While most people initially think of the lower body strength and flexibility in track and field, the shoulders also play a critical role. Maintaining appropriate shoulder flexibility results in good arm swing which helps athletes optimize speed.
Parents can help their children improve their running times by helping them maintain appropriate flexibility and mobility in their shoulders. The stretches below are appropriate for youth track and field athletes to complete at home on off days from practice. They can be completed anytime of day after the athlete is warmed up. As with any stretch, you should feel mild to moderate tension but not pain while completing the stretch.
The stretch pictured to the left stretches various structures and muscles of the shoulder girdle and arm. To complete the stretch, bring one arm overhead and down the back while bending the other arm around and up back. If your fingers are touching, clasp the fingertips and hold. This stretch can be completed with or without a strap or towel if your fingers do not touch in this position. It is important to stretch into this position until a mild stretch is felt and to alternate which arm is on the top and which is on the bottom. This stretch is healthy in moderation, forcing this stretch can result in injury.
This stretch is intended to target the muscles of the chest. Maintaining flexibility of the pectoralis muscles is important for should mobility as well as postural alignment. To complete this stretch step into a doorway or corner with your forearms and hands in a vertical position. Make sure that your elbows are not higher than your shoulders. From this position gently lean into the doorway or corner until you feel a gentle stretch across the chest and shoulders.
This stretch is intended to target the muscles of the back of the shoulders and shoulder girdle. To complete this stretch cross your arms in front of chest and place hands around shoulders. Slowly stretch hands towards middle of back until a gentle stretch is felt. As you complete this stretch alternate which arm is on top as you cross your arms in the front.
All stretches should be completed after a brief warm up. Stretches should be held for between 10-30 seconds. Hold the stretched position longer if you are trying to increase flexibility and shorter if you are trying to maintain the mobility you already have.