One of the most important and often overlooked aspects of health and athletic performance is flexibility training. Research has shown that improved flexibility can reduce the risk of injury, especially in athletes. When practiced properly, a well designed stretching program will aid in lengthening muscles and improving joint mobility. An article just published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research concluded that a dynamic warm-up routine increased quadriceps strength and hamstring flexibility whereas a warm-up with static stretching did not show any positive changes in muscle flexibility or strength. This doesn’t mean that static stretching, those stretches that involve prolonged holds in set positions, is not beneficial. Static stretches are great for cooling down after activity or to improve flexibility on your off days but for pre-activiy stretching, dynamic movements are certainly more appropriate. Below are seven great dynamic stretches to try before you take the field next time. Remember to warm your muscles up for 5 minutes with light jogging before your begin to stretch.
Begin by supporting yourself with one arm while swinging your opposite leg forward then backward. Keep your leg straight as it moves forward and stretches the hamstrings then as it comes back try to kick yourself in the butt to stretch the quads. With each swing you should take the stretch a bit further. Try 20 reps on each leg.
While facing a wall place both hands against it for support. Swing one leg at a time from side to side in front of your other leg. Try not to let your toro rotate as you do this stretch. Stretch both legs 20 reps each.
Start by standing up straight with your feet together. Slowly bend forward until your hands reach the ground, walk your hands forward until your body is almost parallel with the ground and then slowly walk you feet back up to your hands. Repeat 6 times.
Lunge forward with either foot, keeping your knee over your toes, and rotate your body toward the forward leg. Stand back up and repeat with the other leg. 10 reps each side.
Lie on your stomach with your arms stretched out. Kick your right foot towards your left arm and then your left foot towards your right arm. Use slow controlled movements with this stretch and repeat 10 times.
Just like you remember from gym class. Swing your arms back and forth across the body as you stretch your chest and shoulders. Spend about 30 seconds to a minute on this stretch.
Skip across the field using powerful explosive motions. Try to emphasize height instead of distance while using big arms swings and high knee lifts. Try 20 skips on each side.