If you’re trying to get to The League, you need to take flexibility seriously.  When I say “flexibility”, I’m talking about muscle flexibility.

Why?  Well, for one, proper flexibility can decrease your risk for injuries.  And as we’ve discussed, your draft stock stock can drop tremendously when NFL teams feel your current or past injuries will affect your ability to perform long-term for their organization.

On top of that, being flexible increases your range of motion, which enhances performance.

As of the end of the 2010 season, Hines Ward played in 191 games in the NFL, and only missed six. (ICON Sports)

Obviously, both are beneficial for you getting to the next level playing football.

Note: I’ve had lower back issues for a while, and during one of my most recent visits to the chiropractor, I just flat out asked him “what can I do to stop this pain?”  He told me to stretch my entire body on a regular basis.  I was so tired of the pain, that I started doing it, and I can tell you, I’ve reduced my back issues by dang near 70% (knock on wood).

My personal health improvements through stretching made me wonder about how flexibility can help reduce injuries and even enhance performance, so I did some reading on the subject, and thought I’d share some of the things that I learned with you.

Below are the articles I read, in case you want to check ’em out for yourself.

The Performance Benefits of Flexibility Training

Football Stretching and Flexibility Exercises

The Benefits of Flexibility Training

How Stretching Increases Athletic Performance

Lesson #1: Flexibility Decreases Susceptibility of Getting Injured

 

At least certain injuries.  In The Performance Benefits of Flexibility Training, the author, Raphael Brandon from the School of Sport at the University of Stirling in Scotland, spoke on flexibility’s affect on injury prevention:

Studies of football players show that flexibility may be important for preventing injuries. For example, one study showed that those who stretched regularly suffered fewer injuries, while another showed that tighter players suffered more groin-strain injuries and a third showed a relationship between tightness and knee pain.

Proper flexibility expands your natural range of motion, which gives your body parts a wider range of motion before an injury occurs.

 

In The Benefits of Flexibility Training, the author (who happens to have a 1st Class Honors Degree in Sports Science, and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist) gave an example of a situation on the football field where not being properly flexible could cause an injury:

Tight neck muscles for example, may restrict how far you can turn your head. If, during a tackle, your head is forced beyond this range of movement it places strain on the neck muscles and tendons.

 

Lesson #2: You Don’t Wanna Be TOO Flexible

 

If you’re too flexible as a football player, like the flexibility of a gymnast, for example, you can actually increase your risk of getting hurt.

How?  Because if you’re too flexible, your joints can become unstable (which is not good).

One of the articles gave an example of this (I can’t remember which, sorry), speaking of a football player with a hamstring that’s too flexible.

This overly-flexible hamstring could allow the knee to hyper-extend; which could put the athlete at-risk of straining their ACL.

 

Lesson #3: Flexibility Can Increase Your On-Field Performance

 

In How Stretching Increases Athletic Performance, Casey Miller, MS, RD, CSCS, says that dynamic stretching before your athletic performance or practice can help improve your athletic performance.

He even went on to explain why:

…a dynamic warm-up, can increase athletic performance. It increases athletic performance by increasing strength and power output, decreasing muscle soreness, decreasing muscle and tendon stiffness, and preventing injury.

It’s important to notice that he’s talking about dynamic stretching, not static stretching.

There’s a difference.  According to Miller, static stretching will increase your range of motion, but it can actually decrease power and the amount of force your muscles produce.

This video goes over some football pre-game/practice dynamic stretches.

Miller goes on to explain how dynamic stretching benefits you:

(I know this is a long quote, but it’s just way too much good info)

An elevated heart rate helps supply blood to the working muscles and if the muscle is less stiff then there is better blood flow to the muscle. Blood is an important contributor to athletic performance because without blood our muscles would not be able to contract and work properly. If our muscles don’t work then we can not jump high, run fast, or maintain our endurance. Blood supplies oxygen and nutrients to our muscles and helps our muscles eliminate lactic acid. If there is too much lactic acid in our body then we fatigue and our athletic ability begins to decrease. Therefore performing dynamic warm-ups prior to exercise will help increase our athletic performance as opposed to static stretches.

There you have it.

 

When you work out or play in games, do you do dynamic stretches, or static?  Leave a comment!

We’ll talk about the other two things I learned in Part Two.  Later.

Holler at me on Twitter! @alvingrier

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