Importance of Stretching in Diving

If there is one word that comes up a lot in diving, it is stretching. Flexibility is so important in diving; not just so the dive looks good, but more importantly, to help prevent injury. In almost all aspects of a dive, be it standing on the board, flying in the air or entering the water, flexibility and strength are required.

Coaches often start every practice by having their divers stretch and warm up the muscles used most in diving – legs, shoulders, and core. Once stretching becomes part of the routine, divers will feel the gratification that comes with having a stretched body, and will make it a normal part of their workout.

Before Stretching

Before starting any stretching program, it is important to keep some things in mind.

  • Stretching is not easy. It takes time and repetition to gain flexibility.
  • Stretching a “cold” body is not recommended. Before stretching, run, jump or do anything to warm up the muscles. Stretching a cold body can cause injury.
  • Never force a stretch. Stretch to the point that exerts tension, not pain.

In diving, agility and flexibility are essential. Before stretching, jump stairs, jump rope or jump on the trampoline. You get the idea? Jump! This warms up the body and the muscles and gets them ready to be stretched. After warming up, sit down on a mat or a towel and begin stretching the legs.

Stretching the Legs

The hamstring is used in diving time and time again. It is important to have this muscle flexible in order to pike easily, jump proficiently and enter and exit a dive with grace. Stretching this muscle can be tricky and should be done carefully. Here is the proper way to go about it:

  • Sitting with one leg out in front of the body, place the opposite leg in a triangle position with the foot to the knee and lean the body forward.
  • Keep the outstretched leg straight, with the toes pointed.
  • Try to reach the hands to the feet or floor without bending the knee.
  • Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and switch to the opposite leg.

Here is another good hamstring stretch:

  • Sitting in the pike position, place both legs out in front of the body and lean over and touch the hands to the feet or floor.
  • Keep the legs tight and the toes pointed.
  • Remember that tension is good, pain is bad.
  • Don’t over stretch. In time flexibility will come.
  • Hold this stretch for at least 10 seconds and repeat as necessary.

Strong Shoulders in Diving

Shoulders are another important area to stretch. When entering the water at speeds of 35 miles per hour, the shoulders absorb a lot of pressure. Strength and flexibility are essential to preventing injury. Here is a good shoulder stretch:

With the arms stretched on the opposite sides of the body, in a “T” shape position, raise the arms over the head, clasp the hands one on top of the other (as if you are diving into the water) and stretch tall.

  • Shrug the shoulders up and keep the arms tight to the body, trying to diminish any air pockets that might be found between the shoulders, the arms and the head.
  • If there is airspace, especially on platform, the force of the entry will cause the arms to move and can cause a shoulder injury.

Wrists & Toes in Diving

In diving, wrists take most of the pressure. That is why platform divers often wear tape on their wrists – to help strengthen those small muscles that take the brunt of the entry. Keeping the wrists strong and able to endure the impact will go a long way in preventing injury.

To stretch the wrists, circle them in both a clockwise and counterclockwise direction. Bend the hand back towards the arm and gently push the fingers with the opposite hand towards the arm. Repeat on the opposite wrist.

Often the last thing a judge sees when a diver enters the water is the toes. A solid toe point can add points to a diver’s performance, whereas a lackluster toe point will deduct points.

To stretch the toes

  • Sit down on a mat and extend one leg.
  • With the toes pointed, try to place one hand on the toes and push toes to the ground so that the toes and the heels are touching the ground at the same time.
  • Hold this stretch and repeat with the opposite foot.

Strong Core Equals Strong Dive

The core of the body is in the stomach. The stomach muscle not only helps a person have nice posture, it also helps prevent back injuries. In diving, the stomach is one of the most important muscles. In order for a diver to lift the legs up quickly in a pike position (say for a reverse dive pike), strong stomach muscles are required. To enter the water in a tight vertical position without allowing the impact to sway the body, tight stomach muscles are essential. To come out of a multiple flipping or twisting dive and stop the body in a square position, stomach muscles need to be strong.

To strengthen the core, divers often do a series of “pike-ups” and “tuck-ups.” These maneuvers not only strengthen the stomach muscles, but also help a diver practice coming out of a dive and simulate a rip entry.

For tuck-ups:

To start, lay on the back.

  • Place the arms above the head, narrow to the ears.
  • Slightly raise the legs, arms and the head off the floor and hold that position.
  • Bring the knees into a tuck position, and at the same time, bring the arms and the head to meet the legs.
  • The arms should follow a circle motion and grab hold of the legs, below the knees.
  • Squeeze and release back to starting position.
  • The arms should come up from the center of the body, grab the hands and pretend to reach for the water.
  • The head should stay in line with the arms and look up slightly as if entering the water.
  • Without resting the entire body on the floor, repeat.

For pike-ups:

These are essentially the same as tuck-ups, but in a pike or “V” position.

  • The legs should be tight when rising and lowering. The arms should reach for the toes and the body should be balanced on the bottom.
  • This is an extremely hard exercise and will take a lot of practice.

Body Awareness in Diving

Stretching not only gives divers flexibility, but it also helps with balance. Body awareness is crucial in diving. To know how to stop the body and initiate spins and twists, flexibility, strength, and balance are key ingredients. A good stretching program can enhance any diver’s skill set.

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