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Tag Archive: flexibility

  1. How to get more agile and low to the ground for cricket fielding

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    Become more agile in 5 days.

    cricket fieldingWhen fielding in cricket, you are putting your body under a lot of stress and strain due to the stretching/reaching and diving to catch the ball.

    If the underlying strength and mobility behind these movements is poor then an injury is more likely.

    To do these movements successfully you will need to have good hip and knee control, and good flexibility too.

    I will be talking about how to improve agility and flexibility in order to get closer to the ground and show you a 5 day routine to help.

    Learning to co-ordinate and control your body when you are off centre or unbalanced will help. Exercises on one leg or one arm that challenge your body to balance and control are particularly useful Some of these are included in our regular 5x5x5 work that all Excelsior athletes do.

    Example exercises

    Pigeon walks will get you to the ground in a low and long position where you are stretching and also working on moving through the stretch and keeping the joints strong and stable.

    Arm reaches and lawnmowers will incorporate rotation which may be necessary to catch the ball. You could do the lawnmowers in a lunge position rather than a front support to feel a stretch and learn to control that low movement/position.

    The important areas to stretch

    Muscles that should be stretched are the hip flexors, hamstrings adductors, iliopsoas and glutes. All these muscles will be under pressure if you are lunging forwards to catch the ball.

     Static stretches

     Hip Flexor stretcheship flexor stetch

    hip flexor stretchThis picture shows a hip flexor twist stretch. It is the more advanced version and will also stretch your quads when you pick up the foot at the back.

    Adductor stretch adductor stretch

    Hamstring stretch –hamstring stretch

    Glute stretch –glute stretch

    Iliopsoas and hamstring stretch –

    iliopsoas stretch

     Example session plans for 5 days

     Aim – to work on control of own body and start to improve stability of hips, knees, ankles (very important for braking, turning and moving efficiently in game play).

    Some shoulder stability too. The first few days will include basic movements that concentrate on control and stability. Later on, more complex drills will be included.

     Day 1

    Warm up – 10x lateral squats, 100x skips – repeat x5

    Main activity – Hip series 1 (repeat x2-3)  Mini band walks (forwards, backwards and sideways)

    Circuit

    10 x scorpions 2 x rows of bear crawls 10 x overhead squats 2 x rows of crab walks

    10 x lunge and lean  Repeat x 5

    Stretches – include the above stretches. Hold for 20-30 seconds.

    Day 2

    Warm up – 10 x sit through, 10 x overhead squats – repeat x5

    Main activity – Hip series 1 and 2 (repeat x2 each)

    2x 10 single leg squats  1x row of pigeon walks, 10x overhead squats at the end 1x row of bear crawls, 10x lawnmowers at the end 1x row of side rolls, 10x lateral squats at the end  Repeat x 3-5

    Stretches – include the above stretches. Hold for 20-30 seconds.

    cricket agility Day 3

    Warm up – Multi-directional lunges, 100 x skips – repeat x5

    Main activity – Mini band work (forwards, backwards, sideways)

    Agility drill – set up 4 cones into a square roughly 10metres space between each.

    From cone 1 to 2, sideways bear crawl with 5x lawnmowers at 2.

    From cone 2 to 3, pigeon walks with 5xlateral squats at 3.

    From cone 3 to 4, sideways rolls with 5x back twists each side at 4.

    From cone 4 to 1, bear crawl with 5x lateral hop and holds at 1.

    Go through once slowly and controlled for practice, then repeat x2 timing yourself.

     Stretches – include the above stretches. Hold for 20-30 seconds.

    Day 4

    Warm up – 10x walk out press ups, 10x 6-way lunge – repeat x5

    Main activity –  Hip series 2 and 3

    Overhead squat and single leg squat work (re-enforcing lower body control and stability)

    Rolls – forwards, backwards, sideways. Running / crawling into and out of rolls. Circuit

    10x scorpions 2x rows of bear crawls 10x overhead squats 2x rows of crab walks

    10x lunge and lean  Repeat x 3-5

     Stretches – include the above stretches. Hold for 20-30 seconds.

     Day 5

    Warm up – 100x skips, 10 x alternate v sits x5

    Main activity – Mini band work (crossovers, single leg push back and single leg push back with reach)

    Agility drill (partners) – for this drill we will be adding the ball in to work on reactions.

    Set up 2 cones, 10-20 metres apart. Person A will stand in the middle of the cones, Person B will stand in the middle, 10metres away from Person A.

    Person B will roll the ball (slowly at first) to one of the cones and Person A will get there by any of the drills practiced, throw the ball back to Person B and run back to the centre.

    Bear crawls Sideways bear crawls Rolls (forwards, sideways)

    Repeat 3-5 times and swap over


    Stretches
    – include the above stretches. Hold for 20-30 seconds.

    This is just an example of training. Try it and see how it works for you.

  2. Are girls more flexible than boys?

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    Are girls naturally more flexible, or is it training?

    flexible boys girls

    Gorilla stretch

    We often get asked this question when training our athletes. At Excelsior mobility is one of the four pillars that form your structural integrity (posture, balance, stability being the others).

    Duncan writes below about some of his thoughts on mobility training and how it works with the boys and girls he trains.

    What affects mobility?

    As the leading question implies gender can have an affect, but there are other influences too. Gummerson (1) splits these into internal and external influences:

    Internal influences include: type of joint, elasticity of muscle tissue, tendons, ligaments and skin, ability of the muscle to relax.

    External influences include: temperature, time of day, age, commitment to achieving greater mobility.

    How gender affects mobility

    When I look at the players I work with, in general the girls are more flexible than the boys when stretching. I think there are three reasons for this:

    • Genetic
    • Sports played
    • Psychological

    Genetics: The female body shape has specific influences on mobility.

    • The width of the pelvis is wider and more circular giving a greater range of motion.
    • This creates a greater angle between the femur and tibia, known as the Q angle, this can cause many problems if not strengthened correctly.
    • Females shoulders are narrower than males making them weaker in push and pull activities.
    • A female’s weight distribution is also different to males, their weight is distributed lower around hips/thighs which gives them a lower centre of gravity giving a stability advantage. I believe this has a psychological affect as females will have less problems balancing during stretching.
    • Hormones can have a large influence too. Females have greater oestrogen levels and lower testosterone levels.
    • Oestrogen is involved in the menstrual cycle which causes females to have a greater laxity especially in their hips during this time.
    • Testosterone increases muscle and bone size, which is why males are larger than females. Increased mass can cause mobility restrictions.

     Sports played

    Sports have been separated by gender, an example shown below. 30 years ago this would not affect young athletes as much due to the nature of physical education in school, however with current time restraints and syllabuses young athletes spend more time in classrooms looking at the theoretical rather than applied.

    Gender

    Sport

    Male

    Rugby, football, athletics, hockey, cricket

    Female

    Netball, hockey, athletics

    Above is an example of the sports children compete in at independent schools.

    There are some differences and it is slowly becoming more acceptable for girls to play football. The Olympics has possibly helped this with Team GB winning medals in sports previously classed as gender specific; boxing, judo and gymnastics for example.

    flexible boys girls

    Scorpion stretch

    Multi sport athletes seem to be more mobile than their single sport sport peers.

    Forr example, tennis players can become one side dominant and have limited hip mobility due to movements on court, compare this to a tennis player who also does karate, you will see a more symmetrical body shape.

    It is important to understand that a young tennis player who only plays tennis is likely to suffer mobility issues whether they are male or female due to the asymmetrical nature of the sport (see picture above of limited hip and back mobility).

    Psychological

    tennis flexibilityI believe their has been a stigma connected with stretching which has meant boys have not stretched. Pilates and Yoga were first thought of as female dominated classes, now with elite athletes talking about using them it has become more acceptable for males to try them.

    Working with mixed groups I can see that girls enjoy stretching more than boys which means they work on it more and so become more flexible than their peers.

    Personally and from experience boys tend to have a shorter attention span, struggling to concentrate long enough to improve stretching, they would prefer to be playing games. Their is a greater impatience too, boys can find it harder to balance and therefore stretch effectively, this can mean minimal improvements but is where programme design comes in.

    How can I improve my flexibility? 

    I have noticed more children becoming injured younger due to overuse and poor movement patterns compared to when I was younger, by concentrating on a single sport our bodies make compensations for weak movements which leads to the overuse injuries.

    By adjusting programmes we can develop better athletes, we need to:

    • Include regular strength work, that works on movement efficiency. If you train through a short range with poor technique, stretching afterwards will be ineffective.
    • Include appropriate warm ups & cool downs, mobility can be developed and retained here.
    • Give athletes the knowledge to stretch at home, they need to be coached on technique so they know how a stretch should feel rather than go through the motions (see video below)

    Duncan Buckmaster

    If you are interested in learning more, then see our Sports Training System which has comprehensive video guides and handouts to help your mobility training.

    References

    1 Mobility training for martial arts, Tony Gummerson

  3. Flexibility Training

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    As part of the Excelsior Sports Training Programme, I did a joint workshop with scorpion stretchSarah Marshallyesterday on flexibility training. We had 30 young athletes doing 90 minutes of stretching.

    The format was:

    • Warm up- squats and multi directional lunges.
    • Back stretches on the floor- rotational, flexion, extension.
    • Back stretches in standing- using a wall.
    • Hamstring and quad stretches in kneeling.

    scorpion stretchThe major objective of the session was to get the athletes to go away with their own individual stretching programme.

    They had to write down in their training diaries the various stretches we were doing and mark the ones that suited them.

    The key points were:

    • Move slowly.
    • Breathe 5- 6 times deeply whilst holding a stretch.
    • Find the ones that work for you- if you aren’t getting a stretch, move to a different one.
    • flexibility trainingVariety of stretching is important, don’t just do the same 2-3 exercises and expect different results.
    • Take note the differences between front and back and left and right side and work on that.

    (Pictured is me doing the scorpion stretch as requested).

    Stretching works

    Setting out the flexibility plan is relatively easy. Getting the athletes to do it regularly is more difficult. Having  a variety of stretches, and for different events helps.

    Those of our athletes who practice do get more flexible.

    This video shows a fun example of a stretch routine. You may wish to start with something simpler.

    Further reading:

  4. Multi planar movements

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    Get off that machine

    multi planar movement

    One example of multi planar stretching.

    As beginners we are often taught to isolate movements down to their simplest form.

    In gyms this is done as single joint resistance training exercises or stretches.

    There is definitely a place for this in the asymptomatic individual with problems, and in juniors when we are trying to ensure balance between left and right and also front and back.

    However, the body does appear to be stronger moving across diagonal planes, rather than in isolation. We often use this in the gym, and even more so outside in the field.

    But, flexibility work is often done in a very basic fashion along single planes of movement.

    If you try to strengthen across multi planes, then surely stretching should follow the same principles?

    Further reading:

  5. Getting gymnasts fitter, faster and stronger

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    Old man demonstrates hand stand

    gymnast fitnessA handstand on press up bars results in an inverted extended posture (2 of the 3 uncommon postures) and is an exercise I use with a lot of athletes.

    I never thought I would be in a position (inverted or not) to have to demonstrate this to people who do it for a living.

    Weston Aerobic Gymnastics Club is a great gymnastics club with a track record of developing young people into successful performers. Two of its coaches, Debbie and Nigel Saunders, have done workshops with me previously on speed, power and injury prevention. They invited me up to work with their competitive gymnasts last weekend.

    Gymnasts as athletes

    gymnastics postureI spent some time at the beginning explaining the importance of posture.

    Whilst the type of gymnastics done at Weston encourages good posture, the kids are products of modern society: slumping, texting and poor school furniture means that incorrect posture has to be corrected first.

    (see picture to right and note one legged standing, similar to that of fencers!)

    I then got the gymnasts to assess each other on the Excelsior 5 exercise screening plan. This got them to think further and learn more about their own bodies.

    Two legged squats and press ups were very good, single leg work and strangely dynamic balance needed more work.

    Introducing Dumbbell Exercises

    gymnast flexibiityWe then spent some time going over dumbbell exercises with the whole group. The little munchkins had 1kg dumbbells, the older athletes had enough weight to provide resistance but without limiting their ability to move through the whole range of motion.

    Dumbbells are great pieces of kit for developing athletes, and teaching children to use them early and well helps prevent problems in the future (See Istvan Javorek’s thoughts here).

    Jumping for Joy

    Having established the right foundations of posture, stability, balance and strength, we moved into jumping progressions.

    The sprung floor was a delight to do this on, compared to the ultra hard surfaces I usually encounter.

    As usual, co- ordination, rhythm and timing were the most challenging aspects of the jump progressions and bounding work I was doing. I gave a series of progressions, but kept emphasising the need for each stage to be worked on before moving to the next.

    The workshop went fast, and I just had time to show an isometric squat progression (picture above) that I got from Tom Kurz to help develop flexibility and strength simultaneously.

    Summary

    The atmosphere, work ethic and enthusiasm of the club is tangible. The coaches have created a great environment, it was easy for me to go in and hopefully add some value to their programme.

    Working with gymnasts is rewarding, and a reminder to me how important is to incorporate gymnastics into our warm ups

    Thanks to all the coaches, helpers and gymnasts involved.

    I have since introduced this work into our gymnastics in Wellington and Willand

  6. How to do the box splits and back bridge.

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    Flexibility Express DVD: Tom Kurz.

    Ever wanted to do the box splits or a back bridge? 

    You might not want to, but if you are a wrestler, martial artist, or track and field hurdler or high jumper, you might. 

    Tom Kurz is the author of the Science of Sports Training and has produced this dvd to help people develop practical flexibility and strength. 

    flexibility express dvd

    In the dvd (along with his books) Kurz emphasises that flexibility and strength need to be developed together. In order to be able to do Olympic Style weightlifting you need to be flexible in the thoracic spine, hips, shoulders and ankles.

    The DVD has got 3 main parts:

    1. How to do the box splits
    2. How to do the back bridge
    3. Bonus materials

    Each part has the main exercise, then supplemental exercises to help you achieve the exercise. I thought that the bonus material should have formed some of the main content: the warm up routines and videos on squat and deadlift are very useful.

    Going straight into the spluit routines was hard for me, and I have moderately good flexibility.

    Kurz presents in a very understated fashion, bordering on the laconic. It makes a change from the hype and hoopla presented on commercial DVDs.

    “I shall use a kettlebell as they are so fashionable these days” was my favourite quote. I did all the exercises in my sitting room, and just needed to get a kettlebell, 2 tennis balls and a sock.

    A trailer can be seen here . I recommend this DVD for anyone who is looking to get practical advice on stretching for sports and has not got a background in gymnastics.

    Coach Kurz has been kind enough to write a couple of guest blogs for us (read more here and here).