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.
Skiing is a full-body, high impact sport which places demands on your knees, hips, shoulders and wrists. We encourage our clients who are ski enthusiasts to maintain good strength, mobility and flexibility before and throughout the season so they can enjoy every run and stay healthy. Stretching for skiing is just as important as stretching for any other sport.
Skiing comes with so many opportunities for muscles to tighten around the knee and hip joints. When you think about what your lower body goes through during a ski trip, it should be no surprise why injuries like ACL, MCL, meniscus tears, and hip tightness become so common. You drive to the mountain seated in a flexed position that tightens the muscles around the knees and hips, such as your anterior tibialis, glutes, hamstrings, and quads. Factor in the ski lift, the moguls, the impact of jumps and the quick twists and turns and cold temperatures – there are so many opportunities for one’s lower body to tense up. By stretching muscles around the knees and hips like the IT band, the adductors, the quads, and hip flexors, that tension can be lessened and prevented. By releasing the tension, you are putting your muscles in a more optimal state to perform better and reduce your risk of injury.
The high speed and performance demands of skiing creates a level of unpredictability in your body, especially in an area as sensitive as your knees. The reason for this is because of the complex genetic engineering that goes into the makeup of the lower body. The knee, for example, has an extremely large threshold for impact absorption that allows people to run and jump at unprecedented levels of competition despite moving in a simple hinge motion. However simple the motion, the amount of muscles used to perform the hinge itself is actually quite drastic. If these muscles like the quadriceps and the calves are underused or have weak function there will be drastic increase of injury, and therefore decrease in performance. In order to aid the knee in performance we move these muscles through their normal range of motion and try to increase the degree of range each time. By stretching and progressing the musculature around the knee we help promote proper movement and elasticity from the largest movement contributors to the smallest. Prepping each muscle allows the knee to perform at its best, as it works as one cohesive machine made to perform rather than a crucible of tension waiting to implode.
Stretching can also help you recover from inefficient movement patterns in your knees. If you have orthopedic deformities in your knees, then the proper structure and alignment of your lower body is compromised which can be dangerous in a high impact sport like skiing. It is similar to being in a building with compromised foundation during hurricane season. If the structure of the house is not solid, then it will not support the impending impact and the house will be compromised. Consider LYMBR as hurricane-proofing for your body. We realign the structure, strengthen the foundation, bolster the formation for maximum absorption of impact, and facilitate the overall strength of the construction.
While the tendency is to focus solely on the lower body, it should be stressed that the upper body should not be overlooked.
Your upper body is impacted from the twisting of your torso while changing direction, planting your poles to create momentum, and bracing when falling. Fractured wrists and shoulder dislocations are just as common in skiing as lower body injuries and can be treated with the same methodology. Our shoulder protocol focuses on stretching the shoulder and it’s many attachments like our triceps, biceps, pectoral muscles, deltoids, rotator cuffs – moving them through full range of motion. Our wrist protocols will stretch the muscles in your wrist and forearm like your proximal wrist flexors and your brachio radialius to loosen up the wrist and bring the muscles to their appropriate length. Both of which will increase awareness during performance through stimulation of the nervous system which can make a significant difference in a quick sport like skiing.
The ski season is short, and most ski trips are taken on the weekend after a long busy week. That, coupled with the cold weather, means your body deserves the proper preparation before heading up to the mountain, and the proper recovery when you get home.
Written by Conner Fritchley. Conner is a Stretch Therapist in our Darien studio.
One of the most common reasons clients come to our studio is to find relief from lower back pain. We see this in clients who sit at desks all day, as well as clients who are very active either training for a race or maintaining a rigorous workout schedule. The origin of this pain often stems from the IT Band and the glutes. The IT Band, also known as the iliotibial band, runs lateral to the quads (the outside of the thigh). This band runs from the iliac crest, which is part of the pelvic-hip complex (as shown below) and around the outside of the knee. The knee is the most common place people think of when they hear the words “tight IT Band” – but the low back is just as common an area to be affected.
If you take a look at the study of movement, muscles work in conjunction in order to facilitate movement by pulling on the bone; everything within the body is somehow connected. Therefore, anything that is misaligned or tight may cause an improper movement pattern somewhere else in the body, altering proper function.
If there is tension in the IT Band or gluteus, they begin to pull on adjacent muscles within the complex of the hips, notably the Quadratus Lumborum (QL’s). The QL muscle is technically an abdominal muscle but it has tremendous impact on the lumbar region of your lower back.
The IT band provides stability at the hip during lateral movements. Other muscles that stabilize the hip includes the gluteus medius and the quadratus lumborum (QL). As the IT Band tightens due to injury or overuse, friction will cause a downwards pull of the gluteus medius and the QL, causing the upper body to laterally bend a few degrees to the right. Even a slight pull on the lumbar spine could potentially compress the nerves and lead to pain and even greater neuromuscular problems later in life.
How do we approach this in the studio? We begin with an assessment by performing various stretches on the client. First, we test the hip flexors and the muscles of the quads to determine whether these muscles contribute to the lower back pain. From this point on, we turn to the IT Band and test its range of motion. Often times the IT Band contributes to tightness in the gluteus medius. Tightness in this muscle creates tension within the rest of the gluteus muscles. After stretching the gluteus muscles, we make sure to check in with the client to see how they are feeling after the series of stretches. The last piece within this series is to target the Quadratus Lumborum. Since the QL has several attachments into the spine, we make sure to perform a light and smooth stretch in order to allow the client to relax on the table and prevent the nervous system from protecting the muscle. Once the nervous system has relaxed, we see incredible results from the stretch,relieving a great amount of tension within our client’s lower back. We then re-asses by testing the range of motion of the IT Band and see how the client feels when they get off the table. As they start walking around the studio, they experience notable relief in their lower back and improvement in their gait.
Lower back pain affects so many people – yet every body is different. Treating the whole body is key to finding the source of the pain and finding the path to relief and recovery.
Written by Noah Moore. Noah is a Stretch Therapist in our Darien, CT studio.