Skydiving Health and Fitness—Stretches for Getting Back to Skydiving
Features | Sep 01, 2020
Skydiving Health and Fitness—Stretches for Getting Back to Skydiving

Nancy Grieger

Check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. If you have any questions about the exercises contained in this article, consult with a local certified professional or contact Dr. Nancy Grieger at (702) 904-0178 or through her website, blueskiesphysicaltherapy.com

Over the past six months, COVID-19 restrictions have paused the active and busy lives we lead. This, of course, has extended to skydiving. As we return to the air, stiffness or muscle soreness is likely, since we’re undoubtedly performing motions that we don’t normally perform on the ground. Even if you haven’t taken a long layoff from the sport (or have been back in the air for a while now), pre-jump stretching can help you be more flexible, increase your range of motion, reduce muscle soreness and decrease your risk for injury.

When you perform warm-up stretches, you’ll want to target the main muscle groups that you plan on using during your jump. The following stretches address the most common physical issues for each discipline, as well as for our “essential workers” (manifest, packers and pilots). Photos of jumpers and staff at Skydive Elsinore performing each exercise accompany each description.Video of each exercise is also available at youtube.com/skydiveuspa.

 

CANOPY FORMATION: CERVICAL RETRACTION EXERCISE

Exercise performed by canopy formation skydiver Cat Isgrigg of team Safety Brief.

Canopy formation skydivers often have hard openings that cause neck pain and strains. The movement in this cervical retraction exercise reinforces proper biomechanics. To get the most benefit from this exercise, perform it in repetitions of 10, eight times a day. Jumpers may also wish to do it just prior to and just after each jump.

Start Position: Seated upright, feet on the floor.

Action: Maintain the head in a neutral position and move the chin back toward your neck (double-chin position). Keep your gaze down toward the floor so you don’t lift your chin. Return to neutral in a straight line. Perform this movement 10 times.

Reminder: If you feel pain and it moves down your arm, stop and consult a healthcare professional.

 

 

CANOPY PILOTING: PRONE ANTERIOR CAPSULE STRETCH

Exercise performed by canopy pilot Andy Malchiodi.

Canopy piloting requires shoulder flexibility, especially for distance runs where the shoulder is in extension and the body is leaning forward in the harness. This position puts a lot of pressure on the anterior shoulder, which can cause poor biomechanics, stiffness, strain and pain. Performing three 30-second prone anterior capsule stretches before each jump can help.

Start Position: Lie on your stomach with the affected arm out to the side. The level of the arm will be determined by where you feel the stretch.

Action: Using your opposite arm, press yourself up while keeping the affected shoulder and arm on the floor.

Reminder: If you have a previous cervical injury and feel pain moving down your arm, stop and consult a physical therapist to evaluate the cervical component.

 

 

FREESTYLE AND FREEFLY: HIP EXTERNAL ROTATION AND HIP INTERNAL ROTATION STRETCHES

Exercise performed by load organizer Amberly Brown.

Freestyle and freefly skydivers rely on their lower extremities to control their flying and help them remain stable while docking. The hips need to rotate freely while performing head-up and head-down positions. Hip rotation stretches help with this. Perform both the external and internal stretches on each side three times, holding each stretch for 30 seconds.

Hip External Rotation

Start Position: Sit upright in the chair. Place the ankle of one foot on the knee of the other leg.

Action: Push the top knee downward, which will stretch the hip. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Hip Internal Rotation

Start Position: Lie on the floor with both knees bent and your feet on the floor. Let one knee fall inward and place the other foot on the outside of the knee.

Action: Push the bottom leg down with the opposite heel to stretch the bottom hip.

Reminder: Amberly Brown, who is demonstrating this exercise, is probably more flexible than you.

 

 

FORMATION SKYDIVING: KNEELING HIP FLEXOR STRETCH

Exercise performed by formation skydiver Brian Schroeder from Elsinore Elevate.

Formation skydivers fall belly to earth. This puts tension on the hip flexors, which may cause anterior hip pain and tightness. A useful stretch for combatting this is the kneeling hip flexor stretch. Perform 30-second stretches three times on both sides.

Start Position: Assume a half-kneeling position with one knee on the ground (this is the leg that will stretch) and the other bent at 90 degrees with the foot on the ground and the toes pointing straight ahead.

Action: Lean forward from the hips until you feel a stretch along the anterior hip and thigh.

 

 

MANIFEST: WRIST FLEXION AND EXTENSION

Exercise performed by Skydive Elsinore Operations Manager Daniella Martin.

Manifest staff often experience wrist and forearm pain from repetitive motions while using the computer or writing. Useful stretches are wrist flexions and extensions. Perform 30-second stretches (both extensions and flexions) three times on both sides.

Start Position: Stand with your elbows straight and arms extended. Grasp one hand in the other.

Action: Pull up to flex the wrist and down to extend it until you feel it in your forearm and wrist.

 

 

MECHANICS: GASTROCNEMIUS & SOLEUS STRETCHES

Exercise performed by FAA Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic Jim Tveito

Aircraft mechanics are constantly lifting, carrying, reaching and climbing. Going up and down a ladder is exhausting, which can also lead to muscle cramps and tightness. Gastrocnemius (muscle at the back part of the lower leg) and soleus (lower calf muscle) stretches, performed three times for 30 seconds each on both sides, help with this.

Start Position: Stand with your hands against an object with one leg forward and one back. Keep your back leg straight and your heel on floor.

Action: Lean into a wall (or plane) until you feel a stretch in your calf.

Start Position: Stand with your hands against an object with one leg forward and one back. Keep your back leg straight and your heel on floor.

Action: Lean into a wall (or plane) until you feel a stretch in your calf.

 

 

PACKERS: SEATED THORACIC EXTENSION

Exercise performed by packer Chantal Schwartz.

Packers lean forward while they lift and pack parachutes, which can cause upper-back pain. Leaning over for long periods can create a stretch weakness and strain on the middle-trap, lower-trap and rhomboid muscles. Seated thoracic extension exercises, repeated five to 10 times at the desired spine level, can help.

Start Position: Sit upright in a chair with a back support (such as a foam roll) at the desired level. Place your hands behind your head and bring elbows toward the front of your head.

Action: Slowly tilt backward so that you feel a stretch in your mid-back, adjust the foam roll accordingly.

Tip: You can adjust the foam roll for your comfort and to the area of the spine you feel is tight.

 

 

PILOTS: LEVATOR SCAP STRETCH

Exercise performed by pilot Raider Ramstad.

Pilots sit all day with head gear on and work through all types of aches and pains. Levator scap stretches, performed three times for 30 seconds on both sides, help decrease tension and improve mobility.

Start Position: Sit up straight and place one arm behind your back. Turn your head in the direction that’s away from the arm that’s behind your back.

Action: Place your free hand on top of your head and gently pull downward toward your armpit.

 

 

TANDEM INSTRUCTORS: SLEEPER STRETCH

Exercise performed by Tandem Instructor Adrian Bond.

Tandem instructors wear heavy rigs and are in droguefall and under canopy with the weight of another person. This may cause anterior shoulder pain, which may be accentuated if they also use a hand cam. In these cases, a sleeper stretch can be useful.

Start Position: Stand at the wall with your elbow and shoulder touching the wall. Maintain a 90-degree bend in your elbow. Your body and shoulder should be at a 45-degree angle from the wall.

Action: Press down just above the wrist to feel a stretch in your posterior shoulder.

Reminder: Do not allow your shoulder to come off the wall, and try to keep contact with your posterior arm.

 

 

WINGSUITERS: THORACIC PRAYER STRETCH

Exercise performed by wingsuit flyer Julia Botelho Morgan from the Bob’s BASE Academy.

Wingsuit flyers maintain equal pressure and bilateral movement while flying their suits. Their lats can get tired and show signs of fatigue after a long day of flying. The thoracic prayer stretch can help.

Start Position: Kneel at a table. Curl your arms by flexing your biceps, and clasp your hands behind your head.

Action: While keeping your elbows on the table, move back and bring your body down. (Sit on your heels and reach your head down as if you were trying to touch the floor with your face.)

 

 


About the Author

Dr. Nancy Grieger, C-44952, is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. She owns Blue Skies Physical Therapy at Skydive Elsinore in California, where she does hands-on and tele-medicine consultations. Jumpers may contact her through her website at blueskiesphysicaltherapy.com.

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