WATCH: 4 Static Stretches for Overhead Athletes

TAGS: sleeper stretch, hip flexor, couch stretch, t-spine mobility, ankle mobility,, stretching, mobility, Elitefts Info Pages

Static stretching before athletic performance or strength training is generally frowned upon by many strength & conditioning coaches.  There are, however, static stretches of certain muscle groups that can actually enhance performance and decrease the chance of injury.  These movements include ankle mobility, thoracic spine mobility, posterior shoulder girdle, and the hip flexor.

Ankle Mobility

Nick Showman, owner of Showtime Strength & Performance and President of the Natural Ohio Bodybuilding Association demonstrates an ankle mobility drill using the elitefts™ 6" Plyobox Top.

Increased ankle mobility can reduce lower extremity injuries by indirectly improving joint angles of the knee and hip during athletic competition and strength training exercises.  There are several benefits to decreasing the angle of the ankle joint through corrective exercise.

  1. Less stress is placed on the Achilles tendon when planting and landing
  2. When Squatting, decreased ankle mobility will force a more vertical shin angle.  This could requires a more acute hip angle and stress on the lumbar spine,
  3. Lack of ankle mobility can inhibit the stretch reflex when sprinting and cause over-activation of the quads on foot contact.

Methods to increase Ankle Mobility:

  1. Mobility Drills
  2. Soft Tissue Work of the Soleus and Gastrocnemius
  3. Increased strength of the Anterior Tibialis (dorsi-flexion)


  1. Place heel closer to box or wall
  2. Increase forward projection of knee
  3. Push forward at the hip with knee locked for more of a gastrocnemius stretch


T-Spine Mobility

Elitefts™ Director of Education Mark Watts demonstrates a Thoracic Spine (T-Spine) mobility exercise using the elitefts™Soft Plyo Box.

Thoracic Spine (T-Spine) Mobility is an essential quality of overhead athletes. Improving the range of motion of the upper back between the shoulder blades will benefit the athlete in two distinct ways.

1. Increasing the range of motion of the T-Spine, especially in extension, can eliminate compensation patterns, by reducing the amount of stress on the glenohumeral joint, the elbow and the lumbar spine. Basically, lack of ROM in the T-spine means increased ROM in those other joints when throwing, serving, or shooting,

2. By increasing the overhead athlete's thoracic extension, he/she will be able to increase the overall range of motion when throwing, serving or shooting. This can mean increased power and velocity while better utilization of all recruited muscle groups. This can also equate to better synchronization of motor units and maximize the timing and positions of a better stretch reflex.


Couch Stretch

Nick Showman, owner of Showtime Strength & Performance and President of the Natural Ohio Bodybuilding Association demonstrates a couch stretch using the elitefts™ Soft Plyo Boxes at the S4 compound.

Poor range of motion in hip flexion is one of the many factors attributing to an Anterior Pelvic Tilt (APT). Sometime referred to as a lower crossed syndrome, this postural discrepancy can lead to injuries like hamstring strains, knees injuries, and lower back injuries. An APT can also inhibit jumping ability, applying proper force to the ground, and specifically strength length when sprinting.

The couch stretch is an outstanding exercise to address hip flexor complex tightness and range of motion concerns with hip flexion.

To perform this stretch, have the athlete kneel down on one knee with that knee as close to a box or wall as much as tolerated. In this example, the foot is not plantar-flexed and resting on the box. Below is a list of progressions (and regressions) for the couch stretch from this initial position. These adaptations will make this stretch more difficult.

Back Foot
- Use a taller box or wall so the back foot is plantar-flexed

Back Knee
- Move the back knee closer to the box or wall

Front Foot
- Move the front foot forward while keeping it flat on the ground

1. Place hands behind back
2. Place hands over head and reach back
3. Place one arm above head and rotate or lean toward front leg

Hold each stretch for 30-45 seconds. Combined with soft-tissue work, this stretch can enhance performance and decrease the chance of injury.

Sleeper Stretch

Nick Showman, owner of Showtime Strength & Performance and President of the Natural Ohio Bodybuilding Association demonstrates a sleeper stretch on the elitefts™ Soft Plyo Box Riser at the S4 compound. The sleeper stretch is an outstanding stretch for any overhead athlete such as baseball, softball, lacrosse, volleyball, or tennis.

Typically, overhead athletes will have discrepancies in range of motion between internal and external rotation of the shoulder. For the most part, overhead athletes will have better ROM in external rotation and are generally stronger performing internal rotation. There are two main reasons for this.

  1. Anatomical considerations. Generally speaking, the muscle groups responsible for internal rotation are much larger and utilize more motor units (Subscapularis, Anterior Deltoid, Latisimus Dorsi, Pectoralis Major). The external rotators consists of smaller muscles like the infraspinatus, teres minor, and the posterior deltoid.
  2. Repetitive motor patterns. The simple act of throwing, serving or shooting both develops and subsequently requires more range of motion externally and more power internally.

Another imbalance that can identified and rectified with the sleeper stretch is a unilateral imbalance between the dominant and non-dominant arms. Range of motion is typically less with he dominant arm.

To perform this exercise, have the athlete lie on his/her side, have the upper arm between 45 & 90 degrees from the upper body, and apply gentle pressure on the back of the wrist and push the palm of the hand toward the floor. The angle of the upper arm will dictate the difficulty of the stretch. Hold the stretch for about 30-45 seconds.


Elitefts™ Soft Plyobox Full Set


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