Joint elasticity, mobility and flexibility contributes greatly to speed, agility, and quickness (SAQ) training (Clark, Sutton, & Lucett, 2015). Training sport performance in one component will also affect another component’s performance. This means a professional trainer must adopt an integrated training approach aiming first at improving functional strength and neuromuscular efficiency in all components (Clark et al., 2015). This article, therefore, aims to briefly discuss how flexibility training, through modes of stretching, would directly impact SAQ training; and, the potential concerns how flexibility training might hinder an athlete’s optimal SAQ performance.
The muscle “rubber-band-like” reflexive action through the stretch-shortening-cycle derives quickness and speed (Clark et al., 2015). However, if the ROM of joints and soft tissues performance is limited due to muscle imbalance and/or strength, then SAQ performance would also be diminished (Clark et al., 2015). The element of contrasting flexion and extension of specific joint and muscle proves to be one of the crucial factors in developing general athletic skills in SAQ (Clark et al., 2015). The muscle’s stretch-reflexes (lengthening and shortening) working in conjunction with good joint range of motion (ROM), flexibility allow the muscles to relax and contract at the appropriate time with precise movements so reaction time decreases, which testifies SAQ effectiveness during training and in actual game play situation (Clark et al., 2015). The necessity of creating optimal neuromuscular efficiency of improved postures, speed, and power, flexibility training directly impacts an athlete’s SAQ training performance (Clark et al., 2015).
For the most gain in ROM, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) has shown to create or improve flexibility in the area in trunk, shoulders, and hamstring as compared to other stretching methods (Oʼhora, Cartwright, Wade, Hough, & Shum, 2011; Clark et al., 2015), but in other areas such as knee flexion range PNF marks no significant difference (Chow & Ng, 2010). Knowing the protocol and purpose of different types of stretching protocols, specific athletic performance needs require careful implementation (Wallmann, Christensen, Perry, & Hoover, 2012; Clark et al., 2015).
In any event, the timing of a flexibility training is recommended to be occurred prior before strength training or the actual SAQ training itself (Clark et al., 2015). The timing and the activity following the stretching protocol could hinder SAQ performance based on the chosen stretches. For instance, static stretching has been known to decrease muscle spindle activity and motor neuron excitability (Clark et al., 2015). In one study comparing the acute effects of various stretching protocols—static, dynamic, ballistic, and no stretch—on 40-yeard sprinting performance, Wallmann et al. (2012) concluded that a generalized treadmill walks, with no stretching, as warm-up shown the greatest affect in the sprint performance. The significant implication is that the interaction between stretching types and the affects they have on sprint times (Wallmann et al., 2012).
In conclusion, an integrated training for performance includes all the components, which are interrelated from stabilization to strength to power (Clark et al., 2015). Knowing how flexibility/stretching component can enhance SAQ training, professional trainers need to be aware of the timing and protocol applied. Once an athlete is at a proper athletic level, specific flexibility training will further improve specific SAQ performance (Mathisen & Pettersen, 2015).
Clark, M., Sutton, B. G., & Lucett, S. (2015). NASM essentials of sports performance training. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Chow, T. P., & Ng, G. Y. (2010). Active, passive and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching are comparable in improving the knee flexion range in people with total knee replacement: A randomized controlled trial. Clinical Rehabilitation, 24(10), 911-918. doi:10.1177/0269215510367992
Mathisen, G. E., & Pettersen, S. A. (2015). The effect of speed training on sprint and agility performance in 15-year-old female soccer players. LASE Journal of Sport Science, 6(1), 61-70. doi:10.1515/ljss-2016-0006
Oʼhora, J., Cartwright, A., Wade, C. D., Hough, A. D., & Shum, G. L. (2011). Efficacy of static stretching and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretch on hamstrings length after a single session. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(6), 1586-1591. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e3181df7f98
Wallmann, H. W., Christensen, S. D., Perry, C., & Hoover, D. (2012). The acute effects of various types of stretching static, dynamic, ballistic, and no stretch of the iliopsoas on 40-yard sprint times in recreational runners. The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 7(5), 540-547.
Fitness & Conditioning
For a tennis player to perform at their best, they must have just the right mix of aerobic and anaerobic endurance, explosive strength and power, speed off the mark and agility. The amount of strength, speed, agility and flexibility conditioning a player is prepared to undertake has been linked to the standard of performance.