Stretching is an essential part of maintaining a healthy body. For an athlete, stretching is not just important; it’s crucial. It is good for your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. It helps you improve flexibility, prevent injury, and relieve pain. Stretching before a workout can help you avoid muscle cramps, pulled muscles, and other injuries. Stretching after a workout can help prevent muscles from becoming sore the next day.
Stretching in conjunction with strength conditioning can help relieve pain from an injury and train the body to move in a healthier way. Here are some examples of stretches that can benefit any athlete.
The legs are some of the biggest muscle groups. And because they bear the weight of the body, they are at a higher risk of injury. Try these beneficial leg stretches to help prevent lower body health problems.
- Runner’s Lunge. Put one knee on the floor with the other leg bent at a 90 degree angle with your foot flat on the floor. Lean forward to stretch the back leg. This loosens up the quad (thigh muscle) and the hip flexor muscles. Deepen the stretch as much as it feels comfortable for you. For a deeper quad stretch, grab the foot of the knee that’s on the floor and pull it up toward your glute. Then switch legs. For a bonus side stretch, reach into the air with the same arm as the knee that’s on the floor and lean over to the other side. Switch arms when you switch legs.
- Hamstring Stretch. Sit on the floor with one leg straight out in front of you and the other leg bent so that your foot is touching the inner thigh of the opposite leg. Lean over the straight leg with both hands and reach as far as your can toward your foot. If you can reach your toes, pull them toward you for a deeper stretch. Switch legs to do both sides.
- Pigeon. Sit on the floor with one leg bent in front of you at a 90 degree angle. Stretch your other leg straight out behind you and lift your body up so that your hips are up off the floor. It should look almost like a split with the front left bent instead of straight. Switch to the other side. If sitting with the front leg bent at a 90 degree angle is too difficult, bring the foot closer to your body. Work up to the full pigeon pose by gradually moving the front foot further away from your body.
The upper body is a too-often neglected part of the body when it comes to stretching. Whether you use your arms intensely as an athlete or not, stretching them is still important to prevent injury and relieve tension in the shoulders and neck.
- Shoulder Stretch. Stretch one arm straight across your chest. Use the other arm to pull it further to the side in order to deepen the stretch. Stretch both arms each a few times this way.
- Tricep Stretch. Stretch one arm straight up in the air. Bend your arm at the elbow and try to reach down your back between your shoulder blades. Deepen the stretch by pulling down on the elbow with the opposite hand. Switch arms to do both sides.
Core: Back and Stomach
One of the most common areas people experience pain is in the back muscles. Back stretches can go a long way toward relieving and preventing back pain while sleeping and standing.
- Downward Dog. One of the most well-known yoga poses, the downward dog stretches many back muscles at once. Get down on the floor on your hands and knees. Tuck your toes under and push yourself up into a pyramid shape with hands and feet on the floor. Your head should be centered between your straightened arms. Push your heels down toward the floor for an added calf stretch.
- Upward Dog. Lay on your stomach on the floor. Place your hands flat on the floor at either side of your chest and straighten your arms, lifting your torso and keeping your hips and legs on the ground. This will stretch your lower back pretty aggressively, so move slowly into the stretch and only stretch as far as it feels comfortable. This also stretches your stomach muscles.
- Iron Cross. Lay on your back on the floor with your arms straight out to the sides and your legs straight. Lift one leg up to a 90 degree angle, cross it over your body, and rest it on the floor on the other side of you, keeping your arms flat on the ground. Repeat on both sides to thoroughly stretch your back muscles.
- Chest Opener. Reach both arms straight behind your back and clasp your hands together. Pull both hands upward as far as you can. Bend over at the waist and let your hands fall over your head to deepen the stretch.
Recover Faster with Matawan Physical Therapy
If you’re suffering from an athletic injury, stretching can help to relieve your pain and improve range of motion. But when stretching is combined with strength conditioning and physical therapy, you can recover much more quickly from an injury and prevent the same injury from reoccurring. Strength and conditioning not only accelerates recovery, but it trains your body to move in the proper way in order to treat the problem at the source.
Matawan Physical Therapy combines stretching and strength conditioning in a comprehensive treatment program that can have you back at your game sooner, and possibly better than you were before.
Call (732) 970-7894 or contact us today to schedule a consultation. We look forward to helping you get back to doing what you love.