People stretching in a gym
Author:  Angela Calder, Applied Sports Knowledge
Issue: Volume 8 Number 2

There are three main contexts that determine why and how you should stretch. The warm-up is to prepare you physically and mentally for your performance, so the techniques you use should involve active movements. Cooling down after an event helps you return your body to its normal functioning state and can involve both active and some light static stretches.

However if you have some flexibility problems, you need to set aside a few sessions a week away from any training or competition sessions so you can work on these issues separately. More demanding stretching techniques are required to improve flexibility, and these may leave your body fatigued for several hours. So it is best to do these stretches in the evening before bed, or avoid any strenuous exercises afterwards if you do them during the day.

Stretching — what techniques should you use and when?

Use the table below as a guide to selecting the most appropriate techniques.


Context Timing Aim Technique
Warm-up Pre-training and pre-match Prepare to perform


Increase muscle temperature, rehearse motor programs, visual tracking, psychological readiness

Active movements — role specific


Increasing speed and joint range of movement gradually to culminate in a range of dynamic game/event-specific movements

Cool down Post-training and post-match Recover to a normal functioning state


Normal joint ROM, normal resting length for muscles

Light active movements, and a few light (short) static stretches


Light movements involving all major joints, and a few light (ten-second) static stretches of key joints and muscles

Away from event Continue to recover Example

Light swim or movements in water, light static stretch in shower, etc.

Before bed Several hours after officiating — the body is warm and can relax after the stretches Example

Longer held static stretches, 30–120 seconds, of major joints and muscles

Improving flexibility Separate sessions

Please note: You must be relaxed and not fatigued. Developmental stretching will leave muscles fatigued and so you should avoid training or officiating immediately after these sessions.

Training flexibility for your specific needs


Increasing ROM for a joint, improving functional flexibility, etc.


Long held static stretches, assisted stretching, PNF, Pilates, yoga, eccentric loading to stretch and strengthen key muscles, for example hamstrings, etc.

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