The type of stretching you should do heavily depends on the activity you are about to perform, especially the sport you play. When I mention warm-up with static stretches, I always follow it up with dynamic warm-up and field movement drills because there is no warm-up without these in a field sport like cricket.
I’ve come across several articles citing research claiming that static stretches are no good before a warm-up or that stretching is useless and not beneficial for physical performance. However, I disagree with these claims, and my latest study proves otherwise. While I don’t have scientific tools to measure, I base my conclusion on the following:
Is it fair enough if I suggest evaluating the effectiveness of a warm-up by considering:
a) How players/trainees felt after the training – whether they felt properly warmed up, light, and mobile?
b) How they felt the next day – any soreness/stiffness or discomfort the next day?
c) Whether they found their body responding well to their sport’s requirements?
On regular practice days, I usually begin the training session with dynamic stretching/active exercises such as walking, lunges, high knees, leg swings, and light backward jogging to take players through their range of motion simultaneously by working on all major body sections. Then, I move on to physical ground training, which is sport-specific, followed by standing dynamic stretches for the upper body. Although some of these stretches can be categorized as static, I know they go against the rules! But such is the game of ‘cricket.’
Finally, I finish with mobility drills, which I call a ‘final check,’ where we test out all the major joints/muscles by getting into different movement patterns before players hit the nets/ground. Since my warm-up is heavily focused on range of motion/mobility – sport-specific again most days – players respond back the next day with no soreness.
However, there are days when I start with static stretches. Surprisingly, some players’ responses to training after static stretches were better than usual. They felt light throughout the session sugegsting their bodies needed it.
On one occasion, after a previous day of travel and an hour-long bus journey to the ground in the morning, I had the players start with some static stretches (not the ones shown in the title pic) before the warm-up. The players responded by calling it the ‘best’ warm-up post their practice, feeling physically at their best.
My conclusion is that going by the book or research is good, but not always. It depends heavily on your body’s condition and how you have used your muscles in the last 24 hours. If you feel stiff, then by all means, get involved in light stretches before you bring your muscles under pressure again. Your body tells you everything that an outsider can’t!
Looking back at my long-distance running days, I recall doing the same. Some days, I would hit the turf straight out of bed, and other days, I would involve myself in stretching first.
Do what your body requires, even if it means getting involved in static stretches. There is no rule that should disallow your body’s requirements.”