Stretching is integral to an athlete’s workout. Without stretching, the muscles are more prone to injury. There are certain stretches that should be done for particular sports. In addition, within those sports are certain positions that require particular stretches. When looking at baseball, a host of stretches are important to warming up the muscles and preparing them for particular types of activity. For example, stretches for the position of catcher may vary greatly from those stretches that enhance the performance of a pitcher. Everyone on the team will bat at some point during the game, so there are stretches that will benefit batters as well. These stretches will protect the batter from injury and will ensure a successful batting practice.
Doctors and coaches recommend a plethora of exercises for baseball players, in particular batters, in order to get the most out of their workouts while at the same time avoiding injury. Since the shoulder is an unstable joint in the body, most of the baseball stretches will center on that joint. Physical therapists recommend stretching both before and after the game or practice to prevent soreness. The first stretch or warm-up should involve a brisk walk or jog around the bases for five minutes using high knees in order to warm up the large muscle groups. Using dynamic stretches for the shoulders will follow. For example, holding both arms out straight, the athlete will move the arms in circles that increase in size until he is doing windmills. Keep doing this 60 seconds, and then reverse direction and do the same thing for 60 seconds. After this, do two sets of shoulder circles for 60 seconds in both directions.
Torso stretches will help with throwing. Stand with arms crossed over the chest and slowly twist to the left and hold for five seconds. Twist to the right and hold for five seconds. Do five sets of these for each side. Another torso stretch involves lying on your back with your knees bent. Slowly lower your bent legs to the left while your torso twists to the right. Hold for five seconds and then reverse to the other side. Do 5 sets for each side.
Batting involves the use of lower extremities and the core as well as the shoulder girdle. Kinesiological stretches combined with other types of stretching will assist with flexibility. Since the rotator cuff is involved in batting and throwing, here is a stretch for that set of four muscles that make up the rotator cuff. The elbow out rotator cuff stretch involves standing with your hand in the middle of your back with the elbow pointed out. Reach across your body with your other hand and firmly grasp the elbow. Slowly and gently pull forward for a count of ten and then slowly release. Do this on the other side, and complete 5 sets for each side. Another stretch involves the use of a bat. Hold the bat horizontally in front of you using both hands. Slowly, cross your straight arms in front of you, still holding the bat. Reverse this motion. Continue reversing back and forth for 60 seconds. Using buddy stretches involving arms is also effective. One that is particularly useful in loosening up the shoulder girdle is to have one buddy stand behind the other athlete who will extend his arms as far as possible behind his back in a vertical manner. The buddy will grasp the athlete’s arms at the forearms and slowly press the arms together until the athlete tells him to stop. At this point the buddy will hold the arms in place for 20 seconds before slowly letting them go. The buddy and athlete will switch positions and do five repetitions of this stretch.
Stretches are important in the sport of baseball for alleviating and preventing soreness and injury. When done properly, these stretches will keep the athlete healthy and will improve his performance. The exercises described in this essay are just the tip of the iceberg. There are a plethora of stretches that a baseball player can use that will accomplish the goal of loosening the muscle groups as needed.
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