It recently occurred to me that many of the athletes are not working on their flexibility as frequently as they should. Flexibility is often an overlooked aspect of training for a sport, especially if it is not team oriented. Stretching is actually very important; primarily to decrease the risk of injury, but it also improves performance in the long run. When an individual stretches, he or she is improving the plastic (flexible) potential of the connective tissue. This is the same connective tissue where most injuries occur in sport, i.e., it’s important to both strengthen and stretch muscular and connective tissue. A quick stretch is sufficient prior to practice and games /competition (after a quick warm-up). Spend a longer time (~10-15 minutes) stretching immediately after practice and games/competition. It’s during this time, which maximum flexibility can be obtained. If time is limited, I suggest focusing on the post exercise/event stretching only.

What are the most important muscles to stretch? All of them, but to keep things simple, we’ll focus on the major muscle groups. Begin with simple stretches for the hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors (groin), gluteus muscles, hip flexors, calf muscles, pectorals and shoulders. OK, that’s a lot, but they’re all important! As you become more experienced, progress to the piriformis, quadratus lumborum, rotator cuff and other smaller muscles. When executing a stretch, move into position smoothly and slowly to avoid the myotatic stretch reflex and hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Avoid bouncing and any ballistic movements. There are many resources available, which demonstrate proper stretching that are invaluable to an athlete. If you have trouble finding something, send me an email and I’ll do whatever I can to help.

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