The Dynamic Soccer Player Guide to Effective Flexibility
For a soccer player of any level it is paramount that they acquire the ability to adapt to the constant unpredictability of the game. And in particular sudden excesses in Range of Movement (ROM).
Flexibility and stretching exercises are imperative in helping control the receptors and nervous system of the whole body.
The Dynamic Soccer Player flexibility and stretching program is an effective and proven system that can assist you in becoming more agile and injury free. Helping develop maximum potential in all facets of the game, and catering to the demands of english / scottish soccer. At whatever standard.
There are five different types of stretch listed below that should be used in a sequential order.
These must be performed before and after your main sessions, and will condition and enhance a players range of motion(ROM) Leading to better performances and reducing soccer injuries.
NOTE: None of these forms of stretching should be forced, and must be developed to get the best results
- MYOFASCIAL RELEASE
- STATIC STRETCHES
- DYNAMIC STRETCHES / FUNCTIONAL FLEXIBILITY
- PNF STRETCHING
- RELAXED STRETCHING
Some soccer players tend to be more flexible than others in certain areas, or naturally flexible. While others may need a little more time, especially if this methodical approach to flexibility has not been adhered to in the past.
This type of stretching involves manipulating the muscles (Myo) and fascia, an elastic web of connective tissue that covers the body and helps facilitate movement.
Fascia surrounds and covers all facets of muscle, bone, nerves and blood vessels. And under normal conditions and in a relaxed state allows the body to move freely and effectively.
However, incorrect body allignment, muscular imbalances, inflamation and stress can create adhesions (tightness) within the fascia and connective tissue, restricting a soccer players movement.
Due to the fact that fascia acts like an interconnected web, these adhesions can also effect other parts of the body that create painful imbalances. Ultimately leading to reoccurring injuries that can threaten soccer players carreers.
NOTE: This technique is a pre-requisite before any of the other forms of stretching, if postural distortion patterns have been diagnosed from the assessments.
They can also be administered as part of a soccer players cool down.
Myofascial Release Stretches
Using a foam roller, this technique requires you to find a tender spot or adhesion and apply pressure for a stipulated time of roughly 20-30 seconds gently rolling back and forth.
The continuel pressure helps iron out any fibres that have bunched up, and straightens them in line with the muscles and fascia.
- LATISSIMUS DORSI RELEASE
- TENSOR FACIA LATAE (TFL) ILIOTIBIAL (IT) BAND RELEASE
- ADDUCTORS RELEASE
- GASTROCNEMIUS / SOLEUS
Static Flexibility involves holding a muscle in a low intensity stretched mode for a minimum duration of 20 seconds.
This allows the muscle spindles to become relaxed and therefore enhance flexibility, through stimulating a mechanism called the Golgi Tendon which gauges and regulates muscular tension.
Greater flexibility can be achieved by incorporating a technique called reciprocal inhibition whereby opposing muscle groups to the muscle being stretched are contracted allowing further range of motion. IMPORTANT :
If you plan on performing a heavy upper body weight training programme utilising exercises relevant to a soccer players performance, such as bench pressing or shoulder presses.
Then I would advise against statically stretching the triceps or deltoid muscles beforehand, as the muscles stretched tend to become too relaxed, and lose their tensile strength.
If you do plan on making static stretches a regular thing in your programme these for me are among some of the more practical and effective exercise that you may want to consider
Parking Brake Hip Flexor Stretch
If you are a soccer player with tight hip flexors, you are denying yourself the potential of excelling in competitive soccer games.
Tight Hip flexors negatively affect stride length for sprinting and running, and hinder your ability to jump powerfully. As well as creating lower back stress.
If there is one static stretch I would suggest a soccer player performs religeously, it would be the Parking Brake.
This exercise not only stretch and lengthen the hip flexors more than effectively, but also help strengthens a soccer players core and mid section.
Banana Side Bends
- Lie on your back (Supine Position) with knees bent, with a light medicine ball or a pair of trainers squeezed between your knees
- Tense your Glute and Hamstring muscles, and proceed to lift your body by pushing your hips upwards. At the same time squeezing your knees together hard to contract the adductor muscles to further enhance the stretch in the hip flexors (reciprocal inhibition).
- Hold for 5 seconds constantly pushing upwards before returning to start position.
- Perform 3 - 5 reps
This exercise acts as a tremendous stretch for a soccer players obliques and latissimus dorsi muscles at the side of the torso.
- Stand with feet fractionally wider than shoulder width, with your arms extended over your head, hands held together.
- Inhale deeply, and proceed to lower the body either to the right or the left while pushing the hips out in the opposite direction. Breathing out as you descend. Hold for 20 seconds
- Perform 2 sets for each side
Keep the entire body in a straight line, and do not twist at the torso
Biceps should be in contact with your head all the way through the stretch
Try to extend the arms out further as you push your hips further in the opposite direction. That way you create a counter balance to stretch further
To increase the stretch further when you have performed this stretch a few times, you can introduce a light dumbell or weight which will not only enhance the stretch but also assist with balance.Prone Cobra Stretch
Performing this stretch correctly will help soccer players to strengthen the lower back and glute muscles as well as stretching out tight abdominals
- Lie on the floor face down (Prone Position) palms of your hands face down as if about to perform a press up. Feet pointed
- Tense your glute muscles hard and inhale as you simultaneously slowly push the upper body up flexing the back
- Push up as far as your flexibility will let you, gently tilting the head back for spine elongation
- Exhale and allow the lower back to sink down slightly, still keeping the glutes tight and the body upright.
- Hold for 20 seconds before returning to start. Repeat for 3 reps
It is important to breath in forcefully as you flex the back, as it opens up the chest and loosens the discs between the vertebrae. Allowing for more range of motion the spine.
Tensing the glutes inhibit’s the pulling power of the hip flexors (psoas muscle) on your lumber spine that leads to an exaggerated arch and causes back strain.Elevated Calf Stretch
An excellent stretch for the Gastrocnemius muscle or the belly of the calf. This exercise allows you to be in total control of your range of motion, and at the same time offers you a more powerful stretch.
The Gastrocnemius is instrumental in propelling your opposite leg across the floor when running in soccer
- Place a brick or some other form of elevated object about 3 -4 inches high in front of you, while standing in front of a wall or more conveniently a pole.
- Step on the brick with the balls of your foot with the heel in contact with the floor. While leaning on or holding on to the wall or pole for support
- Keeping the body and stretching leg straight proceed to lean forward to actively stretch the calf. Activating the glutes and quad muscles to keep the knee in full extention
- Hold for 20 seconds and repeat for 3 reps each leg
This is a stretch that is very often neglected by soccer players, but plays an integral role in planting the foot to the floor before pushing off when running. It is usually located in front of the gastronomies calf muscle
Use this stretch in conjunction with the Elevated Calf Stretch.
lliotibial Band Stretch
- Stand facing a wall with one foot in front of the other obout 18 inchs apart. Your hands extended aginst the wall for support.
- Keeping your feet flat on the ground bend both legs pushing your glutes back and keeping your back straight.
- You should feel a comfortable but intense stretch in your lower calf
- Hold for 20 seconds 2 - 3 reps each leg
The Illiotibial Band muscle is located between the outside of the hip all the way down to the outside of the knee
Tight IT muscles can be a contributor to lateral knee pain in sports where a lot of running is involved and therefore this is an important stretch for soccer players of any level.
- Find a box or chair about 24” high and stand side on to the front of it. If the box is to your right then you will be stretching the right leg
- Position your right hand on the box for support, and bend your left leg, keeping your right leg straight as you slide it away from you behind the left leg.
- Gently push down the hip on your right side as far as it will go comfortably. You should feel a stretch down the side of the leg. The more you lean away from the box the greater the stretch.
- Hold for 20 seconds before returning 2 - 3 reps each leg
This exercise is best done on a smooth surface, using a towell underneath the foot of the stretching leg to glide outwards.
Dynamic Stretches involves moving the limbs through a complete range of motion in a controlled fashion gradually increasing the movement over a series of repetitions.
This utilises the golgi tendon which acts as a receptor or gauge for regulating tension and passive stretch within the muscle spindle proprioceptor. This stimuli is responsible for the muscles eventual lengthening reaction.
The effectiveness of dynamic flexibility stretches relies on being able to gradually increase your ROM without the muscles getting tired, so that the golgi tendon can reset flexibility to your maximum stretch achieved. Spending to long on a stretch for a particular body part is detrimental and will lead to loss of flexibility as the muscles fatigue.DYNAMIC STRETCHESExtention Stretch :
While lying in a supine position (facing up) knees bent, feet on floor. Grab the back of your left knee and proceed to pull it in at 90° with the knee over your chest. Pull your shin and foot towards you to straighten the leg, so that you feel a comfortable stretch in your hamstring. Return back to start and repeat again.3 x 20 each leg (alternating between left and right) at a slow to steady pace.Hip Flexor Knee Lifts:
While facing forward, the supporting foot turned slightly out. Perform a knee lift off the right or left leg with minimum back swing and contact with the floor. The aim being to get the knee as close to the chest as possible.
This exercise helps strengthen the soccer players hip flexor and acts as a pre requisite for the partial to full leg lift. Perform the lifts in a fast tempo 12 reps x 2 or 6 reps alternating between left and right x 2Partial / Full Leg Lifts:
Same position and action as the previous exercise, but now extending the leg out as far as you can manage. Again try to perform the movement with minimum back swing of the active leg. Start off in a low and gradually try to increase within a comfortable range of motion. 1 x 12 reps left and rightNote: If these stretches are performed in the morning just after you get up, the golgi tendon remembers this and dynamic stretches performed later on in the day become far easier to execute. This action is very similar in effect to the pre programming of a computer.
Hurdle or Partner Skipping High Leg Raises ( Inside to Outside) : Have a partner kneeling / standing and facing you with their arms extended, with yourself facing them standing slightly to either the left or right. If starting with the left leg, swing the leg over the extended arms in an outwards motion until the foot touches the other side. with a skip in the same direction. Repeat with the right leg in the opposite direction concentrating on generating a smooth rhythm 1 x 12 ( left / right = 1 rep )
Hurdle or Partner Skipping High Leg Raises ( Outside to Inside ):
Cossack Stretch : Stand with feet twice shoulder width apart at a 90° angle with your hands palms down touching the floor in front of you. From there proceed to straighten either the left or right leg, with the opposite knee bent pointing away from you. Return to the starting position and repeat again, making sure that your bent knee does not collapse inwards and tracks your feet. 12 reps ( left / right ) x 1
This stretch aids in opening out a soccer players hip joint and dynamically lengthens the hamstring muscles.
PROPRIOCEPTIVE NEUROMUSCULAR FACILITATION (PNF)
PNF stretching is the daddy of all stretching programmes and is the most effective way to achieve spectacular gains in flexibility for all soccer players.
Although it sounds complicated, each term when explained individually becomes much easier to understand :
Proprioceptive - Proprioceptors detect movement of muscle fibres, sensing how fast and far they are going
Neuromuscular - Interaction between Central Nervous System (CNS) and muscles
Facilitation - Aids and frees up from obstacles
Developed over 50 years ago by a Dr Herman Kabat, PNF is 3 times or approximately 267% more effective than conventional relaxed stretching and relies on 2 important components that work together.
They are the Myotatic Stretch Reflex and the Golgi Tendon Organ.
Myotatic Stretch Reflex (MSR) : When you try to stretch beyond your normal range of motion, your muscles will contract and pull back. This is the Myotatic Stretch Reflex in action, controlled by muscle spindles connected to the CNS that once activated alert the stretch reflex.
Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO) : Acts as a sensor and gauges how much tension is applied or placed on a tendon when it contracts. Unlike the stretch reflex, it is only activated when actual tension takes place and does not respond to muscular length. Therefore its job is to notify the MSR, to help it relax and increase muscle flexibility.
By incorporating these two mechanisms to work together you effectively trick your muscles into relaxing, and persuading the CNS that a new range of motion and stretch is safe.
To better understand this phenomenon,when you stretch a muscle out, some muscle fibres lengthen (active), and some remain static (neutral). If you intensely contract the stretched muscles they automatically activate the neutral fibres by pulling on them. Ideally the more neutral fibres to become activated the merrier, and thus dramatically increase the stretch.
For any soccer player one of the most important muscle groups to achieve absolute flexibility in are the hamstrings. Yet unfortunately they also tend to be one of the most neglected in soccer, and frequent tears and strains are all to common.
The stretching programme below will help soccer players address this problem, by following a simple but effective procedure that will create not only great flexibility but also strength for more dynamic soccer plays.
How this should be approached is by imagining a pain threshold chart where there are 3 levels
- Comfort Zone
- Pain Zone
- Injury Zone
The practical theory behind this chart is to stretch out a muscle to the point of pain for a brief amount of time (2) before retreating back into the comfort zone (1). Steadily increasing the comfort zone as you progress further into the pain zone over time.
Eventually the comfort line threshold becomes so high that it totally eliminates both the pain and the injury thresholds.
Before doing this particular stretch it is advised that the soccer player is completely warmed up and that the hamstrings have been pre stretched using dynamic stretches.
In fact if you are performing this stretch at home I would suggest doing extension stretches, to raise body temperature and prepare the muscles.
The Sofa Hamstring PNF Stretch
As the title suggests the best way to perform this stretch is to sit yourself on a sofa at home or a long bench. You can also position two chairs a legs length away from each other. Ideally a sofa is more comfortable as it cushions the joints better, and allows you to sink into a deeper stretch.
- Position your left leg across the length of the sofa completely straight, with your right foot touching the floor.
- Both legs should be at right angles with your right knee tracking your right foot, if possible have the right foot slightly behind.
- Do not allow your right knee to fall inwards as this can put pressure on the knee joint.
- Breath in before you start and exhale as you bend at the hip to lower the upper body slowly towards the outstretched leg.
- Lower as far as you can go still exhaling slowly until you reach a point at which you think you can’t go no further.
- Totally relax and exhale forcefully in a simultaneous manner, this action should allow you to squeeze out a little more length in the stretch.
- Contract the hamstring fully and push your heel and the back of your knee into the sofa squeezing hard. It also helps to contract your quad muscles as they will help keep the stretching leg straight. Hold for 6 seconds.
- Slowly come out of the stretch and return to start.
- Repeat 4 times x 2 sets each leg
- Keep your back neutral (straight ) with your chin up
- Have your chest slightly leaned towards the centre of your knee, and not on the outside.
- Always come out of the stretch slowly
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