Don’t Forget About Flexibility
We all know how important strength training and mental conditioning is when it comes to an athlete’s ability and performance, but flexibility training is an often neglected aspect of an athlete’s routine.
There is some debate about whether or not stretching offers any real injury prevention, but there are still a number of benefits to consider. A more flexible athlete is a more mobile athlete. With flexibility comes enhanced movement, increased body awareness, and relaxed muscles.
Competitive sports tend to have an unbalanced effect on the body. Take football for instance; the quarterback tends to throw with the same arm, the defense tends to block with the same side of their body, and the kicker tends to kick with his dominant foot. Flexibility training can help prevent chronic overuse injuries.
Types of Flexibility/Stretching
- Dynamic Flexibility: The ability to perform movements within the joint’s full range of motion. Examples include: kicking an imaginary ball or twisting from side to side.
- Static Active Flexibility: The ability to stretch an antagonist muscle using only the agonist muscle tension. For example, holding your leg out in front of you as high as possible stretches the hamstring (antagonist) while the hip flexors and quadriceps (agonists) hold the leg up.
- Static Passive Flexibility: The ability to hold a stretch using either your body weight or an external force. For example, holding a leg out in front of you resting it on a chair does not require your quadriceps to hold the extended position.
- Ballistic Stretching: Similar to dynamic stretching, ballistic stretching involves the same types of movements, but with a jerking or bouncing movement to extend the stretch.
- Isometric Stretching: Used to improve static passive flexibility; isometric contraction occurs when tension is created in the muscle group without a change in its length.
- PNF Stretching: Involves both stretching and contracting the muscle groups being targeted
A good routine will make use of all the types of stretching and flexibility, and will be targeted to the sport an athlete is training for or participating in, but a dynamic stretching routine could look something like this.
1. Stand tall and hold arms out to your sides.
2. Swing your arms across the front of your body.
3. Stay in constant motion for 30 seconds, but move slowly.
1. Lie on your back, with your hands behind your knees. Bring both of your knees to your chest.
2. Roll forward until your feet touch the floor, immediately rolling back to your original position, before putting your head on the floor.
3. Repeat for 10 to 15 complete rolls.
1. Stand with a shoulder width stance.
2. Keep your torso straight, and lean to one side without bending either forward or backward.
3. Hold the position for two seconds, then repeat with the other side.
4. Do 10 to 15 reps per side.
1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, and put your hands on your hips.
2. Bend your knees slightly, and turn from side to side, while your feet stay flat and firm on the floor.
3. Do 20 to 25 full rotations.
Targeted + Variety
An ideal flexibility routine will make use of all the types of stretching and target the muscles that are most critical to your sport. Since stretching poses only require a few seconds for each rep, you can move through an entire routine in 10 to 15 minutes before launching into your strength training. This can be used with aerobics to ensure your body is warmed up and ready for exercise.
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