Sports require you to be as limber as possible. If your muscles are too tight, you will lack full range of motion, and this may even lead to injuries during play. Exercise and stretching need to be done together in an effort to be a well-rounded athlete.
And flexibility exercises need to be part of your daily routine.
Before we discuss a few stretches that you must add to your flexibility program, it’s important to know a few guidelines that we recommend to all people ready to stretch their muscles out:
- Stretch to just the start of discomfort – no more, no less
- Tightness levels should diminish as you hold the stretch
- Breathe during a stretch (don’t hold your breath)
- Hold your stretch for 10 – 30 seconds
- Perform the same stretch 2 – 3 times
If you feel intense pain during a stretch, make sure that you tone down the stretch or stop completely. You will feel mild discomfort, but you should never feel intense pain that doesn’t diminish over time.
Upper Body Stretches
A few upper body stretches that you’ll want to do to remain limber include:
- Arm Across Chest: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place one arm straight across your chest. Pull your arm towards your chest from the elbow and hold the position. Repeat this exercise with the opposing arm.
- Tricep Stretch: Place one arm behind your back so that your elbow is near the top of your head and your hand is reaching to touch your upper back. This position is akin to patting yourself on the back. Place your free hand on top of the elbow and pull it toward your head for a deeper stretch, and hold the position.
- Shoulder and Chest Stretch: In a standing or kneeling position, clasp your hands together behind your back and extend them out. Raise your hands as high as possible behind your back while leaning forward.
All of these moves will stretch the chest, shoulders and triceps very well.
Lower Body Stretches
The lower body has a lot of tight areas (ahem, hamstrings) and these areas need to be as loose as possible no matter what sport you’re playing. A few go-to stretches for the lower body, include:
- Glute Stretch: A glute stretch requires you to sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend one knee to your chest and place the foot on the opposite side of the bent knee. Twist the torso to the outer part of the bent knee using your knee and elbow to go into a deep twist.
- Adductor Stretch: The groin is often very tight. You can try doing seated or standing splits (as far as you can go), or you can stand with your feet as wide as possible and lean to one side, leaving one knee straight and one bent deeply at the knee.
- Hamstring Stretches: Keeping your feet close together, and bend forward as deep as you can with your knees straight. You can also do this on the floor with one knee bent to the side and one straight while stretching to your toes.
- Quadriceps Stretch: Stand straight up with one foot bent behind you. Reach back to grab the bent foot, and pull your heel to your butt.
- Calf Stretch: Place your hands against a wall with one foot forward and one 18” apart behind it. Push against the wall while keeping the back leg straight and your heel flush with the floor to feel a stretch.
If you follow all of these exercises, you’ll be able to reach peak performance out on the field.