B.A.S.E. Sports Conditioning – Articles 40

A Pound of Prevention

Part V: Stretching and Foam Rolling

By Mike Mejia, CSCS

As important as it is to warm-up properly and do the right kinds of strengthening exercises, if you’re not also doing your best to improve both range of motion, and soft tissue quality, you’re missing the boat. Keeping your muscles and connective tissue supple by using a foam roller, along with some targeted flexibility work, offers some of the best ways to combat the effects of all the intensive practicing, playing and training that you do.

That’s why in this fifth installment of our series, I’ll be showing you some great stretches and self myofascial releases, designed to relieve unwanted tension in some of the most overused muscles in lacrosse. So, whether it’s tight hip flexors that are wreaking havoc on your lower back, or rock hard calves that are limiting your ankle mobility, you’ll find everything you need to get your body moving, and feeling better than ever1

Just roll with it

In case you’re not familiar (and if you’re not, where have you been hiding?), foam rolling has taken the athletic community by storm in recent years. And that’s because these simple foam cylinders do everything from increase blood flow and muscle pliability prior to training — leading to more effective warm-ups — to helping aid recovery by decreasing muscle tension and eliminating knots and adhesions after you’ve finished your workout.

All you have to do is position yourself atop the roller in different ways and let your body weight and gravity take care of the rest. It may not feel great at first, especially if you have any longstanding trigger points that need to be addressed. However, with regular use, the foam roller will quickly become one of your most trusted weapons in the battle against injuries.

Stretching: The Truth

Once thought to be the “holy grail” of athletic conditioning, static stretching (the type where you hold a muscle in a stretched position for at least 20-30 seconds at a time) has gotten a bit of a bum rap in recent years. While it’s true that it may not be the preferred type of stretching to do prior to intensive exercise- due to the inhibitory effect it can have on explosive speed and power development- static stretching still has a place in the athlete’s arsenal.

By enabling you to work on increasing range of motion in notoriously tight muscle groups, regular static stretching, done as part of either the cool down period following physical activity, or other times throughout the day, can help relax and restore muscles to their resting length. It will also help set the stage for more efficient warm-ups, as a muscle, or group of muscles that is capable of moving through a greater range of motion, will be much easier to loosen up than one that’s chronically restricted.

About the only other caveat to be aware of is the fact that static stretching isn’t suited to everyone. Younger athletes (typically around age 6-9) for instance, have little use for it. Because their nervous systems’ are wired for excitability, they lack the ability to relax and derive any sort of real benefit from this type of stretching.

Likewise, 10-14 year-olds, who are typically going through periods of accelerated growth, don’t stand to gain much from static stretching, and should instead focus on improving range of motion more dynamically (with things like full range of motion strength training, as well as the types of mobility drills found here).

Once you’ve made it past your major growth spurt, though, static stretching can then become a very effective tool in helping you to address some of the flexibility imbalances that have likely resulted from years of intensive training and competition. Just be sure to always hold each stretch for at least 20-45 seconds, and remember to pay extra attention to any areas of the body that seem especially tight.

The video below contains some of my favorite stretching and rolling drills.You don’t have to do them all, but make sure that you’re using the one’s that address your specific areas of need. And, if you find that you have one side that’s tighter than the other, feel free to do more reps on that side.

One final note: please keep in mind that while following some of the recommendations featured in this series will certainly help, you need to be diligent about all of them if you’re really serious about reducing your risk of injury.

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the next, and final installment in this series, where I’ll go over proper positing and technique for various spiriting and change of direction drills.  

You may also like...