Students athletes can go from zero to full-impact in seconds and often end their workout as quickly as they began. However, this is not the best way. If you have noticed, coaches across all sports have increased the amount of pre and post-workout stretching. The reasons why are essential for success and a habit parents and coaches should encourage during game day, at practice and when playing sports at home.
Building Stretching Into the Warm Up
After sitting in the classroom most of the day, it is essential for kids to warm up their muscles and joints before they dive into their sport of choice. Warming up increases blood flow, heart rate and body temperature. This will help to minimize injury, boost performance and keep overused muscles strong. Depending on the type of sport your student plays, the warm up and accompanying stretches will vary. They goal is to warm up from head to toe, but also stretch the major and supportive muscle groups. This often includes jogging, lunges, shuffles and other light cardio — followed by sport-specific stretches.
Proper post-workout stretching will help to minimize stiffness and soreness the next day, but that’s not all! It gradually decreases heart rate and temperature and breaks down the lactic acid that has built up during physical activity. Stretching is essential for improving range of motion and mobility especially in the muscles and joints students use most. For example, runners’ stretches vary greatly from those a dancer or football player needs. Each stretch should be held for 30 to 60 seconds to be effective. Stretching should be gentle, not jarring or forced.
Stretching Feels Good
Superior flexibility isn’t the goal for most. Without stretching, athletes can lose range of motion. A loss of range of motion is caused by overused and tight muscles that when properly stretched will relax and release. Training student athletes on the importance of stretching encourages them to be mindful of their body and is something they can turn to anytime they feel tense. Stretching is also an excellent thing to do first thing in the morning or right before bed.
Not Just For Sports
There is a steady increase in carpal tunnel, wrist, neck and back pain and gamers thumb in elementary through high school-age students — also in adults. This is due to typing, texting, gaming and the non-ergonomic placement of handheld and mobile electronic. The increase is so dramatic that many schools teach simple seated stretches kids can do to counteract their painful repetitive motions. This might include neck, arm, wrist, and finger stretches and counteractive movements. These can all be completed without an increase in heartbeat and after just a few days can greatly minimize pain. If kids ignore their pain it can lead to lifelong pain and inflammation, decreased strength and premature arthritis.
Student athletes may not completely comprehend the importance of stretching which is why coaches need to balance making stretching fun and talking about the benefits of stretching for boosting performance and reducing injury.
Warming up and cooling down with sport-specific stretches is incorporated into all camps, clinics and classes at Competitive Edge. Reach out today to learn more!
Competitive Edge aims to develop the “complete athlete” using performance sports training in Woodbridge, VA and surrounding areas. Members are able to enhance their athletic performance and develop a competitive edge to excel in their desired sport.