Stretching can make athletes stronger and more flexible, and has long been standard practice in sport for several years. But how can effective stretching make a difference to your team’s performance? Keep reading to find out!
Active dynamic stretching before training
Before you start training, it’s a good idea to do some ‘active’ dynamic stretches as part of your warm up. Active dynamic stretching is when you stretch out by performing a movement with full range of motion. For example, raising your leg in-front of yourself as high as you can, and bringing it back down to the ground under control.
This type of stretching before training can help to warm up sport specific movements, such as jumps, and can help to stretch out the entire body. It’s also suggested that dynamic stretching may improve your potential to produce power! There are a lot of online resources with different dynamic stretching routines, and some that are gymnastics based, that are perfect for cheerleading!
Static stretching – before or after training?
This is a topic that we’ve heard lots about recently, so let’s get into it a little bit. Static stretching is when you perform a stretch without any movement. For example, holding a left leg split for 10 seconds.
The current research around static stretching before training is somewhat inconclusive, but there are some things we can take from it and apply. Some say static stretching reduces your overall strength, and it shouldn’t be performed before sports or exercise. However, studies have shown that strength decreases only by about 2% after static stretching, and power (explosive strength) decreases by even less (where shown).
In cheerleading, a sport which requires flexibility throughout a wide range of movements, it’s important to complete static stretches at the beginning of a session in order to improve your range of motion. Static stretching at the beginning of a session has also been shown to reduce the risk of over-stretching during more intense flexibility movements, such as toe-touches.
When it comes to static stretching after training however, the consensus it that it should be performed in order to avoid the risk of injury. An effective static stretch after training can also reduce muscle stiffness in the days that follow, and will also improve the athlete’s range of motion, enhancing their skills further. So always make sure the entire body is stretched from head to toe!
Assisted flyer stretching
Flyers can always be more flexible, and assisted flyer stretching is a great way to work on improving their flexibility. Try this exercise for example:
1. Stand behind a flyer who’s standing on the floor in a heel stretch.
2. Grab his/her leg and pull their heel stretch a little further until they stay stop.
3. Once it is stretched far enough (not too far – stop when they say stop!), hold it for the desired length of time.
4. Have the flyer push their leg against your hand for as long as they can, which may be up to 5 seconds.
5. Have the flyer relax, then pull their leg back a little further than before.
6. Have the flyer hold the stretch again, this time for up to 10 seconds.
This form of stretching tricks the GTO (Golgi Tendon Organ). The GTO is what detects changes in muscle tension, tells us that we’ve stretched as far as we can, and not to go any further. After the pushing phase (4), you’ll be surprised just how far you can continue to stretch! Assisted stretching is not limited to flyers, so have some fun with it!
Always stretch both sides
When flying, we predominantly stand on our right leg and stretch on our left. It can be easy to forget just how important it is to stretch on both sides.
Stretching changes muscle physiology by elongating fibers, and if one side of the body is more flexible than the other, there will be a muscular imbalance. Muscular imbalances can cause a whole host of issues, including posture problems, that tend to get worse if the problem is not resolved. So, always remember to stretch on both sides if you want to avoid this!
Want to learn more about stretching or cheerleading training in general? Contact us today to find a BGU cheerleading course near you.