Warming Up, Stretching and Cooling Down

Posted by Dr. Podesta on February 17, 2011 with 94 Comments

The value of proper warm-up prior to athletic competition or practice has been recognized as an optimal method of preventing injury during athletic activity. Preparticipation warm-up, including stretching and flexibility exercises, is a common practice in most sports and should be stressed by all coaches at all levels of athletic competition.

Warm-Up

Warm-up prior to stretching is often ignored or overlooked by many coaches and players. Unfortunately, in baseball and softball, especially at the lower levels of competition or when practice time is limited, the methods by which the warming-up of the young throwing athletes occurs can be harmful. It is common practice for young baseball and softball players to step on to a ball field and “warm-up” by throwing a ball without truly warming-up and preparing the muscles required to participate in their sport. This practice can lead to injury including muscle strains and tears. Warm-Up to throw, don’t throw to warm-up!

Warming up helps to raise the deep muscle and connective tissue temperature, allowing for greater flexibility. The increased flexibility reduces the risk of muscle strain or tears, and ligament sprains, helping to prevent post exercise muscle soreness. The primary objective of warming up is to prepare our tendons, ligaments and muscles for the explosive forces that are applied to these tissues during sport and exercise. The activity chosen or utilized for a warm up should begin slowly, be continuous and progress gradually over 10 to 15 minutes. Some commonly used methods of warm up include: jogging 60 to 90 feet, 5 to 10 times without slowing or stopping, back pedaling 60 to 90 feet or side-shuffle 60 to 90 feet.

Stretching and Flexibility

Stretching should not be utilized as a replacement for a proper warm-up and should only occur once a proper warm-up has been achieved.

There are four basic stretching techniques, static stretching, dynamic or ballistic stretching, slow movement stretching and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching.

Static stretching is the most common stretching technique and the primary method of stretching in baseball and softball. It can be performed alone and consists of a voluntary passive elongation of a specific muscle. In this form of stretching the muscle is slowly and gently stretched to the point of tension, which will cause a slight feeling of discomfort not pain in the muscle. The stretch should be held for 10 to 15 seconds and then repeated on the opposite side of the body.

Helpful Hints for Stretching

1)   Warm up before you begin to stretch with some type of cardiovascular exercise (jogging, running, cycling etc.) for about 5 minutes to generate a sweat. This increases blood flow and warms muscles so the can be stretched affectively.

2)   Less flexible areas may require more frequent or longer stretching time.

3)   Stretch the entire body.

4)   Hold and maintain the stretch for 10-15 seconds.

5)   Relax throughout the stretch.

6)   Don’t bounce.

7)   Repeat each stretch 2-3 times.

Several common stretches used for baseball have been demonstrated below:

Trunk Twist                                    Upward Interlock (right & left)

Front Hang Interlock                           Arm Across Chest (right & left)

Forearm Palm Up (right & left)         Forearm Palm Down (right & left)

Feet Spread Middle                           Feet Together

Groin (right & left)                           Hip Flexor (right & left)

Quadricep Stretch (right & left)         Standing Calf Stretch (right & left)

Hamstring Stretch (right & left)         Butterfly

Spinal Twist (right & left)                  Hip Cradle (right & left)

Straighten Leg (right & left)                  Pull Leg Over (right & left)

Knee to Chest (right & left)                  Seated Quadricep (right & left)

Calf Stretch (right & left)                  Seated Feet Spread (right)

Seated Feet Spread (middle)                  Seated Feet Spread (left)

Seated Toe Touch

Cooling Down

An active cool down after exercise is recommended. This can be accomplished by jogging for 30 to 60 seconds followed by walking for 3 to 5 minutes. This should be sufficient for body functions to return to pre-exercise levels. A light static stretch is advised after a workout to help circulate lactic acid accumulations in muscles, which will help prevent muscle soreness.

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