Stretching is one of the most important types of exercise you can do, especially if you are an athlete. It helps you avoid injury and improve your athletic performance. Stretching for volleyball practice can help players avoid common muscle and joint injuries, such as rotator cuff, wrist, ankle and shoulder sprains. A thorough stretching routine after volleyball practice will also help reduce the risk of sore muscles due to the buildup of lactic acid in the muscle tissue.
Before stretching, you must warm up your muscles to prepare them for the stretching exercises. Warming up before stretching also improves your muscle tissue's use of oxygen and removal of waste that can cause muscle soreness. It also increases the reaction time of your muscles for faster contraction and relaxation cycles. Brisk walking or jogging will get your heart pumping and increase your respiration to warm up your body for more vigorous exercise.
Wrist sprain is a common volleyball injury. The force of the volleyball hitting the wrist joint can cause muscle sprains and sore ligaments. If you fall and catch your body with your hand, you can also injure your wrist. Wrist stretches can help reduce the risk of these injuries. Extend your right arm straight out from your shoulder parallel to the floor. Grasp your right hand with your left hand and rotate your wrist down, outward to the left and then to the right. Release your right hand and hold your hand in a “stop” position with your palm perpendicular to the floor. Grasp your right hand with your left and gently pull your right hand back toward your body. Repeat on the other side.
Serving, returning and spiking the volleyball are high-impact activities that can injure your shoulder rotator cuff. Stretch your shoulder muscles, including the rotator cuff, by placing your right hand behind your lower back with your palm facing outward. Reach behind your back with your left hand and grasp your right hand. Gently pull your right arm across your back. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds and the repeat on the other side. Stretch your shoulder and upper back muscles by standing up straight and dropping your shoulders 1 to 2 inches. Pull your shoulder blades together and then lower your right ear toward your right shoulder. Repeat on the other side.
Legs and Ankle Stretches
Leg and ankle flexibility can help you reduce the risk of muscle strain and joint injury. The knees and ankles are especially vulnerable because volleyball players make rapid lateral movements and jumps which impact the leg muscles and joints. Ankle rolls can improve the flexibility of the ankle joint. Sit on the floor and extend both of your legs straight out in front of your body. Point your toes toward the ceiling. Lift your right leg a few inches off the floor and rotate your ankle clockwise 10 times, then counter-clockwise 10 times. Repeat with your left ankle. Quadriceps stretches can help reduce injury to the knee joint. Kneel on your left knee with your right foot on the floor. Place your hands on your hips or hold on to a chair or bench for support. Lean forward on your right leg. Switch legs and repeat.
Robin Reichert is a certified nutrition consultant, certified personal trainer and professional writer. She has been studying health and fitness issues for more than 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health from Clayton College.