Being involved in sports requires young athletes to utilize flexibility exercises before and after training or competitions. Exercises targeting flexibility help strengthen core muscles which support the rest of the body, promoting maximum capability and function.
Simple Equipment Guided Exercises
Young athletes who have access to a school gym or training facility will find several helpful pieces of equipment that increase the efficiency of flexibility exercises. Objects such as medicine balls, light weight bars, dumbbells and resistance bands are all options for helpful stretching equipment.
Hold either a medicine ball or an unloaded weight bar firmly with both hands. Grasping either one, bend forward, touching the ground a few inches directly in front of both feet. Slowly lift the ball or bar up with both arms extended. Continue until the piece of equipment is slightly behind the head and neck area, so that the lower back arches. This exercise provides a full body stretch with added weight, targeting the hamstrings, glutes, core, arms and shoulders.
Hold a medicine ball with both hands a few inches above the naval region. With feet at least shoulder width apart, rotate the body at the hips. Blow out air from the diaphragm with each rotation from side to side, tightening the core and abdominal muscles in the process. This exercise increases spinal and core flexibility, two important attributes young athletes need.
Stand with both hands on the hips or midsection. Stride forward with one leg at a time, stretching with each lunge. One leg will stretch differently than the other with each lunge. The leading leg’s quadriceps gets stretched while the trailing leg’s calf and glute receive a thorough extension. Holding dumbbells with each hand adds resistance, providing a strength building attribute to the flexibility exercise. Pausing in the lunge position with every repetition increases balance enhancement.
Resistance Pull Ups and Weighted Hanging
Hold a dumbbell of manageable weight and size between the feet in a pull up position. Complete multiple pull ups with the added weight for lat, back and shoulder stretching exercises. Add more weight gradually and hang with arms fully extended for a core and lat stretch.
Sitting Toe Touches
Sitting with both feet extended forward and with both ankles touching, slowly reach forward in an attempt to grab or touch the feet. Grabbing the inner and outer areas of the feet provide a slightly different stretching sensation. Use a partner to help push the stretch further, for an increased extension of the glutes and hamstring muscles.
Increasing Flexibility over Time
Young athletes contain the potential for growth and increased ability in their sport or activity of choice. Flexibility, an attribute developed over a lengthy period of time, increases the chances of successful performance and minimizes the risk of serious injury. Flexibility exercises often provide much more than simple stretches; things like increased hand eye coordination and agility obtained through certain exercises helps develop young individuals’ overall health and physical capabilities.