Stretching

Playing softball involves brief periods of fast (relatively speaking) running, sudden changes of direction, and quick starts from a standing position. These activities, along with batting and throwing, place stress on muscles and joints and can lead to injuries. To lessen the chance of injury you need to warm up and stretch properly before playing full speed. Warm up by jogging or by shagging balls without going full speed before you stretch your muscles. Cold muscles don’t stretch easily. Even after warming up, be sure to stretch gently and stay relaxed. Putting too much effort into stretching, especially with cold muscles, can lead to injuries by itself.
The idea is to stretch your muscles, not tear them. Try to do each of the stretches below before going full speed on the softball field. Hold each stretch for 10-20 seconds and be sure to do both sides.

SPRINTERS STRETCH: Benefit: Good for loosening the muscles at the back of your leg, especially your calves and hamstrings. Method: Lean against a wall (post, tree, whatever) with one leg extended straight behind you. Your heel should be touching the ground and your toe pointed straight ahead. Your foot should be far enough away from whatever youre pushing on that your heel tries to come up off the ground, but don’t let it. Gently stretch by slowly moving your hips forward. Be sure to stretch both legs, one at a time.
ACHILLES STRETCH: Benefit: Loosens the Achilles tendon, the tubular thing just above your heel. Method: Repeat the sprinter’s stretch above, but this time bend the knee slightly. You’ll need to move your foot closer to whatever object you’re pushing against. Again, try to keep your heel touching the ground, toe pointed forward, and move your hips forward gently.
QUAD STRETCH: Benefit: Loosen the quadriceps, or big muscle at the front of your thighs. Method: Stand straight, bring your right foot up behind you, and grab it with your left hand. Keep your back and other leg straight, while trying to gently pull your foot up and away from your buttocks. Repeat with the right hand holding left foot. In each of the three stretches above, push your hips gently forward for best effect. The key word here (and with all stretching exercises) is “gently.” If youre not playing ball today but are preparing for a run, the above
stretches are the minimum you should do. If your planned run includes sprinting of some sort, be sure to add the hamstring stretch immediately below.
HAMSTRING STRETCH: Benefit: Prevents hamstring (the big muscle at the back of your thigh) injuries. Method: Place one foot on a chair, bleacher, or something no higher than waist level. Keep your back and both legs straight, and bend toward the elevated knee. Variation: Sit with one leg stretched out on a table or bench. Lean toward the elevated knee while keeping your back and the elevated leg perfectly straight.
LAT STRETCH. Benefit: To stretch the muscle extending from armpit to waist (latissismus dorsi). This stretch is key in preventing ribcage injuries, something that especially plagues opposite field hitters. Method: Clasp your hands high above your head, arms straight, and move your hands to one side as far as possible while leaning in the same direction.

SPINAL STRETCH: Benefit: Increases range of motion by loosing up the spinal column. Method: Hold your hands in front of your shoulders, elbows extended straight out, and then rotate from the waist, first in one direction and then the other. Stay as relaxed as possible and rotate quickly 10 or more times in each direction. Let your momentum carry you as far in each
direction as possible before reversing.
GROIN STRETCH: Benefit: To avoid groin injuries caused by quick lateral movement. Method: Stand with your legs straight and feet as far apart as possible. While facing forward, bend one knee and lean sideways toward it. Repeat with the other knee. Then straighten both legs and lean forward, reaching your hands between your feet as far as possible.

TRICEPS STRETCH. Benefit: Loosens the triceps muscle at the back of the upper arm—very important when throwing a ball. Method: Raise the arm straight up and bend the arms at elbows like you’re reaching your shoulder blade. With the other arm gently stretch the triceps by pulling on the bent elbow.