FLEXIBILITY: Is it part of your program?
Suggesting that your athletes stretch is one thing but educating them on why they should stretch is where you will win them over.
By Mandy Eakin
Published: Fall 2001
I believe that flexibility is the most neglected aspect of the athletes training program. Why? A lot of coaches/athletes feel that stretching takes too much time which, may take away from the “REAL” part of practice. These coaches/athletes are just not aware of the true benefits of becoming more flexible.
There are many people who can only say “we stretch to prevent injury” yet they still can’t find time to make it a priority. A well-rounded stretching program should be a part of your team practice or your individual training not just something you do whenever you think about it. The BFS 1-2-3-4 flexibility program takes approximately ten minutes. Is that asking too much?
Coach, why do we stretch? To RUN FASTER and JUMP HIGHER should be your response? The more flexible you are the stronger you will become, the stronger you are the faster you can be. There are not too many sports that do not require an athlete to have speed. Therefore, lets incorporate stretching exercises as part of our practice to help our athletes run faster and jump higher. They need to be aware that adding a good flexibility program is just as important as weight training.
There are different types of stretching. Stretches are either dynamic (meaning they involve movement) or static (they involve no motion). Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF), Static and Ballistic are the stretches most coaches and athletes are familiar with. PNF is the best out of all three but, requires a partner and takes more time. Static stretching is when you assume a position and then hold it there with no assistance. This stretch is usually held between 10-30 seconds and would be the ideal type for all athletic programs. Ballistic stretching is when the individual bounces while they stretch, and if not properly warmed up the athlete has a higher risk of possible injury to the muscle.
How do we stretch? After you have warmed up with the dot drill or jump rope then you should begin your stretching program. You should NEVER stretch a cold muscle. Stretching should not be painful. You stretch to the point of tension not pain.
Don’t you just love the athletes who do the three second count stretch? How long should the athletes hold a stretch? Actually your muscle does not start to react to a stretch for at least six seconds. Start out by holding a stretch for at least ten seconds after that ten seconds than take the stretch a little farther, after six to ten more seconds take it a little farther. You should work up to at least thirty seconds. If you try this you will notice after every six to ten seconds your muscles become more relaxed allowing you to go even farther which in return enables you to get a more beneficial stretch. Pictures shown are a few stretches from the BFS flexibility program that emphasize stretching the speed muscles. By speed muscles I mean, quads, hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes, etc.
When teaching athletes the proper way to stretch I first stress the importance of always keeping the back straight (picture 1) verses bent as shown in picture 2. Take as much pressure off the low back whenever possible. If it is a stretch where the athlete grabs their foot, have them place their hand at the top of the shoe near the ankle to take pressure off the ankle joint. As far as the weight room goes, my philosophy has always been: If you are not lifting or spotting someone, you should continue your stretching program.
If you or your program have not enforced a flexibility program or made it part of your daily practice then you have not come close to reaching your top potential as an athlete or team. It’s just another way of helping yourself or your teams become Bigger/Better Faster Stronger.