March Madness is here, so it’s time to discuss stretching for basketball. The fundamentals of basketball are simple to grasp; dribbling, the jump shot, the chest pass, the rebound. Competitive-level players have mastered these abilities on a basic level and are always looking to hone their skills to improve their game. The sport played at such a level requires quickness and agility, as angle, direction, and explosiveness of each movement is constantly changing. Effectiveness of these movements is minimized in players with limited range of motion. By implementing specific stretch protocols into a basketball player’s daily routine, performance can be enhanced.
The stop-and-go nature of the game requires both agile and explosive movements. Proper extensibility of the quadriceps, adductors, glutes, hamstrings, and calves is necessary for those fast-breaks down the court, or powerful movements to the basket. Dynamic stretching beforehand increases oxygen and blood flow to those muscles, preparing them for full range of motion through the joints. It also stimulates the nervous system to increase awareness for performance. It is this enhanced neuromuscular ability that could give a player that advantage early in the game.
Incorporating stretching into a basketball warmup can also help prevent injury. Some of the most common basketball injuries include lateral ankle sprains, patellofemoral inflammation, and hamstring strains. While injuries occurring from trauma to the area are unpredictable, others can be prevented using stretching. By stretching muscles surrounding the hips and knees, the stress of those muscles on the knee joint will decrease. For example, the pulling sensation felt on the kneecap in those with patellofemoral pain can be lessened by stretching the IT band, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. Decreasing the amount of stress on a joint can reduce inflammation and bring muscles to their optimal length without overlengthening them.
Although lower limb injuries make up the highest portion of basketball injuries, it is also vital for basketball players to maintain proper flexibility in their trunk and upper body. Lumbar strains and sprains are the most common after lower limb injuries and are caused by trauma or overuse. The twisting, pivoting, and bending movements a player must make to create space, combined with a rigorous schedule, predispose the muscles to overuse. Our lower back stretches emphasizing the quadratus laborum, lumbar fascia, and multifidus, will help relieve the tension carried in the lower back, bringing these muscles to their optimal length pre and post-workout.
Keeping a basketball player in good range of motion can only help to keep the body aligned and flexible to optimize performance.
Written by Ariel Scheintaub. Ariel is a Stretch Therapist in our Tribeca studio.
There isn’t a single muscle that isn’t tested when it comes to the full totality of the sports of baseball and softball. Every aspect of these games is both mentally and physically demanding. The mental aspect demands that players have a wealth of knowledge and strategy about the game i.e. pitch selection, hitting for contact or power, knowing when to steal, etc. However, if their bodies are not flexible, mobile, stable, and strong, then just understanding the game is not going to get them very far. At LYMBR we hope to assist our fellow baseball and softball players by stretching muscles involved in the three movements of the sports: swinging, throwing, and running.
In your swing you use your deltoids, infraspinatus, wrist pronators/supinators, psoas, hip rotators, and lats to complete the swing. However, the function of any and all successful swings begin in the same place: the hips. Bat speed, point of contact, and how far that contact will go is determined by the rotational force of your lower body. It doesn’t matter how strong your upper body is, you will never be able to hit it as far as someone with better lower body rotation. The muscles listed above are consequently lengthened and shortened to complete the motion of the swing. If you’re doing this multiple times a day, every day, for years on end, then those muscles will adapt to the length and motion you’ve made it comfortable with. It’s repetitive action, and it’s one of the most common muscular adaptations we see here at LYMBR. By stretching out the back, shoulders, hips, wrists, and forearms we relax your connective tissues and lengthen your muscles back to its original length. This creates muscle balance. Swinging a bat at a tiny ball moving between 60-100 mph is hard enough without a tight, imbalanced body.
PITCHING AND THROWING
If the old adage “the best offense is a good defense” holds true, then pitching and throwing create the trebuchet that defends the castle of victory from total onslaught. At its most base, you’re just playing catch, but pitching and throwing at its heart is primal, ruthless, and steeped in strategy. You must understand pitch variance, changing your delivery times, hitting your cut-off man from the outfield, whether or not to risk the far throw to home. What sets great arms apart from good arms is the overall comprehension of the throw itself. This is another motion dictated by the force production of your lower body translated to your upper body. We are using similar muscles to swing such as the hip flexors, hip rotators, rotator cuff musculature, deltoids, lats, and wrist pronators but now with more engagement from the pectoral muscles, the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and the muscles responsible for flexion in your back. If these muscles are tight or out of place, then they have a higher chance of misfiring along with a much higher chance of injury. By loosening these muscles, we improve the range of motion of the joint, which allows the joint to move in it’s normal range, rather than a limited range created by repetitive movement or overuse. This will reduce tissue trauma which could lead to inflammation or spasm and by increasing range we allow for proper motion which will reduce injury prevalence. When it comes to pitching, whether it be baseball or softball, efficiency is the name of the game.
Running is often undervalued in softball and baseball. Often for a good reason. This sport is highly technical and extremely strategic. If you are a power hitter with a cannon for an arm and a very high baseball IQ, then running and speed is not a prerequisite for you. However, a decent majority of baseball and softball players are not that and use speed as a way to get on base, make tough plays in the gap, and allow for more ground to be covered in the infield. Most of the athletes we see at LYMBR are not solely athletes. They’re students, they’re kids, they’re hunched over A LOT, and very rarely do we find they have proper posture. Improper posture will lead to a pelvic tilt either anterior or posterior. When our pelvis is not aligned with the rest of the body, force production from the legs will be drastically cut. By realigning the pelvis, we are putting our legs in proper position for power and force. This could be the difference between a stolen base and an out, a double play and an error, or a diving catch and a face plant. Baseball is not an endurance sport so to speak. The games can be grueling and tiresome, but the movements are usually Quick and explosive, followed by periods of rest. These quick movements can become problematic if the muscles responsible are tight or unconditioned. It will increase your chance of injury, and your central nervous systems response to the play will be slower. By stretching out the muscles responsible for running like the psoas, IT band, calf, glute, hamstring, and ankle muscles we can improve flexibility which will increase blood flow, energy levels, and provide more oxygenated blood and nutrients to your body. Stretching also primes the central nervous system for movement, so the quickness at which you respond during activity will subsequently increase.
The winter months were long with the lingering cold, the biting wind, and the decreased access to outdoor activities. But spring is here, which means that sports like softball and baseball are in full swing. A sport that combines physical activities such as swinging, throwing, and running. Activities, that without optimal flexibility, mobility, stability, and strength could cause season ending, or career ending injuries. If you’re ready to start your season now, if you’re ready to create the most efficient version of yourself, if you’re ready to reduce injury and increase performance, then please join us at one of our LYMBR studios.
A Note from an injured ball player: Listen to your body, if something doesn’t feel right, please get yourself checked. Take one game, or one season off, rather than dealing with an injury for the rest of your life. It takes 4-6 minutes to stretch your shoulder, and rotator cuff muscles to prevent injury and inflammation. Inversely, it could take up to 4-6 months,often longer, for a full rotator cuff recovery. Do the math, take the time, talk to experts, and take care of yourself. There is nothing more demoralizing than hurting yourself on the field, and never being able to come back from it.
Written by Conner Fritchley. Conner is a Stretch Therapist in our Darien studio and played High School Baseball.