I was running a one-to-one freestyle session on Sunday. We kick started the day with a chat over a hot drink at the Peak Coffee Shop – initially focusing on a quick profile to see where we were regarding skills progression and established our goals for the day. Before heading down to the course for a skills session, we decided to go through the current thinking on stretching and introduced some tools to keep in tip top condition.
I thought it might be worth sharing our short stretching session with you, as what should or shouldn’t be done during a warm-up is often an area with many opinions. There is also some common misunderstanding of what static stretching has to offer.
Firstly we discussed when static stretching may be used, as there are alternative arguments for it’s use. Static stretching may adversely affect muscle contraction speed and therefore impair performance, if performed too close to paddling. However, if you have a limited range of movement (that may also pose a risk and hinder performance), some simple stretching exercises may be embedded within the warm-up structure without causing a negative impact on performance. In fact, the current guidelines by the National Academy of Sports Medicine suggest stretching can play a greater part in pre-activity and it’s not only limited to post-activity.
The following is suggested for a warm-up routine;
- The general warm-up (5-15 mins of light physical activity)
- Static Stretching, if required – always perform early on in the warm-up
- Specific warm-up – simulate on dry land the actions you are about to perform
- Dynamic stretching (keep under control and within your comfort zone)
In summary, current static stretching research has suggested that it reduces muscle contraction speed, but it can yield improvements in cases of restricted range of movement (which can also be detrimental to performance). If static stretching is undertaken it is advised to do this early on in the warm-up phase and it should be followed by dynamic stretching towards the end of the warm-up. You should always perform some light activity to increase blood circulation and raise the muscle temperature before undertaking any stretching exercise.
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