Stretching once the final whistle blows is just as important as before your athletes hit the field or the court. These routines are imperative for warming our muscles up but they also help to cool our bodies down. And instilling this habit in our young players will last them well into their college and pro years.
When you stretch out your muscles, the body increases its circulation and oxygen levels which helps to repair muscles after a particularly intense workout or a game where an athlete went above and beyond its normal function. Today we’re focusing on the neck, shoulders, arms, and back. What are some ways we can focus on these areas to make sure they are getting the proper care and recovery they need? Here are 18 upper body stretches perfect for post-game cooldowns.
Upper Trap Stretch
If you are feeling as though you have weight on your shoulders or uncomfortable tightness in that area, it’s time to do something about it. You can get this one done whether you are sitting or standing. You will only apply light pressure, never pushing or pulling. And the stretch will bring easy relief when done correctly.
Directions: Take your right hand and lift it up over your head. You will then rest your hand on your left cheekbone. Do not pull on your head.
Youtube Video – Upper Trapezius Stretch
Crossbody Shoulder Stretch
This exercise will help to extend and stretch the back of the shoulder. Your deltoids will feel much looser by using this stretch and your shoulders will become more flexible by adding it to your routine over time. Lifting and rotating your arms become an easier feat; perfect for athletes.
Directions: Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lift your right arm straight out in front of you. You will then bring your right arm across your body, bending the left arm at the elbow (creating a hook) to stretch the right arm. Hold this placement for 20 seconds each.
Youtube Video – Shoulder Crossbody Stretch
Are you looking for ways to loosen tight chest muscles? Or at least keep that area flexible? A simple chest stretches (or stretches) will do the trick. There are multiple variations so once you find the ones that fit your body, keep them in the rotation.
Directions: As previously mentioned, there are several variations here. Check out the video below for more information. Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds each, performing 3-4 times.
Youtube Video – Chest Stretches for Tight or Sore Muscles
Wrist Extension Stretch
Do not leave out your wrists and forearms. They deserve love too! Focusing your attention on these muscles – which run over the wrist bones and attach to the bones in the fingers – will help you become stronger in this area and gain more control of your hand (specifically, those fingers which are helpful when it comes to the ball field and the court, don’t you think?).
Directions: Begin extending the arm with your wrist in front of you and fingers pointed to the floor. Using your other hand, gently bend the wrist until you feel stretching in your forearm. You will hold this position for about 30 seconds, repeating 2-4 times.
Youtube Video – BOOST your Wrist Extension
Wrist Flexion Stretch
This too will help keep your hands and wrists strong. The better control and stretch you have in these areas, the better your coordination and usability will become. It’s important not to nix these stretches from your routine.
Directions: Begin extending the arm with your wrist in front of you and the palm facing away from your body. You will then bend back your wrist while pointing your hand up to the ceiling. Using your other hand, gently bend the wrist until you feel the stretch in your forearm.
Youtube Video – How to do a wrist flexion stretch
Forearm & Finger Stretch
Stretching, in general, keeps your muscles strong, flexible, and healthy. And if you’re an athlete, making sure these muscles are ready to go is of the utmost importance; even the small ones, like the ones in your fingers. As we mentioned previously, this area is important, especially for those that use racquets and balls on an everyday basis!
Directions: There are several different variations of these wrist, finger, and forearm stretches. Check out the video to become familiar with some and include them in your warm-up and/or cool down. Hold each for 15-20 seconds repeating twice.
Youtube Video – Best Wrist Forearm Stretches to Release Tightness
Standing Chest against Wall
Lengthening and loosening the pectoral muscles is a healthy and necessary step to becoming a fully prepared athlete. This stretch is especially helpful for those that hold unnatural positions for long periods of time such as catchers and goalies.
Directions: Firstly, you’ll need something such as a wall to get this done properly so make sure you have the space to pull it off (a fence or pole can work too!). Place one hand on the wall in front of you. Once it’s placed, walk away from the wall by turning away from the hand that is placed. Rotate and open away from your hand. You should feel the stretch within your chest.
Youtube Video – Wall Chest Stretch for Shoulder Relief
The torso is a foundation to your entire body, and it’s the foundation to your upper body. It stabilizes your spine and allows movement to all parts of the body. So, naturally, it’s important to be sure you’re warming this section up and cooling it down in the appropriate ways.
Directions: Start with your feet shoulder-length apart. Bend your arms at a 90-degree angle (or hold a medicine ball out in front of you). Begin rotating your torso, slowly, from side to side. Hold in your core for more rigor.
Youtube Video – Standing Torso Rotations
Stretching your shoulder is essential for optimum strength and movement of your back and arms. With these stretches, you will warm up and cool down in the necessary ways – and prevent injury. Look into including flexion as well.
Directions: There are multiple ways to complete successful shoulder extensions. The video below will show you how to do it without any equipment necessary but there are other variations that include utilizing a medicine band to add rigor and strength building.
Youtube Video – Shoulder Extension Stretch Exercise
Adduction means “arm in front of the torso” and you will be stretching the deltoid (in your shoulder). It’s a simple stretch you have probably done before but may not have known the proper name for.
Directions: Standing with your feet shoulder-length apart, lift your arms out to your side. You will then slowly move your arms down to your side and back.
Youtube Video – Shoulder Adductions
External rotations are rotations that move away from the body. Specifically, these rotations will focus on the shoulder and torso. These too will help to loosen and lengthen the muscles in the area; keep in mind that the normal range of motion for a healthy shoulder is 90 degrees.
Directions: Stand with your elbows against your body and swing your forearms away from your core. You will repeat the movement.
Youtube Video – Shoulder External Rotation Stretch Demo
In contrast to external rotations mentioned above, internal rotations are rotations that move toward the body. Again, they focus on the shoulder and torso.
Directions: You will begin with your elbows flexed at a 90-degree angle beside the body. Rotate the shoulder to bring the forearm and hand toward the body.
Youtube Video – Shoulder Internal Rotation Stretch Demo
The proper term is “lateral bend” but we have a hunch you are already participating in this stretch on a daily basis. It helps your torso and neck and helps to improve your lateral mobility by including it into your routine. Working your internal and external obliques, you’ll feel wide awake after concluding them.
Directions: Being with your feet shoulder-length apart. Life one arm up over the head. Bend to the side in the opposite direction. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat.
Youtube Video – Lateral Bending Stretch
Arm Cross Rhomboid Stretch
Help your lower neck and upper back feel a bit looser and less tense. With a rhomboid stretch, you’ll be warming up points in your body that hold most of your stress and will help to create full-range mobility to the rest of your body as well.
Directions: You will start the stretch by crossing your arms in front of your chest (your hands should be around your shoulders). Once in this position, begin to stretch your hands to the center of your back. Hold this for 30 seconds. Repeat.
Youtube Video – Rhomboid Muscle Pain Stretches
There is so much good that can come from completing the child’s pose stretch. From your arms and shoulders, all the way down to the hips, everything becomes alive and relieved. It also is known to center and calm the body (and the mind).
Directions: Begin by kneeling on the floor with your toes together and your knees kept hip-width apart. You will have your hand palm-down on your thighs. Breathe in. And once you exhale, lower your torso to the ground – between your knees. Extend your arms out keeping your palms to the ground. Relax your shoulders and rest.
Youtube Video – How to do Child’s Pose Stretch
Reclined Spinal Twist
You will need to get on the ground for this one but your back (specifically your spine) will thank you later. Your glutes will also get some much needed attention when you add this stretch into the mix.
Directions: You will start the stretch by lying on your back. Bend your knees to your chest. And then extend your arms out alongside your body (make a “T”). Breathe in. Once you exhale, you will drop both of your knees to your right side while your head turns slowly to the left. Try pressing the back of your shoulder blades to the ground. Rest in this position for 15 seconds. Repeat on both sides.
Youtube Video – Reclining Spinal Twist
Bicep Shoulder Stretch
The biceps should be given some focus as well. It’s particularly helpful when you have sore biceps or muscles after a practice or to give yourself the proper warm up before a big game. The shoulder will benefit from this stretch as well.
Directions: You’ll need to find a sturdy post such as a wall, door, or fence. Hold your palm against the wall and turn your body away from it. You will immediately feel the stretch in your shoulder and arm. Hold this stretch for up to 30 second. Repeat.
Youtube Video – How to Stretch your Biceps
Overhead Triceps & Shoulder Stretch
The triceps are important as well (just like the biceps above). Each of these small stretches targets different parts of the upper body to prepare and cool down (to recover). It’s important to make sure your muscles are getting the proper care so you aren’t getting injured.
Directions: Start out by extending one arm to the ceiling. You will then bend the arm at the elbow, bringing the palm toward the center of your back and resting your middle finger along the spine. Use your opposite hand to push your elbow toward the center. Hold for up to 30 seconds. Repeat both sides.
Youtube Video – How to Stretch Your Triceps