6 Best Stretches For Football Players
Mobility will improve your performance in football; it will improve your performance in any sport. Mobility is a must, especially when training for football. Training for football can be incredibly difficult. It is challenging, and the body takes a beating on and off the field.
Athletes need to know what elements to focus on when training in the weightroom. Knowing that football athletes need to have elements of absolute strength, possess technical coordination (meaning, in the weightroom, performing olympic lifts like the snatch and clean), demonstrate reactive strength, as well as being strong in a unilateral and bilateral position. All of these key elements that need to be trained in the weightroom can lead to a lot of stress on the body, especially when pushing the body to new and previously unattainable performance markers. Coupling that with all the stress football players experience on the field, it can become overwhelming to players if their training is not periodized and programmed effectively.
We have to think and consider what actually is mobility in relation to the sport of football? To begin, it means the football athlete needs to have a decent amount of passive flexibility; however, having passive flexibility isn’t enough. Athletes need to have stability within the joints within the full range of motion being sought. Having stability in the joints throughout the range of motion allows motor units to fire and be recruited when in the deepest range of motions, we unlock what mobility is all about.
6. 90|90 Squats - Hips
At Garage Strength we believe all football players should perform this movement every single day before training and every single day before getting on the field. This is a movement that helps the rotational aspects of the hips, as well as open up and loosen up the glutes and lower back.
To perform the movement the athlete sits on the ground with one leg out in front in an L, or as if preparing for a pigeon stretch. The other leg is in the shape of a V with the foot being about parallel to slightly behind the butt. From that position, the athlete will hinge up through the feet, knee, and shin, with all three points remaining in contact with the ground. Hold at the top for a few moments. From there, return to the ground and alternate the position of the legs--the smoother the transition the better. Perform the movement on the other side. Rinse, recycle and repeat.
Performing this movement, athletes will immediately feel it. It is relatively easy to do. Now if the athlete is a little stiff and lacking the prerequisites to effectively perform the movement, they may need slight alterations. However, the immediate impact of the movement, in tandem with daily practice, football athletes will first notice the movement's mobility gains through squat depth, stance depth and the ability to get lower performing agile movements. This will be noticed immediately, like within four or five days it is that immediate (and it only improves over time).
There are other bonuses to regular performance of the Hip 90 | 90 Squats. One of those bonuses is feeling a little bit of alleviation of back pain, as well as alleviating tight groin pain.
We recommend doing this movement every single day for two sets of seven to each side. Make sure to hold the top of the squat portion of the movement for a few seconds.
5. Dorsiflexion With Over Pressure - Ankles
We really believe that if the joints of the ankles can be effectively mobilized, there are residual, positive impacts to help maintain knee and hip health. The ankle joints are important to mobilize; flat out, they need to be mobile.
Dorsiflexion with over pressure is a nice and easy movement. It can be performed in bare feet. The knee needs to be pushed forward over the toes, tracking forward. Push the heel down as if it is the thumb while grabbing with the toes to create more foundational stability, holding a little bit of over pressure for a longer period of time. That can lead to nice mobility improvement to the ankle joint. To scale the movement up, put a band around the ankle joint and attach it to an object that doesn't move. The band pulling back can potentially help the talus bone move posteriorly, creating more potential mobility through the joint.
This movement will help with cutting and get into a deeper stance. Ankles that can dorsiflex more effectively can get deeper in their positions. On top of that, a more mobile ankle can potentially prevent ankle sprains and the like (think of being piled up on as a RB or LB and players rolling on those ankles). This isn’t guaranteed, but it will help.
Again, perform this movement daily, or every other day, so that the ankles are mobile and the knees can tract more effectively.
4. Foam Roller Down Dog - Lats & T-Spine
This mobility exercise is used to primarily target the lats and T-spine. The foam roller down dog will help athletes extend their thoracic spine and rotate their thoracic spine a little more effectively.
Let’s think about playing football and how a lot of football is played with the hands and upper body. Football players press quite a bit. They may get serious development in their pecs and anterior deltoids, resulting in being internally rotated if not following a really effective periodization program for football. That’s where the foam roller down dog comes into play to mobilize the lats and T-spine.
We recommend performing this movement for two to three sets for fifteen passes every single day. On top of that, hold the final rep in an isometric position for twenty to thirty seconds. This is going to help greater positions in the olympic movements in the weightroom, rotate more effectively to catch the ball and make better reads as a linebacker by being able to rotate through the upper back, keeping the hips square to the opponent. So not only will this movement help with recovery, it will help with performance on the field in very tangible ways.
3. Sliding Cossack Squats - Adductors
A lot of football players, pulling O-linemen, stunting D-linemen or linebackers scraping down the line might get a little bit of groin pain, adductor pain. Regardless, all positions on the football field have to use their adductors quite a bit. The stronger and healthier the adductors are the better.
If the adductors are mobile and can be lengthened, when they are lengthened, they can recruit quite a bit of motor units to be stronger out of a movement or cut. If the athlete focuses on sliding the leg nice and deep and lengthening the adductors, squeezing when coming in, now the hips will be healthier and the athlete will be more mobile. Again, the movement can be scaled up by putting a plate overhead, adding mobility demands on the lats and T-spine as well.
We recommend doing this movement twice a week for two to four sets for seven to nine reps on each leg.
2. Duck Walks - Hips
We stole this movement from Brian Baldinger, 11 year NFL vet. He said performing duck walks almost every single day, in a variety of manners, elongated his career. The movement helps improve ankle mobility, back mobility, hip mobility and allows athletes to get wider with their stance and play a little bit lower.
We need to think of the big concept about having low hips. This is where duck walks come into play. Now, as long as there isn’t knee pain, athletes should perform this movement every single day. It is a simple exercise. In our opinion, every single football player in the country should have to be able to perform this movement to even be allowed on the field to play.
1. PVC Walks - Ankles
The PVC pipe walk can help the way the knee tracks. It can improve dorsiflexion in the ankles, plantar flexion and can improve the activity of the toes. Next thing, all of these things are operating at a higher level providing more neurological feedback, making the athlete more aware of what is going on. Their proprioceptive starts to improve.
We recommend doing PVC walks for five sets of fifteen yards. When performing the movement, do it forward, do it backwards, do it fast, do it slow and control, do it playing rolley pulley. While performing the movement, think about the heel being the thumb and the toes being the fingers grabbing the PVC pipe. Next thing, the toes and feet are wide awake and more active allowing for faster running to occur. Don’t be scared to perform this movement with heel and toe walks as well to get more mobility work in.
Do this movement every single day as a warm up.
Being a more limber and mobile football player will not only help with injury prevention, but will enable an athlete to get into better positions on the field to have more success. Success is good. We want tackles. We want touchdowns. We want to improve and be awesome. Mobility helps that happen.
Through daily practice, mobility is accessible and achievable for all football athletes. Target the hips, ankles, lats, T-spine and adductors as priorities. Utilize 90 | 90 squats, dorsiflexion with over pressure, foam roller down dogs, sliding cossack squats, duck walks and PVC pipe walks on a daily basis and see the mobility gains spring from the well like a diamond mind generating cash money.
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.