Here at 101volleyballdrills.com we are huge fans of dynamic warn-ups, they prevent injury, increase range of motion, and are more engaging for young players than static warm-ups. We have a great guest post today on dynamic warm-up from Joe Fleming from Vive-Health. Here is Joe:
The debate on whether routine stretching helps prevent injury is constantly ongoing, however, the verdict is in about how and when stretching is most effective . . . and you may be surprised.
Static stretching, or stretching in place with held poses and movements, does little for the body prior to a workout, practice, or a game. Why? Because muscles are most limber and pliable when they are warmed up after you have completed an activity. Physiologically speaking, muscles are made up of strands of proteins which are bundled into bands of muscle fibers and then grouped into overlapping tissues that connect to your skeletal structure with ligaments and tendons. These muscle fibers receive oxygen and nutrients from blood flow just like the rest of your body including your brain, heart, and other vital organs.
The human body is uniquely engineered with a host of reflexes and processes which innately help your muscles avoid injury. For example, the myotatic reflex, which cues your muscle to contract when it is extended or impacted, makes sure that when you reach your arm back over your head it doesn’t get stuck there. Or that when the doctor taps your knee with the little rubber hammer, your leg responds with a quick jerk.
When you stretch, especially with stiff, non-warmed up muscles, this reflex makes it tough for your muscles to truly lengthen and draw out. Not only that, but most people commit to static stretching incorrectly. In addition to the myotatic reflex, muscle responses called autogenic and reciprocal inhibition trigger opposing muscle groups “antagonists” to relax when you stretch a ‘prime mover’ muscle. If held long enough, messages to your brain from the antagonists override the reflex to contract and allow your prime mover to relax itself, stretch out, lengthen, and reorganize jumbled muscle fibers.
Understandably, static stretching poses the greatest benefit after a practice or game, and most effectively when stretches are held for 20 or 30 seconds at a time. So what can you do to actively warmup prior to a game? Active stretching (or a dynamic warm-up) plays an important role here, boosting blood flow to key muscle tissues, increasing heart rate, triggering deep breathing practice, and honing concentration, agility, and balance skills.
Check out these three dynamic volleyball warm-ups that can engage and activate muscle groups to power stronger, more efficient performance:
This overall body warmup can be made more fun with a volleyball, and while taxing on the endurance scale, players are almost guaranteed to leave with a sense of accomplishment. Starting in a standing position, players should drop down to the floor immediately into a squat position and then push their legs out into a push-up position. They should then bring their knees back up towards their body to resume the squat position before leaping as high as possible into the air, aiming to get knees up towards the chest. With a volleyball team, teammates can stand in a line and pass successive volleyballs down the line. Each time you pass to the next person you go down into a burpee.
Plyometric Jump Squats
Dynamically activating muscles prior to a workout, game, or practice with jump squats is especially important for volleyball players who will be rotating, jumping, and diving during a practice or game themselves. Jump squats provide a cardiovascular warm-up that also challenges center of gravity to fine tune balance control. Beginning in a squat position, players should stand with feet shoulder-width apart, engaging the core and maintaining a vertical line from head to toe so the upper body isn’t too far forward and the glutes aren’t sticking out back too far. From there, they want to jump up in a straight line, rocketing themselves and raising both arms all the way towards the sky before landing as softly as possible again on the ground to beginning position with both knees forward. The further down they take a squat, the more power players will find in propelling up, swinging arms back and up to drive the jump.
Forward Hand Walks
Some volleyball players might find this similar to the Downward Facing Dog pose of yoga practice. Starting with your legs straight, players should reach hands down to the floor and walk them forward one by one, away from the body as much as possible, and then walk feet back up to meet hands. All the while, players should draw their core up towards their back bracing the abs, press heels towards the floor to give calves a good stretch, as well as keep the spine straight and lengthened. Low back muscles and hamstrings get a workout here too.
Will dynamic warm-ups and post-practice stretching completely prevent injuries? Not necessarily. But the idea behind stretching to boost muscle elasticity, improve range of motion, activate key muscle groups, and increase blood circulation, is sound. Sometimes injuries do still occur though and for volleyball players this can mean knee pain, shin splints, low back pain, and most commonly, ankle injuries.
Immediate injury treatment with rest, ice, compression, and elevation can speed the body’s natural ability to heal itself and repair damaged tissues. Did you know that the benefit of ice therapy for injury lies in both its ability to reduce inflammation as well as to slow the conductivity of nerve endings sending pain signals back to the brain? If you’re looking for the best ice pack for knee injuries or ankle sprains on the volleyball court, opt for disposable ones which any team can keep on hand without refrigeration – they turn cold via chemical reaction when shaken or broken, and can be purchased in most pharmacies and big box stores.
Proactive stretching through dynamic warm-ups plus reactive aids and best practices for the rare occurrences when an injury does in fact happen can equip any volleyball team with the tools they need for success.