Rediscover Static Stretching
Lifting weights will enable athletes to become stronger and thus perform better and be less susceptible to injury. Performing plyometrics will enable athletes to jump higher run faster. Pushing and pulling sleds enables athletes to perform longer with less fatigue. These statements come with little opposition among coaches and athletes alike. Convincing athletes to stretch, however, is a hard sell.
Many athletes look at stretching as a method of preventing injuries, but if they are not injured it’s difficult for a coach to convince them of the value of stretching. We have a difference perspective, as we look at stretching as a tool that can improve athletic performance.
BFS estimates that a two-inch improvement in hip flexor mobility may improve a 40-yard-dash time by two-tenths of a second. Increasing range of motion helps other sports. For example, if baseball pitchers can get their arms back a little farther, they will throw harder and faster because they can accelerate the arm over a longer distance. Further, stretching helps reduce muscle tension that can affect a muscle’s ability to contract – an analogy would be pushing the gas pedal on a car while also putting on the breaks.
BFS looks at stretching as a separate exercise regimen, such as sprinting or weight training. It also should not be thought of as part of a warm-up or cool-down for physical activity that athletes only need to do occasionally. We also believe athletes should stretch daily, in both the offseason and the in-season.
The type of stretching performed in the BFS 1-2-3-4 Flexibility Program is called static stretching, and it has been used successfully by young athletes for over 40 years. Static stretching involves maintaining a stationary position in which the muscles are held at a greater-than-at-resting length. It’s a type of stretching that is extremely safe and can be mastered easily and can be performed without a partner.
The numbers 1-2-3-4 refer both to the order in which the athlete performs each group of exercises and to the approximate amount of time, in minutes, the athlete devotes to each group of exercises. Thus, the athlete spends one minute performing stretches while sitting on a bench, two minutes while standing, three minutes in contact with a wall and at least four minutes (performing five stretches) while sitting on the floor.
Each stretch should be held for at least 30 seconds, although it’s fine to hold a stretch up to 60 seconds to create a higher degree of relaxation. Stretches involving single limbs are performed for 30 seconds on each side for a total of one minute. Beginners have the option of holding each stretch for only 10 seconds, performing three sets per stretch to equal 30 seconds. After a few weeks of BFS stretching exercises, athletes will begin to enjoy significant improvements in flexibility and overall athletic ability.
If the training environment is crowded and time is short, such as in a classroom situation, athletes would be better off stretching at home. If facilities are spacious and plenty of time is available, the ideal scenario would be to stretch after performing the dot drill and again at the end of the workout. Also, stretching in a group environment may be especially effective to ensure this important work gets done.
There are many other effective methods of stretching, such as PNF and dynamic stretching. These are covered in detail in the BFS Flexibility Manual. In the meantime, consider stretching should not be viewed as a method to become more flexible, but to become better all-around athletes.