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Flexibility Training for Athletes

      All athletes need to stretch their muscles as part of a normal warm-up exercising program before proceeding to a vigorous practice session.  Muscle tightness, is associated with an increased risk of muscle tears. Dynamic stretching before training or competing can reduced this type of injury.

       Examples of Dynamic Stretches include:

Arm Swings
Side Bends
Trunk Rotations
Full Back Stretch
Abdominal Stretch
Hamstring Stretch
Groin Stretch
Alternate Toe Touches
Leg Swings
   

Training programs for GENERAL FITNESS

Training programs for SPECIFIC SPORTS


Flexibility Training
      Flexibility training is designed to increase the individuals range of motion. For example, performing a full split position. This type of flexibility training is associated with ballet, figure skating, gymnastics, etc.

      Tips before you start any stretching routine.
  1. Stretching vs. Flexibility: Stretching is a way of actively increasing our range of motion and thereby increasing our flexibility.
  2. Stretch safely. Always follow the safe stretching guidelines to prevent injuries.
  3. Perform static stretching. This means you hold a stretch for about 30-60 seconds at a time and don't bounce or over stretch.
  4. Stretch after you warm up. Research shows this is the best way to improve range of motion.
  5. Perform a dynamic warm up before your workouts to make sure your muscles are warm.
  6. Keep in mind each joint has an ideal range of motion and more flexibility isn't always better.
  7. To maintain good muscle balance, stretch tight muscles and strengthen weak ones.
  8. Avoid over stretching or stretching cold muscles.
      Flexibility training is perhaps the most undervalued component of any training program. Static Stretching Exercises and Flexibility Training Program

      Static stretching exercises are best performed when your body is completely warmed up - often at the end of a training session to increase range of motion. Avoid static stretching immediately before gymnastics competition

      Flexibility of the body muscles and joints play an integral part in many athletic movements ranging from a volleyball spike to a rugby drop kick.

      In general terms, flexibility has been defined as the Range of Motion (ROM) about a joint and its surrounding muscles during a passive movement (1,2). Passive in this context simple means no active muscle involvement is required to hold the stretch. Instead gravity or a partner provides the force for the stretch.

Benefits of Flexibility Training
      By increasing this joint range of motion, performance may be enhanced and the risk of injury reduced. The rationale for this is that a limb can move further before an injury occurs.

      Tight neck muscles for example, may restrict how far you can turn your head. If, during a tackle, your head is forced beyond this range of movement it places strain on the neck muscles and tendons.

      Ironically, static stretching just prior an event may actually be detrimental to performance and offer no protection from injury. The emphasis is on "may" however, as a closer examination of the scientific literature shows that effects are often minimal and by no means conclusive.

      Muscle tightness has been associated with an increased risk of muscle tears, can be reduced before training or competing with dynamic stretching. For this reason many coaches now favor dynamic stretches over static stretches as part of the warm up.

      Competitive sport can have quite an unbalancing effect on the body. Take racket sports for example. The same arm is used to hit thousands of shots over and over again. One side of the body is placed under different types and levels of stress compared to the other. The same is true for sports like soccer and Australian rules football where one kicking foot usually predominates. A flexibility training program can help to correct these disparities preventing chronic, over-use injury.

      A more flexible athlete is a more mobile athlete. It allows enhanced movement around the court or field with greater ease and dexterity. Some other benefits may include an increase in body awareness and a promotion of relaxation in the muscle groups stretched - both of which may have positive implications for skill acquisition and performance.

Types of Flexibility and Stretching

1. Dynamic flexibility -- the ability to perform dynamic movements within the full range of motion in the joint. Common examples include twisting from side to side or kicking an imaginary ball. Dynamic flexibility is generally more sport specific than other forms of mobility.

2. Static Active flexibility -- this refers to the ability to stretch an antagonist muscle using only the tension in the agonist muscle. An example is holding one leg out in front of you as high as possible. The hamstring (antagonist) is being stretched while the quadriceps and hip flexors (agonists) are holding the leg up.

3. Static Passive flexibility -- the ability to hold a stretch using body weight or some other external force. Using the example above, holding your leg out in font of you and resting it on a chair. The quadriceps are not required to hold the extended position.

A flexibility training program can be made up of different types of stretching:

1. Dynamic stretching

2. Ballistic stretching

3. Static Active stretching

4. Static Passive stretching

5. Isometric stretching

6. PNF stretching

Which type of flexibility training is best?
      It depends on the sport and the athlete's outcomes - something which will be examined more closely in the articles below. As a general rule, dynamic stretches are used as part of a warm up and static stretches or PNF flexibility training is used for increasing range of motion.

Elements of Fitness

                
   
   
Fitness in Specific Sports
         
   
Recommended Reading:

Off-Ice Training

Sports Training

Flexibility Training  As muscles acting on a joint become tight, that joint can no longer function to its optimal capacity and the risk of injury to that joint significantly increases. When all muscles acting on a joint are flexible, the joint can move easily and efficiently through its complete natural range of motion.

The Physiology of Flexibility  Here's a quick review of what determines a person's flexibility - an some of the physiological components important in stretching...

Static Stretching Exercises and Flexibility Training Program  Static stretching exercises are best performed when your body is completely warmed up - often at the end of game or training session. Avoid static stretching immediately before competition, especially if your sport is based on speed and power.

Dynamic Stretches & Stretching Routine  Use these dynamic stretches as part of your warm up routine. Dynamic stretching has been shown to decrease muscle tightness which may be associated to an increased risk of muscles and tendon tears.

Self Myofascial Release Exercises  While not strictly flexibility training, self myofascial release techniques can have a number of performance and rehabilitation benefits. With just the aid of a foam roll, athletes can reduce muscular pain and those 'trigger points' also associated with muscle tears.

References:

Training Considerations

Flexibility training- the What, Why and How? Sept. 15, 2010 ... What Long term flexibility development Flexibility must be considered as a long term training goal that can be developed over time.

Flexibility Exercises for Young Athletes  Young athletes who have access to a school gym or training facility will find several helpful pieces of equipment that increase the efficiency of flexibility exercises.

Flexibility Exercises for Young Athletes  Here are some stretching exercises that doctors from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons believe to be a good general set of flexibility exercises.

 
Flexibility Training... Stretching For Sport And Athletes   Flexibility training is perhaps the most undervalued component of conditioning.

Flexibility Exercises for Every Major Muscle Group This compilation of flexibility exercises, complete with diagrams will improve your health, your athletic performance and can help reduce joint pain.

What Kind Of Exercise Do Male Ballet Dancers Do? Aug. 12, 2011 ... Despite the fact that ballet dancers tend to be more flexible than other performing athletes, many dance injuries occur during flexibility training.

4 Types of Exercises for Male Ballet Dancers  Exercise #2: Flexibility Training. Koutedakis and Jamurtas - ballet dancers are more flexible than other performing athletes,

Ballet Training for Athletes   July 24, 2007 ... Many athletes use dance and ballet to cross train and improve their ... Ballet improves strength, flexibility, coordination, dexterity and agility.

Sports Information

Sports Training

Resources:

The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

  
Off-Ice Training
PDF  Cool Down Exercises
PDF  Warm Up Exercises
Flexibility Training for Athletes
Flexibility in Young Athletes
PDF  Off-Ice Training For Figure Skaters
PDF  USFS Training Program
   
   

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