Photo: Shrewsbury School

Netball is a rigorous game. It demands so much of your body, so in order to perform your best and reduce the risk of injury, you need to do warm up exercises prior to the game and cool down exercises after the game.

It is great that coaches ensure their teams to warm up prior to a game however too often, coaches and teams will forget to perform cool down activities after a game. Whether you have just won the grand final, or you have to rush off to the next sports game or there is a game right after yours that requires you to get off the court quickly - simply step aside and do some sketches for 10-15 minutes immediately after the game. This will benefit your body long term.

You need to help your body to slow down and recover. If you do choose to take the time to simply wind down, you are helping to prevent the build up of lactic acid, which causes muscle stiffness and soreness, and blood pooling.

Netball warm up exercises

In preparation for a netball game, warm up exercises including dynamic stretches focusing on fingers, wrists, shoulders, neck, back, hips, knees and ankles are recommended. These encourage blood to flow directly to the areas of your body that need energy so you perform at your optimum whilst playing.

Dynamic stretches have continual movement as you are not holding a stretch for a long period of time. You take the muscle to the end of its range then straight back again. By targeting muscles and replicating actions you would use in a game, this will help to reduce muscle tension by increasing flexibility and freedom of movement.

A netball warm up session only needs to last between 10-15 minutes. It is to begin with a low intensity activity, for example 3-5 minutes of jogging/side steps and stride outs on court followed by 7-10 minutes of stretching exercises, for example passing and catching.

What is the benefit of warm up exercises?

Warm up exercises are a way of adequately preparing your body for the activity. Blood carries oxygen around the body and by increasing your blood circulation this means that oxygen goes to the muscle cells allowing them to work more effectively. Oxygen is fuel for your cells. The faster your blood circulates, the faster blood can get to your muscles, giving you more energy in your muscles, to use those muscles. As a result, this makes you less susceptible to injury particular when playing in the cold.

Netball cool down exercises

In contrast to a warm up exercises, static stretches are more appropriate for exercise during a netball cool down session. Static exercises - also known as isometrics - exert muscles at high intensities without movement of your joints. Static stretches need to be held for approximately 20 or 30 seconds for it to be effective. The benefits of static stretching include:

  • increased flexibility and freedom of movement
  • reduced muscle tension
  • reduced muscle waste products within the body
  • reduced muscle soreness and stiffness

Netball cool down exercises enable you to compete again at the similar level fitness within a short period of time. They are very effective for things like one day round robin competitions.

What is the benefit of cool down exercises?

If you suddenly finish playing and do not have a netball cool down session, then you are susceptible to the build up of lactic acid, causing muscle pain in the days that proceed and blood pooling (which is the gathering of blood in different parts of the body rather than it being redistributed back to the heart).

Given the intensity of netball, we need to take responsibility of our bodies - look after yourselves so you can maintain your fitness and flexibility for years to come and continue to live an active and healthy lifestyle. By performing cool down exercises, you work on gradually slowing down the level of activity, returning your body to your pre game condition (returning cells to their relaxed state/length).

Why are static stretches appropriate for a cool down and not warm up?

Specialists like Dr Kath Gaffney, recommend that you need to be warmed up first before attempting them because theoretical evidence suggests that static stretching before a match can lead to tears and there is also some evidence that your body's function may be reduced after static stretching, for example your vertical jump may be reduced.

Key aspects to remember about static stretching as part of a cool down session

  • Select the major muscle groups you use the most and stretch them through their full range of movement
  • Hold each stretch for 3 deep breathes (20-30 seconds). Do not bounce.
  • Repeat each stretch 2-3 times
  • Stretch gently and slowly
  • Stretch to the point of tension but never pain
  • Select the major muscle groups used in your sport and stretch them through their full range of movement

Be sure to do both warm up and cool down exercises the next time you play. Think of your health and work on maintaining your active lifestyle! It only takes 10-15 minutes but the benefits are long term.