The 3 Best Stretches for Gridiron
Improve your gridiron and minimize injuries with 3 of the best gridiron stretches.
by Brad Walker | First Published October 14, 2010 | Updated May 7, 2019
Gridiron, popularly called American Football, is characterized by strong collisions and explosive strength. To avoid getting injured, players should perform regular gridiron stretches as part of their gridiron training.
Muscles used in Gridiron
Different positions in gridiron football involve different muscles at varying levels. The lower body should be strong enough for running backs and receivers. Offensive and defensive linemen and linebackers need their upper body to be strong and agile. The various muscles that function in Gridiron include:
- Among the leg muscles, the gastrocnemius, soleus, quadriceps and hamstrings are involved.
- The hip flexors, the gluteals, abductor and adductor (groin) muscles.
- The use of core muscles, such as the rectus abdominus, spinal erectors, and obliques, is quite high.
- The trapezius, the muscles of the neck, the pectorals, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, and other shoulder muscles play an important role in the game.
Most Common Gridiron Injuries
Athletes playing American football are subject to violent external forces on a regular basis. The high speed collisions and awkward body positions during tackling and blocking activities often put the body in danger of traumatic injuries. Some of the common injuries suffered by gridiron players include:
- Neck and spinal injuries;
- Shoulder injuries, including dislocation, subluxation, acromioclavicular joint (AC) separation, and rotator cuff strain;
- Hamstring and groin strain;
- Knee injuries, including Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) sprain, and Meniscus Tear; and
- Lower leg injuries, including shin splints, ankle sprain and Achilles tendinitis.
Injury Prevention Strategies
Strength and conditioning is a key piece of the injury prevention strategy for gridiron players. Other strategies include:
- Warm-up properly prior to training and especially before games.
- Include a cool-down period and perform after training/game stretching.
- Use cardiovascular training to prevent the muscles from tiring during a game and allowing breakdown of proper form.
- Incorporate a comprehensive strength training program to build protective muscle tissue over the bones and joints.
- Practice balance, agility and proprioception drills to improve knee and ankle stability.
- Flexibility is key when the body is twisted and contorted at different angles during tackles or when avoiding a defender.
- Using high quality protective equipment that has been maintained properly will help prevent many injuries.
- Practicing proper body mechanics when performing the many skills on the field will also reduce the chance of putting the body in a position that might cause injury.
- Avoid using the head when tackling or blocking will help prevent neck and head injuries.
- Ensure adequate padding on posts to avoid head injury, and carefully check playing field for holes, bare areas or any obstructions.
The Benefits of Gridiron Stretches
Many players do not fully utilize gridiron stretches and put more emphasis on strength development. Regular stretching exercises improve range of motion, which helps reduce the risk of injury. Good strength and stretching exercises are specifically useful in preventing meniscus tears, ligament sprains in the knee, neck injuries and muscle strain injuries, all of which are common to Gridiron players.
The 3 Best Gridiron 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 of the best stretches for gridiron; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions with each stretch, and if you currently have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain please take extra care when performing the stretches below, or consult with your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the following stretches.
Instructions: Slowly move into the stretch position until you feel a tension of about 7 out of 10. If you feel pain or discomfort you’ve pushed the stretch too far; back out of the stretch immediately. Hold the stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds while relaxing and breathing deeply. Come out of the stretch carefully and perform the stretch on the opposite side if necessary. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
Arm-up Shoulder and 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.
Lying Knee Roll-over Lower Back 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.
Watch the Gridiron Stretches video
Click on the play button below if you prefer to follow along to a 10 minute video of the best stretches for gridiron.
These gridiron stretches are best done after your gridiron training, as part of your cool down. They can also be done as a stand-alone stretching session to improve your gridiron flexibility, but make sure you’re fully warmed up before starting the stretches.
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Research and References
- Walker, B. (2011). The Anatomy of Stretching, 2nd Edition (ISBN: 978-1583943717)
- Wikipedia contributors. (2019, April 15). Gridiron football, In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
- Stuart, M. (2005). Epidemiology of Pediatric Sports Injuries: Team Sports: Gridiron Football Injuries. Medicine and Sport Science. Basel, Karger, vol 49, pp 62-85.
- Saal, J. (1991). Common American football injuries. Sports Medicine, 12(2):132-47.
- McGinity, M. Grandhi, R. Michalek, J. Rodriguez, J. Trevino, A. McGinity, A. Seifi, A. (2018). The impact of tackle football injuries on the American healthcare system with a neurological focus. PLoS One, 13(5): e0195827.
- NCAA. Football Injuries: Data from the 2004/05-2008/09 Seasons. Retrieved May 7, 2019, from https://www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/NCAA_Football_Injury_WEB.pdf.
- Kokkonen, J. Nelson, A. Eldredge, C. Winchester, J. (2007) Chronic Static Stretching Improves Exercise Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(10), 1825-1831.
- Shellock, F, Prentice, W. (1985) Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries. Sports Medicine, 2(4):267-78.
- Fradkin, A. Zazryn, T. Smoliga, J. (2010) Effects of warming-up on physical performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(1):140-8.
About the Author: Brad Walker 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 (author page) 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 1,000's of verified customer reviews. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.
Disclaimer: The health and fitness information presented on this website is intended as an educational resource and is not intended as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the exercises described on this website, particularly if you are pregnant, elderly or have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain.