Attention Athletes: The 5 BEST Stretches for Game Day!
One of the most important aspects of being an athlete is injury prevention.
This year alone, more than 3 million youth athletes will be sidelined due to injury -- many of which are preventable with the right training and management of our athletes.
The last thing you want is to be sidelined with an injury or continue to hurt and be in pain after a training session or game.
Our goal is to make our athletes as durable as possible, both on the field and in the gym.
One of the biggest principles of being durable as an athlete is making sure when you start your workout, you are properly warmed-up, primed, and ready to go.
The first thing to prime is the spine!
The spine is the central hub for our nervous system, the highway from our brain to our muscles.
When you don’t get your spine prepared to compete or train, you have a lack of awareness and this can make your movement less efficient, slow, and sluggish. This can also greatly increase your risk of injury.
Another big rock for being a durable athlete would be preparing our bodies to produce the most amount of force for better and more explosive movement.
When you perform the right warm-up, you're actually going to be stronger, faster, and more explosive.
This not only improves performance but increases the way you feel going into your workout or game.
Feel good, look good, train good! -- I love to say!
Lastly circling back to my first point of why we want to be durable: Injury Prevention.
Integrating these movements are so important for keeping us healthy and on the field, ice, court, etc.
We first take care of the spine, now we want our core to be used as much and efficiently as possible. This is what will build a foundation for a strong healthy and durable athlete!
What we will be looking for in these 5 movements is to wake up the spine, then to prime our bodies.
As we prime our bodies for our training, we want to mobilize (loosen) joints and warm up our muscles to allow tension to be globally dispersed. This will help increase our range of motion and improve our brains’ ability to communicate with our muscles.
Here are 5 of my favorite exercises to prime my body before I get into a Full body training session:
1. Tripod Shin Box Extension
The Tripod Shin Box is a fantastic drill to open the hips. This will allow you to play lower, rotate faster, and be more efficient with your overall movements. Also, the better your hips move, the less stress you will place on your knees and low-back.
- 90/90 Position with your legs
- Tuck back toes in the ground
- Hand down behind your body, drive your knee into the ground as you press your hips up in the air
- Reach opposite hand up and slightly back towards the sky
- Come back down and rotate to the other side, then repeat
2. Half Mountain Climber
The Half Mountain Climber is another fantastic drill to increase hip mobility by specifically targeting some of the tightest areas on most athletes like the quads and hip flexors. The spinal movement is also great for waking up and improving awareness and stability at your spine.
- Knees under the hips, bear crawl position
- Start with your back rounded at the beginning
- Bring one foot up next to your hand
- Drive the foot and hands into the ground and extend your pelvis and spine
- Before coming back to the start position, round back again and alternate to the other side
3. Swimmer Stretch
The Swimmer Stretch is great for warming up, and building strong/stable shoulders. This drill targets typically weak muscles like your rotator cuff and scapular retractors.
- One hand behind your head with palm facing forward
- Other hand on your lower back, palm facing out
- Push your hands towards your body for 5 seconds
- Pinch your shoulder blades back and lift your hands off your body
- Lock out arms diagonally, then big arm down and other arm up
- Come back to your starting position and repeat
- Keep in mind, abs tight, butt squeezed!
4. Full Hip Circles
The Full Hip Circle not only improves the mobility of your hips, allowing you to move better and more efficiently but also strengthens the very important hip stabilizing muscles. These muscles keep your hips and pelvis strong but also have big implications on the strength of your knees and low-back.
- Use a wall if you need help with your balance
- Stand tall, abs tight, pelvis tucked, and raise one leg straight out in front of your without letting your knee bend
- Flex toe and bring leg out to the side without losing your tall posture until you feel the inside part of your leg getting tight (that’s your check point!)
- Rotate toes inward and continue to bring your leg behind you and back to your starting position.
5. Scap Circles
Our Scap Circles are great for getting your shoulders ready to rock by improving their range of motion but also by strengthening the muscles that support your very delicate shoulder joints. This is big for athletes that experience contact in their sport or for throwers.
- Keep your arms straight out in front of you
- Make sure the movement coming through your shoulders
- Shrug your shoulders towards your ears
- Then forward and down while trying to stay as tall as possible
- Finish by making a full circle and then reverse direction