One of the best pieces of advice I received as a coach was to focus on the warm-up and cool down. As a coach, I want to win and to win, I need healthy players. The goal is always to lower and prevent injuries so at every practice, we incorporate post-game stretches. This has dramatically improved our level of play and has kept players on the field.
After an intense sports practice or game, it’s crucial for athletes to dedicate time to post-activity stretching. Stretching aids in muscle recovery, reduces the risk of injury, and improves overall flexibility. Read on for the top 10 best sports stretches that athletes should incorporate into their post-practice routine to enhance recovery and maintain optimal performance.
Targeting the front of the thigh, the quadriceps stretch helps release tension and improve flexibility. Stand tall, bend one leg at the knee, and bring your heel towards your buttocks. Grasp the ankle with the corresponding hand and gently pull towards your body. Hold for 20-30 seconds on each leg.
The hamstring stretch targets the muscles at the back of the thigh, which can become tight during sports activities. Sit on the ground with one leg extended and the other bent. Lean forward, reaching for your toes while keeping your back straight. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds on each leg.
To stretch the calf muscles, stand facing a wall or fence with one leg forward and slightly bent, and the other leg extended straight behind you. Lean forward, placing your hands on the wall or fence for support, and press your back heel into the ground. Hold for 20-30 seconds on each leg.
The groin stretch targets the inner thigh muscles. Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed outward. Slowly lower your body by bending your knees, keeping your back straight. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, feeling the stretch in your inner thighs.
Hip Flexor Stretch
The hip flexors can become tight from activities involving repetitive hip movement. Kneel on one knee, keeping the other foot flat on the ground in front of you. Push your hips forward while keeping your back straight until you feel a stretch in the front of the hip. Hold for 20-30 seconds on each leg.
IT Band Stretch
The IT (iliotibial) band is a common source of discomfort for athletes. Stand tall, cross one leg behind the other, and reach your arm over your head to the opposite side. Lean to the side, feeling the stretch along the outer thigh. Hold for 20-30 seconds on each side.
Shoulder and Chest Stretch
Sports involving overhead movements can strain the shoulder and chest muscles. Stand tall and clasp your hands behind your back, with arms straight and palms facing inward. Gently lift your hands upward and backward, feeling a stretch in the shoulders and chest. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
The triceps stretch targets the back of the upper arm. Raise one arm overhead, bending it at the elbow so that your hand reaches toward the opposite shoulder blade. Use your other hand to gently pull the elbow behind your head. Hold for 20-30 seconds on each arm.
Sports activities can lead to neck tension and stiffness. Sit or stand tall, slowly tilt your head to one side, bringing your ear towards your shoulder, without lifting the shoulder. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then repeat on the other side. Gently roll your head forward and backward to release additional tension.
Spinal Twist Stretch
The spinal twist stretch helps release tension in the lower back and promotes spinal flexibility. Sit on the ground with your legs extended. Bend one knee and cross it over the other leg, placing the foot on the ground. Twist your torso to the opposite side, using your opposite elbow to deepen the stretch. Hold for 20 seconds and then switch sides.
For more instructions on how to do these stretches, click here for video and pictures. Here at iSport360, we love Joe Therapy. These easy-to-do stretches are an important part of keeping injuries down. Try them with your team and let us know how it goes!
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About the author:
Amy Masters is a sports mom, coach, and club administrator. She has been coaching youth sports for more than 10 years. She started Jr Lions Field Hockey, the youth recreation program for the Hunterdon County community growing it from 40 players in year 1 to 150 players by year 3. A few years later, she saw the love and competitiveness grow then started Omega Field Hockey Club serving NJ and PA players. Prior to coaching, she was a collegiate field hockey player for Lock Haven University. In her spare time (lol), she is head of marketing for iSport360, where she brings her love of sports to a bigger audience.