Athletes who sit at a desk all day are particularly vulnerable to lower-back, joint and muscle tightness. Long bus trips for road games and sitting on the dugout bench between innings can also cause muscle and joint stiffness, which can compromise your performance.
To counteract such stiffness, here are some multi-muscle, full-body static stretches you can easily do in five minutes. These movements are also wonderful for relieving academic or sports-related mental stress.
- Perform the static stretches daily.
- End workouts, practices and games with static stretches as a cool-down, and also do them on non-exercise/sports days before or after school.
- Do the stretches when your muscles and joints are adequately warmed up (not first thing in the morning.)
- Slowly and gradually stretch the targeted muscle (no bouncing) in a comfortable range, feeling the stretch. If the stretch causes pain, you’re overstretching and should scale back.
- Hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds.
- Inhale/exhale naturally while stretching (don’t hold your breath).
- Hamstring/Calf/Lower-Back/Chest/Shoulder Combo Stretch. Slowly raise your left leg up as straight as possible and bring your toes toward you. Feel the stretch in your hamstrings and calves. Hold. Slowly swing your left leg across your body to the right, even with your waist, with your left arm extended on floor at shoulder level. Feel the stretch in your lower back and left chest/shoulder. Repeat sequence on the other side.
- Lower-Back/Hip/Groin Stretch. With both knees bent and your feet on floor, pull your left knee with both hands toward your chest for a lower-back stretch. Place your right knee above your left knee (on the upper thigh). Pull your foot with your left hand and pull your right knee with your right hand toward your chest. Feel the stretch in your right hip. Repeat low-back/hip-stretch sequence starting with your right knee. When finished, perform a Supine Butterfly Stretch (hands at sides, knees bent and close together). Gradually drop both knees laterally to the floor to stretch your groin and inner thighs.
- Bird Dog (Back/Shoulder/Abdomen Stretch). With you knees and hands on the floor, simultaneously raise and extend your left arm forward and your right knee behind you. Focus on a point (e.g., wall, furniture, weight plate) and feel the stretch along your spine, abdomen, upper back and left shoulder. Repeat with other arm/knee.
- Shoulder/Oblique Stretch. Resting on your right knee with your left knee bent, slowly raise your right arm overhead and toward your left side, while tilting your body to the left. Feel the stretch in your right shoulder/left oblique. Repeat with your left arm/left knee on floor.
- Cobra (Abdominal/Shoulder/Upper Back/Chest Stretch). Start on your stomach with your hands near chest level and keep your legs/knees/feet on floor. Slowly press your upper body away from the floor until your arms are almost extended. Feel the stretch in your shoulders, upper back, chest and abdomen.
- Superman (Shoulders/Upper-, Middle- and Lower-Back Stretch). Lie on your stomach with your arms extended in front of you and your legs close together behind you. Simultaneously raise your upper and lower body while keeping your stomach in contact with the floor.
- Quadriceps/Hamstrings/Back Stretch. Start with your right leg extended toward your right side. With your left hand, pull your left leg behind you to the left. Lean slightly forward and reach with your right hand toward your right foot. Feel the stretch in your left quadriceps, right hamstring and upper, middle and lower back. Repeat sequence for other leg.
- Upper-Back, Shoulders/Groin Stretch. Lie on your back with your feet on the floor and knees bent. Slowly, laterally lower your knees to the floor while leaning back slightly. Place your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart behind your hips (fingers facing away from your body toward your back). Feel this relaxing stretch in your upper back and shoulders and forearms/biceps and inner thighs/groin area.
- Quadriceps/Shoulder Stretch. Face a wall with your right hand extended overhead on the wall. Pull your left foot up and back toward your left hip (heel should touch hip) while leaning slightly forward. Feel the stretch in your left quadriceps and right shoulder and upper back. Repeat stretch with right leg/left arm.
- Hamstrings/Triceps/Middle and Upper-Back Stretch. Assume athletic stance with your hands at your sides and your knees slightly bent. Bend forward while straightening your knees and extending your arms back toward your hips. Feel the stretch in your hamstrings, triceps and upper and middle back.