Flexibility Training with Oklahoma State Basketball

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Oklahoma State's basketball team uses post-workout flexibility training to enhance all aspects of their athletic development.

By: Josh Staph

Want to experience intense muscle tightness? Shuffle side to side in a squatted position with your arms up for two to three hours. Oh yeah, top it off with some fierce competition for position against a 250-pound forward. The Oklahoma State hoops team does something like this daily. But thanks to their flexibility routine, they remain limber and loose.

"We get the benefits we are aiming for because we stretch immediately after activity," explains Murphy Grant, the Cowboys' athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach. "We don't even let them go in the locker room before they stretch. We work flexibility when their muscles are still warm, because that is when the biggest benefits of tissue extensibility result. Stretching within 10 minutes after practice or training helps enhance strength, power, flexibility and recovery."

Grant's program has also helped the players correct muscle imbalances, improve posture and decrease muscle soreness, which he considers the biggest benefits.

The constant stop and go nature of basketball taxes an athlete's muscular system; Grant's recuperative process helps counter this. "When you are working out or running up and down the court and breaking down, fatigue and muscle tightness set in," he says. "When the guys come back for another day of practice, they are not as tight as they would've been without stretching."

The Cowboy's flexibility program is the same in and out of season. Every day, they spend 10-15 minutes on flexibility work—stretching post-practice and self myofascial massaging post-lift—to ensure optimal muscle balance, range of motion and muscle recovery.

Cowboy up and treat your muscles to the post-training work that helped keep OSU loose and fresh for their 2005 Sweet 16 appearance.


Band Stretch Routine

This routine uses a band to assist muscles into a stretched position. The hips, lumbar spine, hamstrings, glutes and quads—the muscles that, according to Grant, produce most of a b-ball player's power—are the main focus of this routine.

"In basketball, you are running, jumping and stopping the entire practice, and most of the time you are in an athletic, semi-squatted stance. This puts a lot of tension on the hip and leg muscles," Grant says. "Stretching those particular muscles ensures that you get rid of tension and recover for the next day."

Using the band, bring the muscle to a point of slight tension and hold for 20 seconds. Grant says that as dysfunction in flexibility lessens, the point of tension gradually increases.

Complete the routine on one leg, and then repeat on the other.


• Lie on back with band around foot

• Keeping leg straight, pull toward head and hold


• Lie on back with band around foot

• With bent leg, pull knee toward head and hold


• Lie on back with band around foot

• Pull and open leg to side; hold keeping it straight


• Lie on back with band around foot

• Pull leg across body; hold keeping it straight

Quad/Hip Flexor

• Lie on stomach with band around foot

• Pull bent leg toward head and hold

Upper Body Routine

"Some of our shooters get really tight in the upper body—especially in their shoulders," Grant says. "They put up 50 to 60 shots in practice in addition to what they did in their individual practices. Also, post players put tremendous strain on their upper musculature system from battling to hold their position."

Complete this brief routine immediately after the band stretch.

Partner Chest

• Stand with arms out at shoulder level

• Hold good posture as partner pulls back arms and holds


• Point one elbow to the ceiling and slide hand down back

• Use opposite hand to pull elbow across and down

Extra Flexibility

Once the Cowboys finish the band and upper body routines, those who want more work perform active isolated stretching. AIS dynamically moves a joint through a range of motion. The stretches consist of firing one set of prime mover muscles (agonists) and prime mover assisting muscles (synergists) to help stretch an opposing muscle group (antagonists). This creates reciprocal inhibition—the process by which a tightened muscle causes decreased neural drive in its functional antagonist—to allow for increased range of motion.

Active Isolated Leg Swings

• Swing straight leg forward by firing hip flexor and quad

• Swing leg back by firing hamstring and glute

• Repeat in continuous pattern 10 times; switch legs


Self Myofascial Massage

The Cowboys perform myofascial release massage with foam rollers immediately after weight workouts. This reduces tightness and softens fascia (a connective tissue membrane that covers your muscles and each individual fiber), allowing it to expand. When damaged, stressed or tight, fascia can prevent optimal blood and oxygen flow to the muscles, which decreases range of motion and causes soreness.

Grant explains, "Once we build up the muscle fibers in the weight room, we want to lengthen and relax them. Massage improves soft tissue extensibility and helps build more muscle. It is probably the biggest thing we have done to help our guys recover from workouts."

Place the foam roller between the specified muscle and floor. Move your body over the roller to make it travel the entire length of the muscle. When a tight or sore spot is located, sit on that spot until the muscle relaxes. Although you will experience some discomfort, keeping your muscles relaxed allows for a deeper massage.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock