Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dynamic Stretching For Baseball Players

By Benno Huch

A proper warm-up loosens muscles and tendons to increase range of motion of joints, and, of course, to literally, warm up the body by increasing body heat and blood flow. This is because warm muscles and enlarged i.e. dilated blood vessels use oxygen from the blood and burn fuel stored in the muscles more efficiently.

A proper warm-up should have two components: light jogging exercise and dynamic stretching exercise. Jogging should start at a very easy pace (about 40% of maximum heart rate), increasing to 60%, followed by a 5-minute recovery period. This first portion of the warm-up should neither be performed too early, as warming up and then sitting next the baseball stadium for 30 minutes may leave the player stiffer than they were before, nor too intensely.

If the aerobic exercise is too vigorous, the player will end up too tired. The second part of a warm-up regimen for baseball players, to be performed immediately after the aerobic warm-up and as soon as possible before a practice or match, involves dynamic stretching of muscles while moving.

Get rid of the old stretching routine since research has shown that the kind of stretching routine most of us have been doing since we were school-goers (holding a stretch for 20 or 30 seconds, supposedly to prepare muscles for exercise, or static stretching) not only fails to do what it is supposed to do but may actually weaken muscles and be harmful. Bring in the new stretching routine since research has shown that the new way of dynamic stretching increases power, flexibility and range of motion, and may reduce traumatic injuries.

In order to get a sense of a typical dynamic warm-up for baseball playing, it might be helpful to have an example workout that can be used for your own players of this traditional game. The 8-step workout, listed below, has been implemented in baseball camps at Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California.

For setup purposes place cones at starting line and at ten yards. Players line up five across per line at the starting line and perform each exercise down to the ten yard mark unless otherwise noted.

1. Jog forward (down) highlighting pocket-chest arm movement with a good knee punch; backpedal (back) with the same emphasis, then repeat.
2. Walk forward pulling knee to armpit every other stride.
3. Walk forward reaching down, placing heel on ground and grabbing toes pulling back every third stride.
4. Walk forward lunging with square shoulders placing elbow to ground planting opposite hand.
5. Side to side stretch with two infielder shuffles in between; again everyone down, everyone back.
6. Run forward highlighting knee lift, pocket chest arm movement, and forward lean.
7. Run forward highlighting putting feet up and down as fast as possible.
8. Run forward from crossover start highlighting staying low, stride length, and chewing up ground.

Studies have found that static stretching weakened muscle strength by as much as 30% and that stretching the leg muscles in one leg reduced strength in the other leg for up to 30 minutes after stretching. While a baseball player may think that static stretching increases flexibility, what is actually happening is that the stretching has simply increased the athlete's mental tolerance for the discomfort of the stretch, while the muscle itself is actually weaker! So, to soar your stadium performances go in for baseball-specific dynamic stretching as fast and as soon as possible.
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