Softball Training - Are You Still Using Static Stretching for Warm-Ups?
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You see it everywhere. It's been done for years thinking it was good for them. It's still being thought by many to be what the thing to do despite all of evidence pointing to the contrary. Softball is an "old-school" sport. It's a very conservative sport. Things change slowly unlike other sports like track and field. There are "old belief" that holds no matter what. What am I talking about? STRETCHING!!! Yes, stretching.
Using Static Stretching to Warm-Up! There is a belief that by that doing static stretching exercises (a stretch where you hold a position without moving for a given amount of time) prior to doing sport or exercise helps prevent injuries. The rationale is that by increasing the range of motion around a joint, there is less chance of injuries. NOT TRUE! We now know that it is not the case. Serious studies have clearly shown that performing static stretching doesn’t prevent injuries. Did you read that? Static stretching performed prior to physical activities DOESN'T prevent injuries. Even worse, some studies have also shown that it could be detrimental to the performance of speed-power athletes.
Softball players are speed-power athletes because all of the actions in our sport have to be done quickly and explosively. Did you read that too? Stretching potentially decreases performance on the field!! READ IT AGAIN. The reason is that in order to generate speed and power, our nervous system needs to be "turned on". The problem is that static stretching does exactly the opposite: it turns off the nervous system! Studies have shown that athletes performing static stretching are losing power for up to an hour afterwards. Again - you lose power for up to an hour after stretching.
DO YOU want to bat or pitch with less power???
This is really bad news for any softball player! We need all of the power we can get to perform on the field! Now, I am not saying you should not warm-up or that static stretching is bad. Warm-up is essential to prevent injuries and to prepare the body to perform while static stretching is an excellent mean of increasing flexibility. My point is that we have to reconsider how we warm-up and when we use static stretching. Static stretching is not a good way to warm-up. Moreover, the idea that increased range of motion helps prevent injuries is still a valid one. However, we need to increase the range of motion without turning off the nervous system.
The three main goals of a general warm-up are: (a) warm-up the whole body gradually, (b) increase the range of motion around the major joints, and (c) turn on the nervous system. Most sports conditioning experts now agree that a good warm-up should mostly be dynamic in nature - NOT sitting around in a circle and stretching passively! That means that it should be comprised of movements that allow us to reach all three goals.
Typically, a good general warm-up will consist of some sort of activity that brings the body temperature up (i.e. jogging) followed by exercises that will challenge the nervous system and also increase the range of motion around the major joints. These exercises are often described as "dynamic flexibility exercises", "mobility exercises" or "movement preparation exercises". Static stretching is still a great way to improve flexibility and promote recovery. The purpose of a warm-up is NOT to increase flexibility but to prevent injuries and prepare the body to perform optimally. As a result, the best time to use static stretching is right after a game or a training session during a cool-down period. At that time, muscles are more compliant to flexibility training (they are warmed) and the body needs recovery.
So, don't make the big mistake of using static stretching as the core of your general warm-up - do dynamic warm-up instead. Be smart and learn how to properly do a warm-up that will truly optimize your performance while keeping you away from injuries! So please, STOP being "old school" using methods that DON'T WORK and get into the 21st century with "cutting-edge" methods.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marc Dagenais, MHK, CSCS, is a softball peak performance coach that helps players and teams hit with more power and be more dominant on the softball field. To get tons of great FREE softball drills to boost your game, visit us at: http://www.softballperformance.com/softball-drills