By Chip Smith
Before you begin any athletic activity, flexibility work is crucial. Without it, you have a decreased range of motion, which prevents you from reaching your maximum potential on the field; and you increase your risk of injury, because your muscles are less pliable and, in turn, more likely to strain or tear when put in a torqued position.
Try this: Put two rubber bands in the fridge overnight. The next morning, when they're really cold, take one band out and immediately stretch it past its normal range of motion. It snapped, right? Now take the other band out of the fridge. Gently, pull and push it in different directions. As the band gradually warms up, you can stretch it way past its normal range of motionwithout snapping it .
This illustrates muscle viscosity. As blood flow to your muscles increases, your muscles warm up and become more flexible. There are two types of flexibility training you can do to improve muscle viscosity: dynamic movements and static stretching.
Dynamic flexibility training involves a series of bounds, hops, skips, runs and ballistic stretches that increase your core temperature. In other words, they make you break a sweat. I recommend that all athletes perform this type of flexibility work before workouts and competition.
Static stretches, although an excellent way to round out your flexibility work, require a warm-up of their own. Elevate your body temperature first, with dynamic work; then stretch to make your muscles more pliable. Use static stretches at the end of workouts to prevent stiffness and soreness. Just 10 to 15 minutes will make a tremendous difference.
Key stretching points
Make sure you're in the best position to feel each stretch.
Hold each stretch for eight seconds.
Do not bounce!
If your muscles start to quiver, your body is just trying to prevent injury. It's called the stretch reflex. Back off a little, but continue stretching the muscle.
Remember the Golden Rule when stretching a partner: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Communicate with each other!
Chip Smith is the founder and president of Competitive Edge Sports in Duluth, Ga. Smith, whose past clientele includes Brian Urlacher, Champ Bailey and Antwaan Randle El, offers one of the best Combine prep programs in the country.
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