Stretching properly can increase and improve motion in your joints, increase blood flow, and decrease feelings of stiffness. Other potential benefits of stretching can include reducing delayed onset muscle soreness, increasing athletic performance, and reducing the risk of tendon or muscle tears. Stretching is an essential part of any conditioning or physical therapy program.
Why Stretching Is So Important
Stretching the right way will help improve flexibility and make it easier for you to move. While stretching is normally incorporated at the beginning and end of practice, many times young athletes don’t realize its importance. They may rush through stretches in order to start playing sooner or use it as a time to talk with teammates. Young athletes should understand the importance of stretching and why all athletes should take the time to properly stretch regardless of the sport they play. Proper stretching allows your core body temperature to warm up slowly and enables your muscles and joints to loosen up, giving you a better range of motion. It’s critical to prepare the body for specific movements by warming up the parts of the body that will be utilized while playing. For example, soccer players should focus on warming up their knees and feet, while softball players should focus more on stretching their shoulders and arms. This will increase blood flow and decrease stiffness, in turn, decreasing the risk of injury or re-injury.
When to Stretch
For an athlete, it is common to perform dynamic warm-up stretches.
Examples of dynamic stretches…
- Side Shuffle – This stretch can help protect against groin and outer hip injuries.
- Carioca – This stretch helps improve flexibility in the leg muscles.
- Backpedal Jog – This stretch warms up the hip flexors and abs.
- Walking Knee to Chest
- Lunge Walk with Twist
- Straight Leg Kick
- Heel-to-Rear Jog
- Power Skip Plus Reach
It is recommended that you perform static stretches after exercising, engaging in physical activity, or participating in an athletic event.
Examples of Static Stretching…
- Shoulder Stretch – Hold your left arm straight in front at shoulder level
- Side Bends – Stand with your arms raised straight over your head
- Hamstring Stretch – Sit on the ground with one leg straight out and the other bent so the bottom of your foot touches the opposite knee.
The fact is that athletes need to combine both dynamic and static stretching.
The American College of Sports Medicine Guidelines
The association recommends stretching activities be done at least two days per week. It is also important to know and understand which stretches would benefit you based on your limitations and desired activity participation. Stretching is encouraged when the range of motion is limited, prior to exercise, as a component to team warm-up/cool-down and before and after a sporting event, Stretching is discouraged when there is excessive movement in your joints, If you have had a recent fracture if there is inflammation or swelling, or when you feel a sharp pain when stretching.
Six tips for safe stretches…
- Make sure muscles are warmed up prior to stretching
- Feel no pain. Stretch only to the point of mild tension, never to the point of pain
- Pay attention to posture and good form
- Focus on the muscle being stretched
- Hold each stretch 30 to 60 seconds
Stretching Will Help Your Flexibility
Better flexibility may: Improve your performance in physical activities. Decrease your risk of injuries. Help your joints move through their full range of motion. But it is important to remember that just because you perform stretches does not mean that you will never get injured. There are other important factors such as strength and endurance training, essential to reducing the risk of injury.
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About Pediatrics of Florence
We believe that children are more than just “little adults.” They have unique personalities, challenges, and life circumstances and we have made every effort to make our offices and care as “kid friendly” as possible. We have an aquatic theme in the waiting rooms (separated for sick and well children) as well as themed examination rooms. All of our physicians are Board Certified Pediatricians and members of the American Academy of Pediatrics and our nurse practitioners are all licensed Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and are available to see both well and sick children.
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