While footbag may be a fun pastime it also can provide many other benefits to you in your overall health and wellbeing, helping you to build up your cardio levels, flexibility, and skills so is hacky sack good exercise?
Hacky Sack is a very good way to build or recover from injury along with helping expand your flexibility, cardio, and even weight loss. On average an hour of play burns 281 calories which would equate out to 1 pound per 16 days of play on its own!
As you see the benefit to getting exercise outside with a full body movement has long lasting results that can help your joints remain young and limber along with maintaining good hand, eye, foot coordination making sure to keep your mind as limber as your body.
Before you start to play it is always good to work on stretching to ensure you have no issues with your play.
An important part of preparation is stretching as you want to get your muscles and ligaments ready for the side to side motions and movements to ensure they don't get tweaked or have issues as no one wants to physically break down.
Below is an example of a good pre play stretch that replicates the motion while playing, don't pay attention to the "runners" part in the name as the stretch is very on point to your movement and opening up the hip.
These stretches are the ones you will see many professional athletes doing prior to a game as they aren't held for long periods of time. These would be things like lunges, squats, jumping jacks, or other types of more consistent movement-related stretching.
A static stretch is something most of us began doing in grade school which is more isolated with longer holds of 20-30 seconds. While these used to be a favorite for warm ups they are questionable nowadays.
The best example I have read is like a rubber band and that those muscles when taken to long time holds are more prone to injury and tearing, these are much better used as cool-down stretches after the activity has concluded while the muscle is already warm.
For a footbag player there aren't many stretches that specifically target things that directly improve your Hacky Sack play.
I have experienced issues with my knees having less than wanted mobility in twisting and moving in non-walking ways as many moves of your legs are awkward at first.
The in-step requires you to be able to pull your foot up on the inside of your hip, for many this will be very tight through the entire motion especially in the groin and hips.
Sitting on the ground with the bottoms of your feet touching will help you work on opening the hip and groin.
While holding the stretch you want to use your elbows to help apply pressure on your knees to work on getting them close to or touching the ground over time, this flexibility is key to your ability to In-Step hit the bag reliably and with power.
This is the old way you sat as a kid in school with your legs crossed underneath you and is a no impact way to passively work on your leg flexibility.
Just take time to sit this way and aim for longer times and more relaxed legs and knees which are closer to the ground as possible.
While sitting this would be extending your legs out directly in front of you and your goal would be to be able to touch your toes or further without pressing.
This will take some time if you are older to work on the stiffness that many adults will have, as you do this you will slowly get further and further until you can reach past your toes.
Another aspect of playing footbag is overall balance since you play much of the game on only a single leg, especially when doing freestyle juggles.
Lets face it if you can't balance well you may need to work on this first to ensure you can grow, at least this is part of the footbag game!
For many of you who start playing you will have a strong side, where you can balance well and do most hits without much issue, and a weak side, which has difficulties with tricks.
This is something you will want to work through and build up your weak side as you need to be as balanced as possible to effectively play with others as you may not get a kick to your favorable side.
The most simple way to begin training the weak side is to always serve to yourself on your non-dominant (weak) side as this forces you to start adapting and the second will be on the more dominant side allowing you to get it back to the weak side for another hit more consistently.
If you are looking for a way to kick your heart rate up a bit when you don't have others to play with you can run through some drills on tricks to build up your overall fitness base.
For most drills just start from a drop at chest height and attempt to maintain the flow through as many reps as possible when not stated.
You can do this drill with any hit that returns the bag back to the drop point. For the example we will use knee hits as it is a very beginner friendly practice move making it very achievable on even your first day.
You want to hold your footbag at chest height and release it over your target knee and your objective is to hit the bag with your knee back into your hand to grab.
Your objective is to do this once and catch and then continue through a certain set of repetitions, for many this will be about 10-20 then you would want to switch to the opposite leg.
Then move to the next move or hit and start over, not only does this give you an all over workout but will help you raise your skill levels on multiple moves that allows for simple and easy practice.
While this may seem like a big jump I assure you it isn't, what you will be doing is working on your juggling from leg to leg and not focus on keeping it under control on one leg.
This will help you begin to gauge how hard you need to hit a bag to to pass it back and forth between your legs, you will become more flexible and faster to respond on plays and passes.
Juggling here is in the transfer from one leg to another and is about maintaining control and continuing to move the bag around your body.
You need to practice your self-serve and hit from one leg to the other or foot to the other foot. The higher you kick the bag the harder it will be to maintain the control.
Now you can start doing choreographed tricks if you'd like. The 1-2-3 drill can be any number, it's just a planned string of movements. It's up to you!
If you are wanting to get in a more serious workout then you would like to push it to something more involved.
Something similar to 60 inside kicks in 60 seconds (30 left 30 right), 30 outsides for each foot for one min, then 30 inside stalls per foot in one minute will usually be a pretty good warm-up.
Then you can switch to a focused freestyle session for 10 minutes by practicing a trick specifically several times until mastered and switch back to the previous cardio section.
According to FitDay I would burn approximately 303 calories per hour playing Hacky Sack. This is a complete body workout involving all of your muscles and ligaments and if you play solidly for an hour you will definitely feel it!
Any opportunity to get some exercise in is very healthy for you and helps ensure your body stays strong and limber, as many people seem to become less active and less limber over time.
To me this isn't even considered exercising and it is more around getting outside and just enjoying the sun and breeze while getting in some play and goof time.
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