No matter how old you are or how good of shape you think you are in, you will be doing your body a lot of good by stretching before a sporting event. Not only will a good pre-workout stretch help you perform to the best of your ability, but it will also aid your recovery after the event.
You don’t really have to do any strenuous stretching if you are just a recreational athlete. Focusing on certain muscles is more important than the amount of stretching that you do. Here are the top basic stretches that you should do to keep your body healthy and performing at its highest level, and why they are important stretches to do.
1. Arm Stretches
Doing basic stretches like arm circles, triceps stretches, pushups and things like that will go a long way in making sure your arms are ready to perform. Even if you are playing a sport that doesn’t require a lot of arm strength, you don’t realize how much you use them even when you’re just running. Stretching out your arms is beneficial to help you prevent fatigue, and you don’t even have to stretch them out for too long.
2. Hamstring Stretches
This is arguably one of the most important stretches you can do. If you take off running from a standing position without stretching beforehand, there’s a good chance that you will feel tightness in your hamstrings, at the very least. Doing toe touches for a few seconds, going for a quick jog or even doing high knees in place will help stretch out your hamstrings good enough for your event. Hamstrings are delicate muscles, so they need to be properly stretched out. Otherwise, you will feel a lot of soreness, or maybe even cause it to tear.
3. Thigh Stretches
Your thighs are muscles that could tighten up if not stretched properly as well. The most common stretch is to put one leg behind your back and pull your foot up as high as you can. You may need to hold onto something to get the maximum amount of stretching done. Alternate your legs to get a good even stretch. You may not think you need to stretch your thighs, but you will regret it if you don’t.
4. Shoulder Stretches
If you’re playing a sport that requires a lot of shoulder motion, like football, baseball, softball or volleyball, then it’s critical to do some shoulder stretches. Do some big arm circles and move your arms up-and-down and side-to-side to get them worked out. Stretching out your shoulders will prevent cramping and tightening up when you’re in between innings or taking a break.
5. Quad Stretches
Stretching your quads is similar to stretching your thighs. You can either grab and pull your foot up behind you, or go into a deep lunge position to stretch your quads. Be sure and give your quads special attention because they tighten up very easily, especially if you’re playing a sport like baseball or softball, where you have to make quick and fast movements.
6. Knee Stretches
Stretching your knees gets overlooked at times, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not important to your health. Having strong knees will help your performance as an athlete and prevent injuries to other parts of your body. If you think about it, your knees take the most abuse of any part of your body. By doing some stretches like lying down and bending your knees, doing some squats or squat jumps, you will stretch out the muscles and prevent them from tightening up in the middle of your event.
7. Back Stretches
It’s easy to forget about your back, especially if you don’t feel any pain on a daily basis in that area. Giving your back muscles a good stretching will help loosen you up, which makes you more flexible and gives you the ability to perform at a higher level in whichever sport you’re playing. It’s best to do back stretches by lying down on your stomach and pushing up with your arms. Hold that position for several seconds until you start to feel some discomfort. Also, lie on your back and reach as high as you can. You can also stand up and reach as high as you can if that’s more comfortable. You may not feel like you are stretching anything, but your back muscles are benefiting from the stretching to help make you more limber.
Pre-workout stretches like the ones described here will help any recreational sports athlete perform at a higher level. Not only will the performance increase, but the recovery time will also decrease, meaning you will be back in full health and ready to go for your next event more quickly.