Triathlon Training Q and A Series with Elite Triathlete and Coach, Morgan Chaffin
Here our series of question and answers continues with Morgan. This question pertains to stretching and its relationship to different types and performance.
Question #2: How much yoga or stretching, and what types, should be incorporated into triathlon training?
A: I always recommend stretching over yoga during the season. Time is often a large factor when training for triathlon, and I want athletes to focus on getting their key workouts in rather than doing a 45 min-1 hour yoga class. During the off season, if time allows, yoga can be added to the program. Stretching areas with limited range of motion becomes very important. Typically for triathletes these areas include the hip flexors, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, chest (pectoralis minor).
Avoiding over stretching is also critical. Static stretching held for greater than 45 seconds has been shown, in some studies (1,2,3,4), to reduce muscle tension and decrease running economy. These studies have shown a reduction in excessive range of motion and therefore an increase in the energy required to stabilize muscular activity. Furthermore it was suggested that tightness in the muscles and tendons could increase elastic storage and therefore reduce the oxygen demand. Currently no research suggests that static stretching immediately before an endurance running event could improve running economy.
Research shows a decrease in performance following static stretching before an event more so with explosive activities because of decrease in elastic storage (4,5,6,7). However, dynamic stretching after training is needed to improve range of motion and flexibility in the key areas mentioned above. Dynamic stretching has been shown to improve running performance before and after an exercise bout (8,9,10). I always encourage people to see a physical therapist with sports experience to determine if additional flexibility is needed. For the non-injured athlete I suggest they perform dynamic drills (5-10 minutes) after the warm up in preparation for their workout and at the conclusion of the workout.
Dynamic stretch examples:
Toy soldier: With an upright posture and straight legs, alternately flick one leg forward while reaching with the opposite hand to lightly tap the extended foot. Repeat with opposite leg and hand.
Leg swings: Brace yourself against something sturdy for support while holding one arm out at shoulder height. Start with both legs directly underneath the hips then swing the inside leg forward and backward. Gradually increasing the range of motion comfortably. When performing leg swings at the side you will swing the leg back and forth crossing in front of the body.
Arm circles: Stand up and extend your arms straight out by the sides. The arms should be parallel to the floor and perpendicular to your torso. With your arms outstretched slowly make one diameter circles forward and then reverse the movement going the opposite direction
Inchworms: (more advanced dynamic drill). Start in a push-up position. Keeping your legs straight, inch your legs up and close to your hands without bending your knees. You should feel a good stretch through the posterior aspect of your legs. Walk your hands forward back to the push-up position and repeat.
Knee to chest: This exercise mimics the top of a running stride as you bring your knee toward your chest before striking the foot toward the ground. As you perform this drill do it while walking forward. Focus on bringing your knee cap into the chest by hugging your shin briefly while stepping. Repeat.
Walking Lunges: Start with legs shoulder width apart and arms resting at your side. Step
forward and lunge down keeping your knee behind your toes. Push with the extended leg and rise back up to the starting position and repeat.
1) Trehearn TL, Buresh RJ. Sit-and-reach flexibility and running economy of men and women collegiate distance runners. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Jan;23(1):158-62.
2) Lowery RP, Joy MN, Brown LE, Oliveira de Souza E, et al. Effects of static stetching on 1-mile uphill run performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jan;28(1): 161-7.
3) Wilson JM, Hornbuckle LM, Kim JS, Ugrinowitsch C, Lee SR, et al. Effects of static stretching on energy cost and running endurance performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Sep;24(9)2274-9.
4) Simic L, Sarabon N, and Markovic, G. Does pre-exericse static stretching inhibit maximal muscular performance? A meta-analytical review. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2013 Mar; 23(2):131-48.
5) Paradisis GP, Pappas PT, Theodorou AS, Zacharogiannis EG, Skordilis EK, Smirniotou AS. Effects of static and dynamic stretching on sprint and jump performance in boys and girls. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jan;28(1):154-60.
8) Kallerud H, Gleeson N. Effects of stretching on performances involving stretch-shortening cycles. Sports Med. 2013 Aug;43(8):733-50.
9) Chatzopoulos D, Galazoulas C, Patikas D, Kotzamanidis C. Acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on balance, agility, reaction time and movement time. J Sports Sci Med. 2014 May 1;13(2):403-9.
10) Chaouachi A, Castagna C, Chtara M, Brughelli M, Turki O, Galy O, Chamari K, Behm DG. Effect of warm-ups involving static or dynamic stretching on agility, sprinting, and jumping performance in trained individuals. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Aug;24(8):2001-1.