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Flexibility can prevent injury in football.
When your muscles and joints easily move through a full range of motion, you can better perform on the field as well as prevent muscle strains, pulls and tears. If you can't twist your torso to whip around and avoid a tackle, you'll end up on the losing side and you could possibly hurt yourself, too. Because football players use heavy weight training to gain strength and power, which can tighten muscles, they need to do various types of stretches -- dynamic and static - to maintain if not increase their flexibility.
Move and Stretch
Dynamic stretches couple stretching with movement and prepares your body for football practice or competition. Dynamic stretches for the lower body can include sideways shuffling, backwards skipping, walking toe touches, knee hugs, lunges and forward, lateral and rear leg swings. Variations of arm swings and windmills involving shoulder rotations can stretch the upper body. Rack stretches are particularly effective for football, according to вЂњA Chance to Win: A Complete Guide to Physical Training for FootballвЂќ by Mike Gentry. Begin by setting up an unloaded barbell on a rack at chest level. Set one side pin at waist height and a second at knee height. Move around the rack as if you're navigating an obstacle course, bending your knees to duck under the bar and then lifting your knees to step over the pins. Move forward, sideways and backward while approaching the obstacles from various angles.
Beyond the Extreme Range of Motion
In contrast to dynamic stretches, static stretches require you to hold a stretch for a minimum of 10 seconds and, preferably, a maximum of 30 seconds to increase flexibility. Because these stretches push your muscles and joints beyond their comfortable range of motion, they're typically done after football practice when your muscles are very warm and pliable. Static stretches can include a hand-to-knee stretch in a wide stance, bar stretches for the hamstring and groin, a supine hamstring or leg crossover stretch, an overhead arm stretch, a seated or supine torso twist for the back, a butterfly stretch for the groin, side lunges for the quads and Achilles tendon or the challenging straddle split.
An Elastic Partner
Many university football programs use active isolation stretches in which players use elastic bands to stretch, according to Gentry. It's similar to a two-person stretch, but it doesn't require the second person. When you put your foot in the loop at the end of the band and draw your leg into a stretch, the band's resistance provides a counterforce to the working leg's stretch reflex. At the end of the range of motion, pull on the band to slightly extend the range of motion. By holding the peak position for only two seconds, you can avoid the full impact of the stretch reflex. However, the hold is long enough to increase your flexibility. For example, begin a hamstring stretch by lying supine with legs extended and one foot inserted into the band's loop. Grasp the other end of the band with both hands. Slowly draw the working leg toward your chest. Hold the peak position for 10 seconds and then slightly increase the range of motion and hold for another two seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat the stretch for the other leg.
Think of Your Body as a Wet Sponge
Before doing any kind of stretch, perform a proper warm-up to boost the temperature of your muscles and lubricate your joints. Think of a dry and brittle sponge. If you bend it, a piece can easily break off. Once you moisten the sponge, it becomes highly pliable. Trying to tear the sponge in half becomes a difficult task. Football players can do five to eight minutes of low-intensity cardio activity such as jogging at a 10-minute pace or riding a stationary bicycle. The optimal warm-up combines different types of low-intensity exercises, such as carioca, a side shuffle or high knee steps, which are related to movements you'll use during football practice.