Softball Stretching Routine
A softball stretching routine is an essential part of a softball training program. It helps increase flexibility and guards against the risk of injury.
by Brad Walker | First Published October 31, 2010 | Updated August 3, 2018
Softball is a demanding sport, involving batting, sprinting, throwing and catching. To achieve any success as a player one needs a high level of coordination, agility, strength and flexibility. Improving your flexibility can be achieved by incorporating a regular softball stretching routine into your softball training program.
Muscles used in Softball
The primary muscles in the lower body used while playing softball are the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, groin and the calf muscles. The main muscles in the upper body include the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder and the core muscles of the abdominals and lower back.
Most Common Softball Injuries
Softball players are vulnerable to a range of acute injuries. A few are potentially serious, though the game is generally considered less dangerous than baseball. Collision with the ball or another player can cause contusions or fractures in the face, upper or lower body.
Acute injuries in the lower body include:
- Twisting the knee during running with injury to the anterior cruciate ligament or ACL
- Tearing of knee cartilage or meniscus
- Spraining the ankle while running
More commonly, softball players suffer from a range of overuse injuries, including:
- Rotator cuff tendonitis, an acute irritation of the tendons and muscles of the shoulder. The injury is most common in pitchers.
- Knee tendonitis, an irritation of the tendons and muscles of the knee. The frequent stops and starts involved in the game are particularly stressful.
Overuse injuries tend to produce sore or aching discomfort which worsens with continuation of the activity. Pain is due to inflammation and swelling. Rotator cuff tendinitis is one of the most common injuries in both baseball and softball. (Elbow injuries on the other hand are largely restricted to baseball, due to the different nature of the pitch.) Leg and ankle sprains and various contusions are quite common but often – unlike overuse injuries – do not require any significant time off the field.
Diagnosis of injuries may initially be based on the nature of pain involved. When upper body pain is stabbing or acute (rather than a dull ache), a mechanical problem is often to blame. Such pain is often the result of tearing injuries.
Mild overuse injury may be treated with anti-inflammatory medication, rest and analgesics, as well as with alternating ice and heat on the affected area. Chronic overuse injuries may require avoidance of stressful activity in the injuries region and in some cases, surgical intervention. Fractures and more severe sprains likewise necessitate medical care.
Injury Prevention Strategies
Musculotendinous overuse injuries; (particularly in the shoulder) are common afflictions for softball players. Pre-season training and conditioning are critically important in helping to prevent both overuse injuries and traumatic or sudden injuries like sprains. Strength training and attention to cardiovascular fitness are believed to reduce overuse injuries by over 50% while diminishing the severity of injuries which do occur. Attention to proper technique, particularly during throwing activity can help reduce the likelihood of overuse injuries as well as sudden injuries including muscle or ligament tearing.
The following tips can also help avoid injury:
- Always properly prepare before a game with warm-up and stretching.
- Comprehensive pre-season conditioning aids flexibility, endurance and strength, reducing likelihood of injury.
- Proper technique, especially in pitching, can help limit both traumatic and overuse injuries.
- Proper headgear protects the player from blows to the ear or temple area from ball impact.
- Proper energy absorbing chest padding should be used by catchers.
- Mouthguards should be used to prevent dental injuries.
- Fences, walls and posts should be padded to help prevent injury, should players run in to them, attempting to catch the ball.
The Benefits of a Softball Stretching Routine
Coaches place a lot of emphasis on including a softball stretching routine in the various softball training programs. This is because of the large number of benefits of stretching, which includes:
- A regular stretching routine is key to maintaining flexibility, which in turn fosters a good posture and reduces lower back pain and discomfort.
- Stretching exercises in softball training can increase a player’s athleticism by controlling muscle imbalances, which cause pulled muscles and also contribute to clumsiness, which in itself can lead to injury.
- Even the simplest softball stretching routine, as part of your overall softball training program helps to promote blood circulation, which improves mental alertness and coordination.
- It can help prevent injuries like:
º Rotator cuff tendinitis, a condition that causes acute irritation in the shoulder tendons and muscles.
º Knee tendinitis, a condition that causes irritation in the knee tendons and muscles.
º Musculotendinous overuse injuries, generally of the shoulder and elbow.
- Finally, even the most basic softball stretching routine can just make you feel better. Glossing over it in your regular softball training, however, could cost you dearly.
Despite the numerous benefits, it is important to bear in mind that stretching can have detrimental effects when done incorrectly. Improperly done stretches can over time cause permanent damage to ligaments and joint. When performing the stretching routine below, be sure to warm up first and if any of the exercises cause pain or severe discomfort, discontinue immediately. Review my article on the rules for safe stretching for more information.
The Top 3 Softball 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 softball; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions below each stretch.
Lying Knee Roll-over Stretch: While lying on your back, bend your knees and let them fall to one side. Keep your arms out to the side and let your back and hips rotate with your knees.
Elbow-out Rotator Stretch: Stand with your hand behind the middle of your back and your elbow pointing out. Reach over with your other hand and gently pull your elbow forward.
Rotating Wrist Stretch: Place one arm straight out in front and parallel to the ground. Rotate your wrist down and outwards and then use your other hand to further rotate your hand upwards.
Watch the Softball Stretching Routine
Click on the play button below to watch the 10 minute softball stretching routine video.
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About 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.