Flexibility Training By Mark Strasser M.S. CSCS of CriticalBench.com
A Warm-up Routine That Improves Performance & Promotes Injury Prevention
Flexibility is trainable - and is important to every athletic skill or technique, no matter how simple, complex or power-oriented. It is also movement-specific, which is why an increase in single-joint range of motion is not our only objective. Through a combination of functional stretching and strengthening, your muscles and tendons can increase in length (as well as girth), elasticity and resiliency, and their ability to act in a ballistic "spring-like" manner during explosive movements. The net result: improved technical proficiency and injury resistance.
To achieve optimal gains in flexibility, you must:
· Perform your exercises in a full range of motion. This improves your ability to safely and effectively use your range of motion during dynamic movements.
· Stretch only once your muscles are warmed up. When muscles are cold, they are resistant to lengthening and you will not get as good of a stretch. Warm-up to stretch, don't stretch to warm-up.
· Stretch after each workout. Doing so will result in less soreness, and quicker recovery between workouts.
The same principle applies to all aspects of training: you get out of it what you put into it.
Static stretching should not be done before strength/power training; it has been shown to cause a decrease in the muscles ability to develop force.
Static stretching should be performed at the end of a training session, this is the best time to relax and develop maximum flexibility with muscles that are pre-exhausted and thoroughly warmed-up.
Stretching should not be Painful.
Stretch so that you feel tension in the belly of the muscle being stretched, not the connection points at either end of the muscle.
Complete this routine everyday before you begin your speed drill training or your running workout. The distance can vary depending on where you are training. Performing each dynamic stretch 2 times at a distance of approximately 20 meters is enough. Your objective is to increase your core muscle temperature. This can be easily identified by your body's response: Sweat! The routine should not take longer than 10 minutes.
1. Butt Kickers- From a jog, the leg is allowed to swing back and bounce off the buttocks. The upper leg should not move much. Place emphasis on allowing (not fording) the heel to come up to the butt.
2. Wall Slides- From a jog, the action is the same for the butt kickers except that the heel of the recovery leg must not travel beyond the body. Imagine there is a wall of glass running down the back; do not allow the heel action to break the glass. This action will produce knee lift without forcing the action. As in butt kickers, when this drill is done properly, the heel will bounce off the buttocks.
3. Quick Feet Drill- From a jog, increase our stride rate so that you take as many steps as possible in a 10-yard interval. Jog 10 yards and repeat. Emphasize quick turnover with the legs moving in front of, not behind or under, the body.
4. Ankling Drill- "Ankling" teaches an athlete how to lift the foot off the ground during the running motion. During ankling, the knees should remain straight. The athlete should step forward with the left leg with the foot dorsi-flexed and the big toe lifted up towards the shin. The ball of your foot should contact the ground just in front of the athlete's center of gravity. The athlete should pull himself/herself over the foot. As the athlete's center of gravity passes over the right foot (i.e. when the foot is now behind the athlete), the foot should go into plantar-flexion (pointing the toes and pushing off the ground) until it leaves the ground. As the right foot leaves the ground the ankle should immediately be dorsi-flexed and the big toe should be lifted up in preparation for moving it in front of the athlete again.
*Begin practicing this drill with just the right foot first- 20 yards. Then perform it with the let foot. After the athlete is comfortable with this approach, have him/her perform this drill alternating between the right and the left sides.
5. A Drills- "A Drills" combine the skills learned through ankling and butt kicks and add the high knee action that is important for running. Focusing on the right leg, proceed through the foot contact in the support phase as described in the ankling drill above. As the right foot leaves the ground it should immediately be dorsi-flexed and the big toe should be lifted up. The heel should quickly be brought up to the athlete's hip. As the heel is brought to the hip, the leg should be moving forward attempting to lift the knee as high as possible. When the knee is in its highest point, the foot should still be dorsi-flexed with the big toe lifted up. As the leg is swung forward, it will naturally start to "unfold". Once the limb has swung forward, the athlete should drive the foot down, using the hip extensor muscles. The athlete should initially practice this drill as a "walk" with the right side for 10-20 yards. The athlete should then switch to the left side. When the athlete is comfortable with the drill, he/she should alternate between the right and left sides. When the athlete is comfortable with the walk, he can make it more difficult by performing the drill as a "Skip".
6. African Dance- While running forward raise each leg to the side of the body as in hurdling, and tap each heel with your hand. Start the drill easily and gradually increase intensity.
7. Drum Major- While running forward rotate your leg inward to the midline of the body and tap your heel at the midline.
8. Running Drills
-High Knee Stepping or "A" Skips done with feet extending to under the knee:
-High Knee Skipping with foot extending in front or "B" Skips:
9. Bounding Drills- Bounding drills are designed to develop the explosive leg power required during starting.
-Straight Bounding- begins with a slow jog; try to bound from one foot to the other as high as possible using a running form that emphasizes a high knee lift.
-Inside Bounding- this drill is similar to outside bounding except that the foot is placed laterally inside the normal landing position, and the body is projected laterally, as well as, up and forward.
-Outside Bounding- this drill is similar to outside bounding except that the foot is placed latterly outside the normal landing position, and the body is projected laterally, as well as, up and forward.
About the Author
This is an excerpt taken from a chapter in the ebook: "The Critical Speed Manual". The ebook was written by Mark Strasser M.S. CSCS, a professional strength and conditioning coach.
To view more information or purchase the book, visit this page.