Becoming a great basketballer takes a lot of commitment. You’re practicing your skills, exercising regularly - you’ve even invested in a new basketball jersey and shoes - but there may be one thing you are forgetting that can really help you take your game to the next level. That is stretching.
Basketball is a high impact sport. All that jumping, landing and sprinting puts a lot of stress on your body, particularly your knees and ankles. Not only will a good stretching routine protect you from injuring yourself, but it can also help you improve your overall game.
Let's start by looking at the benefits a good stretching regime can have on your body.
1. Increased Range of Movement
Basketball is not played in a straight line. Loose muscles mean you can stretch further, helping you run faster and be more agile.
2. Increased Ability to Perform Skills
To master certain basketball skills, you need particular muscles to be as limber as possible. For example, loosening your hip flexors can add instant centimetres to your vertical leap, immediately improving your ability to shoot, dunk and block.
3. Injury Prevention
Tight muscles are put under more stress and can even tear if pushed too far. Protect yourself by becoming flexible and strong and incorporating a stretching routine for your whole body.
4. Reduce Muscle Tension
Recovery is important to ensure your muscles do not build up too much tension after a big game. Good stretching practices can also help extend your playing career and keep you younger and fitter for longer.
Luckily, simple stretches can be done easily every day. They don’t require too much time, and some of them can even be worked into your daily life.
So what are some good stretches to do to improve your basketball skills and live a healthier life?
SPLIT STANCE SPINE ROTATION
This stretch keeps your back limber and helps to increase overall spine mobility. Follow the steps below to do this stretch:
- Start by getting into a split stance position - this is standing with your right leg one large stride out in front
- Standing straight and keeping your hips as still as possible, rotate your upper body from right to left
- It can help to have your arms folded across your shoulders to maintain stability
LUNGING HIP FLEXOR STRETCH
This is a great stretch for loosening up those hips and quadriceps. For this stretch:
- From a standing position, take one large stride forwards with your right foot. Make sure your foot is planted firmly on the ground in front of you
- With your arms resting gently on your right thigh, lean forward - you should feel a stretch in your left hip. Make sure you keep your head and back upright and try not to put too much weight on your right thigh
- Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds and then swap sides
SINGLE HEEL DROP CALF AND ACHILLES STRETCH
Your calves cop a lot of heat due to all the jumping and landing that you do during a game of basketball. Stretching them regularly will help protect against injury. To do this stretch:
- Stand on a raised step (or solid raised object)
- Place the ball of your left foot on the edge of the step
- Let your heel drop towards the ground by bending your knee slightly
- Return to resting position and swap legs
Here are some general tips for effective and safe stretching:
- * Always warm up your body before stretching: go for a small run or do a few jumping jacks to get your body moving and your blood flowing
- * Always stretch in a smooth and controlled way
- * You want to stretch until you feel a moderate tension in the muscle (think a 7 out of 10)
- * Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds with a break of 10-15 seconds between sets
- * Stretch both sides of the body 2-3 times
- * Breathe deeply
Stretching is an essential part of your fitness routine, keeping your basketball skills on point and your body free from unnecessary injury. If you remain consistent and put in the effort daily, you’ll soon reap the benefits both on and off the court.
So what are you waiting for? Get your stretch act together today and enjoy a healthy limber body for many years to come.