (Houglum). One study on healthy subjects investigated a prolonged stretch of three minutes using full body weight as a force; they found significant linear increases in motion because of the great amount of force applied over the three minutes (Pratt).
Static stretching is the most commonly prescribed type of stretch involving placement of the body and limbs in an extreme range of motion position and holding this position for a period of time by partner assistance, gravity, or agonist muscle tension. Static stretching inhibits the body’s ability to produce full elastic energy potential. The static stretch involves a continuous sustained stretch lasting anywhere from six to sixty seconds, which is sufficient time for the Golgi tendon organs to begin responding to the increased tension (Prentice). This subsequently overrides the muscle spindle and reflexive muscle contraction inhibiting muscular strength by elongating muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia, thus contributing to a possible decrease in performance.
Static stretching has been shown to increase joint flexibility around the knee, hip, trunk, shoulder and ankle joints (Brodowicz, Thacker). The acute effects of stretching on range of motion are transient and are greatest immediately after the stretching session. The duration of significant improvements in flexibility ranges from 3 minutes (Depino) to 24 hours (de Weijer). Stretching two times per week for a minimum of five weeks has shown to improve flexibility (Fox). Acute stretching can reduce peak force production, and power output. Acute stretching has little effect on injury; however, chronic stretching may have some injury reduction potential. Chronic stretching may enhance performance, although the mechanism is unclear (Thacker, Stone, 2006). A static stretch is generally recommended to be held 15 to 30 seconds (Riewald). Most evidence supports 30 seconds (Bandy 1994, 1998, 1997).
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