Static stretching is the act of elongating a particular muscle or muscle group and holding the specific position for a duration of 30 seconds up to 2 minutes. Static stretching generally occurs at the start of training, practice, or competitive sessions and is a direct portion of a warmup routine. As a result of the elongation of muscle fibers and whole muscle groups, static stretching works to increase muscle alignment and directly improve range of motion. These effects are the result of individual muscle fibers and connective muscular tissues being tensed, lengthened, and aligned in the direction of the specific stretch. Increased use of slow and gradual static stretching will consequently cause a desensitization of muscle fibers, a steady lengthening of muscle fibers, a decreased stretch reflex action, and eventually an increase in overall muscle alignment and range of motion (The Canadian Athletics Coaching Centre, 2010).
Although static stretching has positive restorative and rehabilitative effects, static stretching as means for a warmup routine may have negative effects on overall athlete performance. In a study conducted by Louisiana State University, concluding research found that static stretching may have adverse effects on sprint performance. In relation to sprinting and activities which necessitate high levels of power and speed, static stretching may cause a, “3% decrease in sprint performance…” Because of the resulting elongation of muscular fibers caused by static stretching, individual muscles may temporarily show a decrease in stiffness and an inability to adequately store elastic energy. As elastic energy is largely used in power and speed exercises through its correlation to the stretch-shortening cycle of the lower limbs, an inability to maximally store elastic energy in the employed muscles will cause a decrease in overall performance. In instances of high-intensity sprinting, pre-performance static stretching ought to be acutely avoided in favor of dynamic stretching (Winchester, Nelson, Landin, Young, & Schexnayder, 2008).
When executing static stretches, caution should be taken in holding a stretch for too long—specifically before a competitive or intensive practice session. Following a practice or competition however, static stretches may acutely be employed in the form of rehabilitative or preventative measures.
Sample Static Stretches:
- Hamstring Stretch
- Quadriceps Stretch
- IT-Band Stretch
- Groin Stretch
- Calf Stretch
All stretches can and may be performed from a stand, seated, or prone position.
In opposition to static stretching, warmup routines consisting of dynamic activities have been shown to aid and improve overall instances athletic of performance. In consistency with high intensity power and speed activities such as sprinting, dynamic stretching works to stimulate and prepare neuromuscular systems for eventual performance. Dynamic routines consisting of “submaximal intensity aerobic activity followed by large amplitude dynamic stretching and then completed with sport specific dynamic activities,” are optimal (Behm & Chaouachi, 2011). Accordingly, warmups should include aspects of speed, power, and acceleration in conjunction with overall muscular, cardiovascular, and neurological priming.
Sample Dynamic Exercises:
- Neck Roll
- Hip Circles
- Knee Circles—
- Neck, hip, and knee exercises should be performed in both a counter and counter-clockwise direction.
- Arm Swings
- Iron Crosses
- Leg Swings—
- Leg swings should be performed from both a lateral and front-to-back position.
A proper warmup routine for a track and field sprinter should include components of biological systems which will be eventually used during a practice session or competition performance. This routine should start gradually and focus on keeping an athlete muscularly warm.
To start, a series of short twenty meter shake-out runs should be included. These shake-outs should focus on upper and lower limb movement and should include a jog back to the start following each exercise. Following this, a series of leg swings, both standing and laying, should be included. As opposed to static lower leg stretches, dynamic lower limb movements serve to properly warmup an athlete without inadvertently over-lengthening lower limb muscle groups.
As the warmup progresses, jogging exercises and drills such as butt kicks and high knee skips should be included to gradually increase speed and intensity. Continuing, an appropriate warmup procedure ought to include one or more series of speed and acceleration work—components necessary for a sprinting practice session. Aspects of standing, crouching, and bending acceleration work, followed by short block starts is necessary to prime an athlete for adequete performance potential.
In addition to aspects of muscular dimensions and aspects of speed, power, and acceleration being focused upon, attention should be placed in increased heart-rate and overall body temperature. Although warmup routines greatly vary in length, consistency, and features, proper and adequate attention should always be focused on overall athlete readiness and preparedness for training or competition sessions (Wells, Smith, & Taylor, Warm Up Procedure, 2001).
- A, B, and C skips may be performed as a walk, skip, or double-time.
- High Knee Skips
- Straight Leg Bounds
- Quick Leg—
- Quick leg can be performed with Left, Right alternating or Left, Left, Right, Right alternating.