Stretching Exercises for injury free workouts
Sports participation is a leading cause of injury in young people. Injuries can have both short- and long-term consequences. An injury can immediately sideline a player. This puts both the fun of participation and the health benefits of exercise on hold. An injury that keeps a child out of the game over the long term can also increase the chances of gaining weight, losing fitness, and even possibly developing arthritis in later years.
It may not always be possible to avoid injury when playing sports, especially physical contact sports. Participants can help protect themselves by correctly preparing before and after a game or practice session. This is done by warming up muscles and then stretching.
How to stretch correctly
Whether the activity is skiing, running, or playing a group sport such as basketball or football, stretching keeps the body flexible. This can cut down on injuries, especially to the knee and ankle. Stretching exercise again after activity should be part of an injury prevention plan, too.
Before any kind of physical activity, including stretching, the body needs to be warmed up with some light exercise. Walking, running in place, or doing jumping jacks for a few minutes will warm up muscles.
The following exercises target areas of need for most people: calves, hips and posterior chain (hamstrings and spine).
Prone Calf Stretch
In a prone position, place the left foot over the right heel. Walk the hands toward the feet and stick the hips in the air until the right foot is completely flat on the floor. Keep the right heel down and the right knee straight. Slowly rock the hips from side to side, keeping the right heel down. Drive 10 times to each side and repeat on the left leg.
Modifications: Hands against a wall; hands on 12-24” box; slightly bent knee (to target the soleus)
Kneeling Hip Stretch
In a half-kneeling position, reach the arms overhead while pushing the hips slightly forward (keep the thigh perpendicular to the floor). Complete five to 10 overhead arm drives and then reach over the right shoulder and the left shoulder, five to 10 times on each side. Repeat on the other side.
Modifications: Place hands on the hips (if you experience low-back pain); prop the rear foot onto a 12” box or chair (this modification increases the stretch on the rectus femoris)
Spiderman With a Twist
Start in a push-up position. Bring the right foot to the outside of the right hand. Keep the right foot completely flat and the left leg completely extended. Slowly drive the hips from side to side five to 10 times each. Rest the left knee on the floor and reach the left arm up and back. Hold for a 2-count and bring it back to the floor. Reach the right arm up and back and hold for a 2-count. Next, walk both hands forward (keeping he right foot in place) until you are back to a push-up position. Repeat on the left side and complete five reps (or cover 10-15 yards).
Modifications: Thread the needle pose, Supine spinal twist with legs crossed
Hold onto a wall or fence with the left hand while balancing on the left foot. Point the right toes forward, but keep the foot relaxed. Swing the right leg forward (driving from the hips) 10 times. Repeat with the right toes pointed outward and again with the toes pointed inward. Face the other way and repeat on the left side.
Modifications: Lying on the floor, Supine hamstring stretch
Apart from the above, try these stretches for a complete injury free workout.
Forward lunge. Kneel on one knee. Place the other leg forward at a right angle (knee right over ankle). Lean forward to feel the stretch in the inner thigh. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Switch legs.
- Side lunge. Stand with feet far apart. Bend one leg and lean toward that knee. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Bend and lean toward the opposite leg.
- Standing quad (thigh) stretch. Use a wall or chair for support. Raise one foot behind you. Use the hand on the same side of the body to grasp the foot at the ankle and pull it toward the buttocks, stretching the thigh. Keep the knees close and hips forward. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then release. Switch legs.
- Seat straddle lotus. Sit down with the soles of the feet together in front of you. Press knees to the floor. Place the forearms on the inside of the knees. Push down as you lean toward the ground. Lean forward from the hips. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Side seat straddle. Sit on the floor with legs spread apart. With both hands, hold onto the shin of one leg. Lean forward, chin to knee. Hold for 20 to 30seconds. Switch legs.
- Seat stretch. Sit with legs straight out in front. Holding shins or ankles, lean forward from the hips. Bring the chin toward the knees. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Knees to chest. Lying on the floor, bend knees and bring them to the chest. Rock gently. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
After every workout, repeat these same stretches to help the body cool down and increase flexibility while muscles are still warm.
Tips for success
Follow these tips:
- Don’t bounce when stretching. Bouncing in a stretch can cause damage.
- Take it slow. There’s no prize for finishing a stretching routine first. Go slowly to get all the benefits.
- Stay fit year-round. It’s a good idea for your child to keep in shape even during the sport’s off-season. Then they’ll be ready for competition when it starts up again.
- Find the appropriate gear for your child to wear. Help reduce injury by using protective equipment that fits correctly, is well-maintained, and is designed specifically for the sport being played.
- Respect an injury. If your child already has a sprain or other injury, check with the pediatrician or sports trainer before they get back into action.
Please let us know if you have any questions and do leave a comment
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