Stretch Tips for Athletes to Perform Optimally
What makes an athlete different to somebody who doesn’t do much sports, besides the office? Why should the stretching an athlete does vary from the stretching a more sedentary individual does?
Why should you perform athletic stretching around your training program?
The athlete performs dynamically. Big movements which are most often carried out frequently, and for long periods. Exactly like training and programming (see previous posts on ‘Weight Training to Improve Sports’). Preparing for these movements is vital. Maintaining muscle health is also vital.
“Athletic stretching or sport specific stretching is as necessary as sports specific training.” – Jordane
Some Benefits of Stretching:
1. Muscle repair
2. Muscle lengthening and increased range of movement
3. Increasing blood flow and therefore recovery
4. Joint protection
Why and HOW Should you perform Athletic Stretching?
By increasing joint range of motion, performance may be enhanced and the risk of injury reduced. The rationale for this is that a limb can move further before an injury occurs.
Tight neck muscles for example, may restrict how far you can turn your head. If, during a tackle, your head is forced beyond this range of movement it places strain on the neck muscles and tendons.
Muscle tightness = more risk of injury.
More muscle length = less risk of injury.
Funnily enough, static stretching (See previous blog ‘Why Should You Stretch; Athletes and Accountants Flexibility’) just prior to an event may actually be detrimental to performance and offer no protection from injury.
Static stretches = more joint range of motion.
Too much joint range of motion = risk of injury.
Muscle tightness, which has been associated with an increased risk of muscle tears, can be reduced before training or competing with dynamic stretching (See previous blog ‘Why Should You Stretch; Athletes and Accountants Flexibility’). For this reason many coaches now favour dynamic stretches over static stretches as part of the warm up.
Competitive sport can have quite an unbalancing effect on the body. Take racket sports for example. The same arm is used to hit thousands of shots over and over again. One side of the body is placed under different types and levels of stress compared to the other. A flexibility training program can help to correct these disparities preventing chronic, over-use injury, so must be used not only to prepare for an event, but as an ongoing maintenance tool.
Athletic flexibility is extremely important for performance; it allows enhanced movement around the court or field with greater ease and dexterity, an increase in body awareness and a promotion of relaxation in the muscle groups stretched, improving skill acquisition and performance.
We now know that STATIC stretching should be used as a maintenance tool, and DYNAMIC stretching as a pre-event preparation tool, with athletes.
But how do you choose WHICH stretches to do? Which ones are important for YOU or YOUR ATHLETE?
Choosing WHICH stretches depends on the individual sport, and the role of the athlete in the sport. Here is a task for you. Have a think about the sport and write down the following:
1. The most important movements you need to be able to perform
2. Other movements you may need to perform
In my next blog I will teach you how to choose the most relevant stretches that will aid to enhance athletic performance to a specific sport.
I invite you to ask questions or start a discussion on our Facebook Group HERE.