Stretching is one of the most important things we can do for our bodies. This is especially true for those of us who are active or play sports. Playing sports can take a toll on the body and not stretching beforehand could impair us. Stretching does several things for our bodies. It keeps muscles flexible and reduces muscle tension, increases the range of motion for our joints, reduces pain and stiffness, it can enhance your performance, oh and it can reduce the risk of injury which is super important.
There are various types of stretches that can be done on different parts of the body. Lower body stretches help keep our legs, hips and back stretched and flexible as running, sprinting, jumping and sliding are some things that can happen during a game. Upper body stretches help keep our arms, shoulders, neck, back and chest stretched and flexible. This is important as swinging, flicking, reaching your arms out and turning your body quickly will happen during the game. *** Being able to run throughout the game is one of the most important things you will need to do. So here are some stretches to keep you loose and ready to run!***
It is best to hold stretches around thirty or forty seconds. Some stretches can be held longer. Make sure you hold all of your stretches. Some of them need to be done to each side of the body, so make sure you switch and repeat the stretch. Make sure you stretch properly, as stretching incorrectly will not help you.
Lower Body Stretches
Sitting Hamstring Stretch
If you didn’t know what part of the body this stretch helps with, it is your hamstring. This stretch also helps your lower back. In order to do this stretch you need to sit on the ground. Put one leg straight in front of you and bend the other leg at the knee. The bottom of your foot should be in front of your thigh. Reach out with your hand and try to hold your toes. Do not stress if you cannot reach your toes.
You can also do this stretch with both legs straight out at the same time and reach with both arms to your toes. Again do not stress if you cannot reach your toes.
Lunges in general are great for us. They help so many muscles in our legs. A runner’s lunge is a great stretch to do. In order to do a runner’s lunge you prepare like you are about to run a race. Stretch one leg out straight behind you. The leg in front of you gets put into a lunge position. Keep both hands on either side of your front leg.
This is one of my favorite stretches to do. In order to do this stretch you must be sitting on the ground. Bend both of your knees and have the bottom of your feet touch in front of you. Lean forward and stretch your back while keeping your chest close to the floor.
You can also make it harder by having your knees trying to touch the floor by having your elbows push on them.
This stretch is great, as it can help loosen your hips. It is important that your hips are loose as you will be turning quickly and you do not want to be tight in your hips.
Start by bending one leg in front of you and keeping your other leg straight out behind you. If possible, keep your bent leg perpendicular to your body. Put your arms and hands stretched out in front of you on the ground. Lean forward and slowly lower your upper body down in front of you.
Standing Quad Stretch
Loosening our quads can allow us to run with a little more ease. Running can sometimes be the culprit of a quad strain or injury. So to help prevent that we need to stretch out our quads. Start by standing up. Raise one leg behind you, with your knee being bent. Hold your foot in your hand while you are standing.
This yoga stretch isn’t just for yoga, it is for everyone. It is an awesome stretch to do while warming up. It stretches all parts of your legs, hitting the back part of your legs, and helps relieve tension from your back and shoulders. Start by kneeling on the ground. Put your hands on the ground, shoulder width apart, in front of you. Raise your glutes up while keeping your arms where they are. It will look similar to an upside down letter V.
Couch Stretch/Runner’s Lunge with Quad Stretch
The Couch Stretch/Runner’s lunge with quad stretch a great stretch for your legs. You can do this two different ways, one with your back towards a wall or hard surface, or in an open area. To do it with your back towards the wall, one leg will be in front of you in a lunge position. Your other leg will be bent behind you, with your knee being placed as close to the base of the wall. You will stretch by leaning forward a little. To do this in an open area, have your one leg in a lunge position. Put your other leg with your knee on the ground and lift your foot so it is pointing up towards the sky. Hold your foot with your hands and stretch.
Iron Cross Stretch
This is a good one to stretch out your low back, middle back, and your hips. Start by laying flat on your back. Your legs should be straight in front of you. Bring one leg straight into the air and then across your body.
You may not consider a plank as a stretch, but it actually is a great way to stretch out your body. Planks help stretch your legs, back, arches of your feet and of course your core. Start by laying with your face towards the ground. Put your forearms down on the ground with your elbows under your shoulders. Put the tips of your feet on the ground and hold your body up off the ground.
Upper Body Stretches
Cross Body Shoulder Stretch
It is important to loosen up your shoulders, as you do not want to injure them. Put one arm straight out in front of you. Move it so your arm is going across your chest, but not laying on your chest. Take your hand on your other arm and bring it up to your elbow going across your body. Hold the stretch then release your arms down to your sides. Repeat the same stretch on the other arm.
Keeping your chest flexible is great for several reasons. This stretch can help you with this. Start by standing straight up with your arms straight down. Move your arms behind your back and interlock your fingers. Push your shoulder blades together by pushing your chest forward. Hold the stretch then release your arms and shoulders when done.
Overhead tricep/shoulder stretch
Triceps and shoulders need to be loose and flexible. Start by standing up straight. Raise one arm up, bend your elbow and let your arm reach to about the middle of your shoulder blades. Then put your other hand on the elbow of the arm hanging down. Hold the stretch and then repeat with the other arm.
Arms Behind Back Reach
This stretch is very similar to the overhead tricep stretch. The difference with this stretch is the placement of your arms and hands. Start by standing up straight. Raise one arm up, bend your elbow and let your arm reach to about the middle of your shoulder blades. Then put your other arm behind your back and bend it up. Have both of your hands meet together in the middle of your back. Interlock your fingers or hands by holding them. Hold the stretch and then repeat with your arms in the other directions. This stretch is more difficult than the overhead tricep. If it is too much for you do not do the stretch.
Wrist Extension Stretch
Your wrists are important as you need them to flick the ball, as well as hold and use your stick. To do this stretch start with your head facing forward and straight. Raise one arm up to about shoulder length. Then move your hand up so your fingers are pointing towards the sky. Take your other hand and hold your fingers, right at the top of your palm. Gently push your fingers back. Hold for the stretch then release when done. Make sure you do it to both hands.
Wrist Flexion Stretch
Another stretch for your wrist, as they are important in controlling the stick. To do this stretch start with your head facing forward and straight. Raise one arm up to about shoulder length. Then move your hand down so your fingers are pointing towards the floor. Take your other hand and hold your fingers, right around your knuckles. Gently push your fingers back. Hold for the stretch then release when done. Make sure you do it to both hands.
You probably know this stretch already, but it is a great stretch to loosen up a few different muscle groups. Start by standing straight up with your arms straight down. Raise your arms up so they are at shoulder length level. Move your arms into a circular motion forward. When you are done you can do the same thing but in a backward circular motion.
There are a few different varieties of the head tilt. You should do all of them, as they will help loosen up your neck. All of these will start with you in the standing position. There is the Head Tilt Sideways, Left to Right, and Forward.
Start with your head facing forward and straight. Tilt your head sideways towards one of your shoulders. After you hold the stretch, bring your head back towards the starting position. Then tilt your head sideways towards your other shoulder. Hold the stretch again and then bring your head back to the starting position.
Left to Right
Start with your head facing forward and straight. Turn your head to one side and hold. Turn your head back to the front. Then turn your head to the other side and hold.
Start with your head facing forward and straight. Tilt your head downward, towards your chest. Hold your head in that position. Slowly bring your head back up once you are done.
All in all, stretching is amazing and something that everyone should be doing. Field hockey players NEED to stretch before practice and before a game. Loosening up your body can help prevent an injury and can keep you on the field longer.