Netball Stretches and Flexibility Exercises


Netball stretching exercises to improve your performance and do away with netball injuries for good.


James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, also had a hand in the development of netball. In 1891 he invented men’s basketball, but shortly after he was asked to invent a women’s version of his game. In 1895 Clara Baer, a physical education teacher from New Orleans, asked Naismith for his rules and directions for basketball so she could adapt it to her female students.

If you’re looking to improve your netball game or just seeking to prevent netball injuries it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get started on a safe and effective stretching routine that’s just right for you, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility.

netball_2Baer misinterpreted the handwritten directions from Naismith and thought the areas patrolled by the players represented zones where certain players would be confined. This set up the zoning areas of netball. The attire of female athletes at the time also restricted their ability to perform many of the common basketball movements, such as running and dribbling.

Netball’s introduction to England happened in 1895 at Madame Ostenburg’s College and quickly spread throughout all of the British territories and Australia. The rules were not yet formalized and varied by region. Some games had nine players per team, while others were played with five. The nets did not have a hole on the bottom so after each score the official had to remove the ball to put it back into play.

Netball eventually did away with the backboards and modified the rim and net system to fit the smaller sized ball. Dribbling was eliminated and the nets were opened so the ball could fall through.

In 1901 the Rule’s for Women’s Basketball was accepted as the standard for rules governing netball. However, there were still interpretations and formalized rules were not established. It wasn’t until 1960, when England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies got together to standardize the rules. This led to the formation of The International Federation of Women’s Basketball and Netball. This later became the International Federation of Netball Associations. This led to the official naming of the sport, Netball.

This meeting also established the guidelines for a World Championship, to be played every four years. The first World game was played in 1963. Australia established dominance in the sport early capturing seven of the World Championships since its inception. New Zealand finally broke Australia’s hold in 2003.

Netball was accepted as an Olympic sport in 1995, which opens the door for its inclusion in future Olympics. It has been a part of the Commonwealth Games since 1995. In 2008 netball gained a semi-professional status with the introduction of the ANZ Championship.

Netball is played on a court similar to a basketball court with nets at each end. The object of the game is to pass the ball down the court and getting it to a teammate in the opponent’s goal circle for the opportunity to score goals. Players are assigned positions and must wear “bibs” detailing their position. Players are only allowed in designated areas, and moving out of that area results in an offside penalty. Only Goal Attack and Goal Shooter positions may score goals directly, and they may only score from within the Goal Circle. The team with the most goals at the end of the game wins.


Anatomy Involved

Netball requires strong legs and the ability to move quickly. Agility and quickness are important aspects in netball. Due to the nature of the game, with lots of starts and stops and forceful contractions, flexibility and strength are essential.

The shooting and passing skills require good upper body strength. Movement within the zones requires quick movement and strong legs. When defending another player the ability to stop and change directions quickly requires good balance and coordination.

The major muscles used in netball include:

  • The muscles in the legs; the quadriceps, hamstrings, and the muscles in the calves (especially when jumping), the gastrocnemius and soleus.
  • The muscles of the hips; the adductors, abductors, and gluteals.
  • The muscles of the shoulders and arms; the deltoids, biceps, triceps, and the forearm muscles.
  • The core muscles are needed for balance; the rectus abdominus, obliques, and spinal erectors.


Most Common Netball Injuries

netball_1Netball, while a non-contact game, does involve some jostling ad bumping. Players who are moving in a small space risk stepping on each other and due to the shifting and quick turning in the game knees are often subject to twisting motions.

Some of the more common injuries that affect netball players are ankle sprains, knee sprains, muscle strains, and finger sprains and jams.

  • Ankle Sprains: Ankle sprains often occur when a player steps or lands on the side of another players foot. A sprain happens when the joint is rotated through an extended range of motion, causing tears to the ligaments that support the joint. Minor sprains involve tearing of only a few fibers, while severe sprains result in complete tears to one or more of the ligaments. Jumping and running put the ankles at risk of sprains, especially when in traffic of other players. Rest, ice, and immobilization are the common treatments for sprains. Recovery varies in length from one to two weeks for a minor sprain to six weeks or more for severe sprains.
  • Muscle Strains: Muscle strains occur when the muscle fibers are torn beyond the normal occurrence from training, often caused by overstretching or extreme workloads. When the muscle fibers tear inflammation and bruising occur within the muscle. Pain and disability result from this inflammation and bruising. Minor tears involve a small number of fibers, while major tears involve larger numbers of fibers and a large area of the muscle. Muscle strains can be treated with rest, ice, and NSAIDs. Stretching and strengthening exercises may help speed healing.
  • Knee Sprains: The constant changing of direction to follow the ball and move throughout the zoning areas means the knee is subjected to twisting and turning motions. The ligaments that hold the knee together are forced to work hard to hold the knee joint together. If the twist causes the joint to open further than it is supposed to in any direction, or rotate further than it should, then a sprain may occur. The severity of the injury depends on the number of fibers torn, and whether it tears completely from the bone. Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) sprains are the most common version. If surgery is not required, sprains generally heal in 4 to 6 weeks, followed by rehabilitation of the joint.
  • Finger Sprains / Jams: The fingers are the first part of the body to receive a ball passed to the player. If the fingers are not positioned properly the ball may cause the finger to extend beyond the normal range of motion. The ball may also hit the end of the finger compressing the joint. Both types of injuries result in damage to the ligaments and the cartilage in the joints. Ice, immobilization, and NSAIDs are used to treat this injury. Recovery usually takes 2 to 4 weeks for minor sprains and longer for more severe injuries.


Injury Prevention Strategies

Conditioning is important for the netball player to prevent injuries.

  • Muscular endurance training is important to prevent the muscles from tiring during a game and allowing breakdown of proper form.
  • Strengthening the muscles that support the knee and ankle joints will help prevent some of the common sprains.
  • Learning proper technique and form for each position a player might play will ensure that they play at their optimum level and help prevent injury.
  • Being aware of where other players are in a player’s zone will prevent the rolling of ankles due to stepping on another player.
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises will help ensure the muscles are strong and flexible enough to help prevent injuries to the muscles and joints.


The Top 3 Netball Stretches

Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for netball; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions beside each stretch.


netball-stretch_1Arm-up Rotator Stretch: Stand with your arm out and your forearm pointing upwards at 90 degrees. Place a broom stick in your hand and behind your elbow. With your other hand pull the bottom of the broom stick forward.






netball-stretch_2Rotating Stomach Stretch: Lie face down and bring your hands close to your shoulders. Keep your hips on the ground, look forward and rise up by straightening your arms. The slowly bend one arm and rotate that shoulder towards the ground.






netball-stretch_3Single Heel-drop Achilles Stretch: Stand on a raised object or step and place the ball of one foot on the edge of the step. Bend your knee slightly and let your heel drop towards the ground.





Get more Stretching Exercises here...

The Stretching Handbook, DVD & CD-ROMWhile the recommendations on this page are a good starting point, you'll get a lot more benefit when you include a wider variety of stretches.

To do away with stiff, tight muscles and joints, and improve your full body mobility and freedom of movement, grab a copy of the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility (Handbook, DVD & CD-ROM).

In total, they include 135 clear photographs and 44 video demonstrations of unique stretching exercises for every major muscle group in your body. Plus, over 80 printable stretching routines for 22 sports and 19 different muscle groups.

The DVD also includes 3 customized stretching routines (8 minutes each) for the Upper Body; the Lower Body; and the Neck, Back & Core, plus a bonus CD-ROM that allows you to print out over 80 stretching routines that you can take with you wherever you go.

The Handbook and DVD will show you, step-by-step, how to perform each stretch correctly. Plus, you'll also learn the 7 critical rules for safe stretching; the benefits of flexibility; and how to stretch properly. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility for yourself.

Brad Walker - AKA The Stretch CoachAbout the Author: Brad is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.

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