The 3 Best Stretches for Water Polo
Improve your water polo and minimize injuries with 3 of the best water polo stretches.
by Brad Walker | First Published November 15, 2010 | Updated May 1, 2019
Water polo is played as a six on six game with goalkeepers. Playing with just one hand, each player tries to get the ball into their opponent’s goal without submerging it.
Muscles used in Water Polo
The gluteals, quads, hamstrings and the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) provide most of the lift needed to drive the player through the water after the ball. The calf muscles join at the ankle, adding stability to the movement of the feet through the water. The peroneal muscle group, on the outside of the lower leg, helps to stabilize the body during motion.
The arms and shoulders take second seat as far as the most used muscles during play, with the legs providing the most of the power needed to lift the player out of the water. The arm muscles, biceps and triceps, work with the deltoids and rotator cuff to grab, throw, and score the winning goals.
Most Common Water Polo Injuries
Like all competitive sports, bumps and bruises from contact are common in water polo. Others injuries common to water polo include:
- Neck and lower back pain;
- Bicep tendinitis;
- Throwers elbow;
- Shoulder injuries, including rotator cuff tendinitis, shoulder impingement syndrome and tears in the cartilage around the shoulder socket;
- Groin strain; and
- Knee injuries, especially medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain and meniscus tear as a result of the “eggbeater” kick commonly used in water polo.
Injury Prevention Strategies
Since water polo play can get like rugby in the water, try to stay aware of everything that is going on around you. Here are a few other tips that you can use to lower the risk of injuries during water polo training and competition.
- Always warm-up properly prior to training and especially competition.
- Allow an adequate cool-down period and perform after training or competition stretches.
- Include cardiovascular conditioning and aerobic training as this will help prevent fatigue, which can lead to other overuse injuries.
- Strength training leads to reduced potential for injury as it increases the strength of the muscles as well as providing support for joints.
- Agility training is particularly helpful as it works to improve the ability of the body to quickly adapt to a change in direction, motion and velocity.
- Stiff joints and muscles will ultimately lead to injured joints and muscles so improving flexibility will also work to decrease the likelihood of injury.
- Pay attention to swimming biomechanics and proper swimming and kicking technique.
- Stay well hydrated by drinking water every 20-30 minutes even if you do not feel thirsty. Dehydration leads to fatigue, nausea, and disorientation, all factors that can result in injury.
The 3 Best Water Polo Stretches
Water polo stretches are 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 water polo; 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.
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Research and References
- Walker, B. (2011). The Anatomy of Stretching, 2nd Edition (ISBN: 978-1583943717)
- Wikipedia contributors. (2019, April 26). Water Polo, In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
- Spittler, J. Keeling, J. (2016). Water polo injuries and training methods. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 15(6), 410-416.
- Stromberg, J. (2017). Care of water polo players. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 16(5), 363-369.
- Makszin, N. Kiss, G. Makszin, L. Szilágyi, B. Boncz, I. Ács, P. Tardi, P. (2019). PMS109-PREVENTION OF SHOULDER JOINT INJURIES IN WATER POLO WITH STRETCHING AND STABILIZATION TECHNIQUES. Value in Health, 21, S306.
- Hams, A. Evans, K. Adams, R. Waddington, G. Witchalls, J. (2019). Epidemiology of shoulder injury in sub-elite level water polo players. Physical Therapy in Sport, 35, 127-132.
- Botonis, P. Toubekis, A. Platanou, T. (2016). Concurrent strength and interval endurance training in elite water polo players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 30(1), 126-133.
- 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.