The Best Stretches to Avoid Injury in Your Favorite Sports
Last Updated: Oct 26, 2016
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"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." More than just good life advice, Benjamin Franklin's words hold true for your workouts, too. You can avoid injury by building a strong foundation and ensuring your functional training routine incorporates a well-balanced blend of mobility, stability, flexibility, strength and cardio exercise. Be prepared to bring out your inner “outdoor adventurer” with these sport-specific exercises to strengthen and lengthen your muscles for just about any outdoor activity.
FIXING MUSCLE IMBALANCES
Think of your muscles like a pulley system. When one muscle or muscle group contracts, the opposing muscle or muscle group lengthens. When muscles aren't at their optimal lengths, muscle imbalances occur. Overly tight muscles can tug on joints, affecting your posture and gait, while weak muscles can cause other muscles to pick up the slack, creating overuse injuries. Additionally, lack of strength in stabilizing muscles around the joint can impair movement and lead to aches and pains or even injuries. To prepare for just about any outdoor activity, ensure that your body is balanced and grounded. So in the following slides, there will be a strength exercise and a stretch to address common muscle imbalances for each outdoor activity.
Related: 8 Unilateral Exercises to Challenge Your Balance
SURFING: CHILD’S POSE WALKOVERS
When you’re lying on a surfboard getting ready to catch a wave, your abs are lengthening while your back muscles are contracting. If you’re not used to this position, you may feel tightness in your lower back. STRETCHES: Lower back and latissimus dorsi. HOW TO DO IT: Start on all fours with your big toes together and knees apart. Keep your hands shoulder-distance apart and arms straight as you extend your hips back toward your heels and lengthen through your spine. Rest your head between your upper arms. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds with your arms out front, and then walk your hands over to the right side. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Walk hands to the left and hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
Related: 11 Essential Yoga Poses Everyone Should Practice
SURFING: POINTED-TOES PLANK
STRENGTHENS: Abdominals and hip flexors. HOW TO DO IT: Start in a push-up position with your hands shoulder-distance apart. Your shoulders should be directly over your elbows and wrists. Come to the tops of your feet with your toes pointed behind you. Draw your navel in and tuck your hips, bringing the frontal hip bones towards your rib cage while maintaining a flat back. Stay strong through your shoulders, and keep your neck in line with your spine, gazing about six inches in front of you. Hold this position for 45 to 60 seconds. For an even greater challenge, lift one leg six inches off the ground and hold for 10 to 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Related: 6 Simple Exercises to Prevent Shin Splints
HIKING AND BACKPACKING: STANDING CALF STRETCH
If you’re an avid hiker, you know your calves have to endure a lot more work trekking up a strenuous trails than just walking. STRETCHES: Gastrocnemius. HOW TO DO IT: Stand about arms’ length away from a wall. Lean forward and place your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Stagger your legs, sending one leg back behind you about two feet and one slightly in front of you. Anchor your heel to the ground to stretch the calf muscles. Deepen the bend into the front knee, keeping the knee over the ankle. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Related: 6 Simple Exercises to Prevent Shin Splints
HIKING AND BACKPACKING: TOE RAISES
Stretch and strengthen your lower legs to help stabilize your knee joints and lessen the risk of injury and discomfort on the trail. STRENGTHENS: Tibialis anterior. HOW TO DO IT: Start seated or standing with your feet flat on the ground. Press into your right heel and draw your toes upward towards your shin. Repeat on the left side and alternate for a total of 20 to 30 reps per side.
Related: 12 Easy, Anytime Moves to Strengthen Your Feet and Ankles
PADDLEBOARDING: TRIANGLE POSE
Standup paddleboarding is a great workout. It requires balance, core strength, upper-body strength and coordination. This yoga pose trains your stabilizing muscles and helps you stay afloat. STRETCHES: Latissimus dorsi and obliques. HOW TO DO IT: Step or jump your feet two to three feet apart. Spread your arms out to the sides in line with your shoulders, palms facing down. Turn your right foot 90 degrees to the right and your left foot in at a 45-degree angle. Bend over to the right side. Place your right hand on your shin, ankle or the ground outside your right foot as you reach your left arm up to the sky. Gaze up toward your left arm or straight ahead. Hold the pose for five long, deep breaths and repeat on the other side.
Related: 12 Amazing Paddleboard Yoga Poses (and How to Do Them)
PADDLEBOARDING: SINGLE-LEG TORSO TWIST
This core-strengthening and balance-focused exercise will help you stay steady on the board, gracefully switch sides with the paddle and maximize your power output. STRENGTHENS: Core. HOW TO DO IT: Position a resistance band around a stable device like a pole or post. Hold the ends with your hands together and arms extended as you stand to the side on one leg. Ground down through your supporting leg as you exhale and twist. Complete 10 to 20 repetitions on each side.
Related: 10 Resistance Band Exercises to Tone and Tighten
ROCK CLIMBING: WRIST STRETCH
Aside from being an exhilarating sport, rock climbing requires strength in smaller muscle groups like the forearms and hands as well as strength through the back and core. STRETCHES: Forearm flexors and extensors. HOW TO DO IT: Send one arm out in front of you to shoulder height. Flex the fingers up toward the sky and gently apply pressure with the other hand. Hold for 20 seconds. Next, extend the fingers toward the ground as you gently apply pressure with the other hand. Hold for 20 seconds.
Related: 9 Moves You Can Do Every Day for Better Joint Mobility
ROCK CLIMBING: HANGING SCAPULAR RETRACTIONS
This exercise requires a lot of grip strength, which you’ll need on the climb, as well as latissimus dorsi (upper-back muscles) and teres major (muscle under your shoulder blades) activation. If you’re ready for an advanced progression, try the wide-grip pull-up. STRENGTHENS: Forearm flexors and extensors, lats, teres major and biceps. HOW TO DO IT: Jump up to grasp a sturdy bar overhead. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Ensure you have a firm grip. Retract your shoulder blades in a shrugging motion, activating your lats. This creates space between your shoulders and ears. Complete 10 to 20 repetitions.
Related: 5 Quick Ways to Challenge Your Pull-Up
MOUNTAIN BIKING AND ROAD CYCLING: BOW POSE
Whether you’re on the road or the trail, biking is an excellent calorie burner and lower-body workout. This yoga pose is an awesome way to counteract the body’s position in the saddle. STRETCHES: Quadriceps, pectorals, anterior deltoids. HOW TO DO IT: Lie on the ground on your stomach and place your arms by your sides with palms facing up. Place your chin on the floor. Exhale as you bend your knees toward your glutes. Reach your arms behind you and grab the outside of your ankles. Inhale as you lift your chest off the floor while simultaneously lifting your thighs by pressing your ankles into your hands. Breathe. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and exhale as you release and return your chin to the ground.
Related: 10 Best Stretches to Do Before Biking
MOUNTAIN BIKING AND ROAD CYCLING: SINGLE-LEG HAMSTRING CURL
If it’s been a while since you’ve been in the saddle, prep your body for the journey ahead with this stretch-and-strengthen exercise. STRENGTHENS: Hamstrings. HOW TO DO IT: Attach a resistance band or cable to a stable device like a pole or post. Lie on your back and hook the band or cable around one ankle. Contract your hamstrings as you draw your heel in toward your glute. Release back to the starting position. Complete 10 to 20 reps on each leg.
Related: 7 Long-Distance Cycling Tips from Celebrity Chef Jason Roberts
SWIMMING: PECTORAL WALL STRETCH
Trading in your treadmill run for a lake or ocean swim may be just the challenge your body is seeking. Swimming trains nearly all the major muscles groups of the body, but it delivers a lower risk of injury due to being a low-impact activity. STRETCHES: Pectorals and anterior deltoids. HOW TO DO IT: Stand in line with a doorway or pole. Place your arm behind you and brace it against the wall or pole. Rotate your body away from the wall. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
Related: 12 Powerful Yoga Poses for Every Athlete
SWIMMING: REAR DELTOID FLY
Improve your swimming stroke and glide through the water by addressing the common muscle imbalances that can occur in the upper body. STRENGTHENS: Rear deltoids. HOW TO DO IT: Holding one end of a resistance band in each hand, step onto the band with your feet hip-distance apart. Keep your knees slightly bent. Hinge over at the waist with your arms extended toward the ground. Raise your arms out to the side. Hold for two to three seconds as you contract through your back and shoulders. Release to the starting position and repeat for 10 to 20 repetitions.
Related: 10 Types of Low-Impact Exercise That Keep You Fit and Injury-Free
VOLLEYBALL: EXTENDED PUPPY POSE
The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the human body. Full range of motion through the shoulder girdle as well as balanced strength between the upper and lower trapezius can build the foundation for a strong serve on the volleyball court so you can dominate your opponents. STRETCHES: Entire shoulder girdle. HOW TO DO IT: Start on all fours. Extend your arms out in front of you shoulder-distance apart. As you exhale, make sure your hips stay over your heels while keeping the arms active and hands pressing into the ground. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat two to three times.
Related: 10 Common Workout Injuries and How to Avoid Them
VOLLEYBALL: HIGH-TO-LOW ROW
STRENGTHENS: Lower trapezius, rear deltoids and rotator cuff muscles. HOW TO DO IT: Attach a resistance band to a stable device like a pole or post and lower down to your knees. Alternatively, you can position the band one to two feet above shoulder height. Hold the ends of the band with arms outstretched. Keep your core tight and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you contract through your back and bring the elbows to the sides of the body. Complete 10 to 20 repetitions.
Related: 9 TRX Exercises to Sculpt an Insanely Strong Upper Body
GOLF: RECLINED SPINAL TWIST
It may have a reputation as a sport for old, rich men, but golfing requires mobility through your neck, shoulders and hips as well as core strength. Muscle imbalances are common, since golfers tend to use only one side of their bodies. STRETCHES: Neck, shoulders and hips. HOW TO DO IT: Start lying on your back with legs extended. Hug your right knee into your chest. Release your right arm out to the right with palm facing up. Look to the right and drop your right knee over to the left side of your body. Scoot your left hip back one to two inches to the right for a deeper stretch. Release back to center and repeat on the other side.
Related: 11 Yoga Poses to Eliminate Stress From Your Day
GOLF: RESISTED CHOP
STRENGTHENS: Core. HOW TO DO IT: Wrap a resistance band around your left foot. Hold the handles or elastic with both hands, extending your arms toward your foot. Place a slight bend in the knees, gaze at the left foot and raise your arms on a diagonal over your head. Slowly lower back to the starting position. Repeat for 10 to 20 repetitions on each side.
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
What's your favorite sport? Are you planning on incorporating any of these sport-specific stretches into your workout routine? Do you know of others that we didn't mention? Leave a comment below and let us know!
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