The Importance Of Streching: Avoid Injury And Increase ROM

By Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN

When improving athletic performance, we always think of becoming bigger, faster, and stronger.  Strength and conditioning coaches of athletes often neglect the importance of flexibility. Poor flexibility and lack of adequate range of motion attributes to inefficiency in a training program.   That is why coaches and athletes alike need to make stretching a top priority in their training programs.

Stretching increases performance
Athletes who lack flexibility display a range of functional difficulties including improper positioning, improper weight distribution, and increased risk of injury and joint problems.  Flexibility is especially important in a runner’s ability to accelerate and decelerate because these athletes must be able to manipulate their limbs and lower their center of gravity with little resistance. Inflexibility in runners limits their stride length.

Great flexibility improves agility and speed. It also prevents injury by allowing athletes to move fluidly without added resistance. If your joints and muscles lack range of motion, your body creates a natural resistance to movement.  This decreases your muscle and joint functionality, attributing to injuries, especially in the hamstrings, hip flexors, and shoulders.

Comprehensive flexibility
Stretching should work specifically for your training program. If you aren’t sure what types of stretches you should perform before and after your workout, ask a coach or fitness expert.

Dynamic stretching:
Dynamic stretches are performed before your workout, and should be performed with movement that increases your range of motion. Below are different types of dynamic stretches:

  • Joint rotation: stand straight with your arms at your side. Practice flexing and moving all joints in your arms, fingers, feet, shoulders, and ankles.
  • Neck mobility: tuck your chin toward your chest and move it upward as far as possible for 10 reps. Then rotate your head in circles for 10 reps.
  • Shoulder circles: stand tall, moving your arms toward your ears. Rotate your shoulders in small circles for 10 reps forward and 10 reps backward.
  • Half squat: stand shoulder width apart. Squat in a seated position to a 90-degree angle and come back up. Perform this for 16 reps.
  • Leg swings: stand balanced on your right leg. Swing your left leg across your body and out to the side as far as possible. Perform 10 reps and switch side.

Static stretching:
Static stretches are best performed after training because they do not require movement. Below are suggestions for static stretching.

  • Chest stretch: stand tall and pull your arms back as far as you feel comfortable. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds. You may want to increase pressure by pressing on a wall.
  • Upper back stretch: stand tall and put your arms out in front of you with your fingers interlocked. Pull away from your chest, rounding our your upper back. Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Shoulder stretch: put your right arm across your body, wrapping your left arm around it. Pull with your left arm and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the left side.
  • Hamstring stretch: sit on the ground with your right leg out stretched and your left leg tucked into your groin. Stretch your arms all the way up and lean forward over your right leg as far as it feels comfortable. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on left side.

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