3 great calf stretches for young hockey players
In my previous blog I started talking about factors that may help to reduce overuse knee injuries on young hockey players. One of these is stretching.
Why is stretching so important for kids who do a lot of sport?
The process of much of our growth happens between the ages of 12-18 years old. Everyone grows at different ages and reach maturity at different times. The process of getting taller occurs from your long bones such as your femur and tibia. As the bones grow the muscles do not catch up in time which means that they are tighter. The muscles are also being used frequently and often in repetitive movements which as you are growing makes them adapt and if you do not stretch will just become tighter.
Both these factors mean that I see a large number of young athletes who have very tight hamstrings and calfs.
Another important factor that happens is that as our body matures our legs will develop first and our torso and core will take a bit longer which means that we are strong in our legs but not in our core as a result if our thigh muscles or quads muscles get tight they can pull your pelvis forwards giving you a big arch in your back.
So stretching in young athletes is vital.
When do you stretch?
The main factors that are important about when to stretch are:
- The muscles will stretch better when warmed up. So either after exercise (straight after not once you’ve got home) or after a hot shower or even after foam rollering.
- The stretches can be held for 40 seconds or 3 deep breaths.
- Never force a stretch, only take it to its natural end point.
- Remember to keep doing them so get into a routine.
The main muscles to stretch especially for young hockey players are:
Hamstrings and calf muscles
The Down dog is great to stretch your hamstrings and calf muscles together.
The modified Down dog gives a stronger stretch for the calf muscles.
This final modification is useful if you find it hard to get into the above two positions (if you are REALLY inflexible!)
Remember before you play or train you need to WARM UP and after you play/train you need to stretch. Alternatively, one a week you can set aside 20 minutes to have a long stretching session.
Don’t forget that tight muscles also benefit from sports massage.