A quality stretch exercise routine is key for all athletes, but especially basketball players.
Why is stretching so important? For an athlete to be successful, the muscles must be able to go through a wide range of motions. Any good stretching program will improve your range of motion of the joints you work on.
You will see increased flexibility in your over-all performance. This includes improving your recovery time, speed and power. You’ll also realize a decrease in back problems, various sprains, strains, soreness and stiffness. Basically, you’ll reduce the probability for getting injured.
What follows is a basic introduction to how your anatomy and muscles work during any basketball stretch.
Understanding Your Anatomy
As an athlete performing any stretch exercise program, it’s important for you to have just a little understanding of your anatomy.
You don’t want any future problems with your bones, joints, ligaments or cartilage, right?
Let’s go back to the range of motion we mentioned above.
Since every basketball move you make revolves around your joints, you must do everything you can to increase joint flexibility.
The best way to do this is to use the stretch exercises we give you on our site.
Now, what makes up a joint? Tendons, muscles, bones, cartilage and ligaments. Your muscle is connected to your bones by the tendons. Muscles allow a great range of motion in the joints because muscles can not only stretch, but also contract (shorten).
Cartilage and bones provide structural support while ligaments act as stabilizing tissue for bones (ligaments connect bones to bones).
“Muscle fibers” make up your muscles. Not to get too technical here, but muscle fibers have nerve receptors called muscle spindles and golgi tendon organs. Some people call them proprioceptors.
Anyway, they sense stretching and tension in your muscles and help regulate your balance. The golgi tendon organs pick up the muscle tension and the muscle spindles sense the rate and length of each stretch.
What this boils down to is this… if your muscle spindles sense a muscle being stretched too rapidly, they’ll order a contraction signal to protect against any muscle strains.
So be sure to pay attention to what your body tries to tell you. If you feel any pain, stop whatever stretch exercise you’re doing. Always strive to stay alive for the next basketball stretch!
This is also why you want to hold your stretches while performing your basketball stretching. Don’t bounce.
As a short re-cap, just remember that your muscles stretch and contract (shorten) and you must do everything to condition this relationship to work at a high level. This is what plyometric training is all about.
Order of Stretching
Since most of your over-all body movement comes from your lower back and hips, it’s generally accepted that you should start your stretch exercise programs with these larger muscle groups first. Next come your hamstrings, groin and quads. Lastly – shoulders, arms, calves, ankles and feet.
More General Stretching Tips
– Muscles and bones grow very fast during the teen years. This can cause flexibility problems as more stress is placed on the joint unless regular stretching is done.
– As we then grow even older, less physical activity will cause our joints to lose range of motion and sometimes feel pain. Stretch exercise and general physical activity is needed all throughout life.
– Breathe during exercise! As you bend forward, exhale. As you hold your stretches, breathe slowly and rhythmically.
– Hold your stretches. Don’t bounce.
– If you feel pain during any stretch exercise, ease back until you feel a healthy tension in the stretch.