Hello again! In my last few fitness articles, we have gone over different exercises to help strengthen your body, using a variety of methods and movements, either with weights, or just using body weight alone. It occurred to me that until now, I haven’t gone into the importance of stretching and the correct ways to incorporate it into your training, so that’s what we will focus on today.
Stretching your muscles is probably more important than actually working them out. Some of the benefits to the body from stretching are as follows.
- Improves Flexibility
- Decreases the Risk of Injury
- Reduces Muscle Tension
- Improves Circulation
- Reduces Anxiety, Stress and Fatigue
- Improves Muscle Coordination
- Improves Physical Performance
- Enhances Enjoyment of Physical Activities
Does this help to make sense of why stretching is so important? It is recommended that for every hour that you spend working out, you should spend 10 minutes stretching. Staying fit is about longevity, and by getting into the habit of stretching, you help to ensure your health and progress throughout the years.
Here are some important things to remember when it comes to stretching the muscles.
- Always warm-up first, get the blood circulating through the muscle tissue.
- Stretch until you feel mild discomfort, not pain.
- Never bounce, just stretch and hold it.
- 10-30 seconds is a good time frame to hold a stretch.
We are going to look at stretches for both the lower and upper body. Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up.
Lying Quadriceps Stretch
Lie on your side. Pull your heel toward your butt until a stretch is felt in front of the thigh. Repeat with both legs 2-3 times.
Standing Quad Stretch
It may help to hold onto something for balance for this one. Pull your heel toward your butt until a stretch is felt in front of the thigh. Keep leg close to body with knee pointing to the ground. Repeat with both legs 2-3 times.
Lying Hamstring Stretch
Slowly bring your knee towards your chest. Gently extend the leg with knee slightly bent and hold when in a comfortable stretch. Repeat with both legs 2-3 times.
Sitting Hammie Stretch
Bend the knee of your left leg and keep the right leg extended slightly bent. Now bend at the waist towards your left foot. Hold your lower leg for support. Repeat with both legs 2-3 times.
Place your hands against the wall, keeping your back leg straight. Push the heels down and slowly lean forward ,until the stretch is felt in the back of the calf. Repeat with both legs 2-3 times.
Hip Adductors (inner thighs)
Gently push knees to floor until a stretch is felt. Keep your back straight. Repeat 2-3 times.
Cross your right leg over your left leg. Look over your right shoulder while turning your trunk and pushing back on knee with left elbow. Repeat on both sides 2-3 times.
Slowly lean and push hip to floor until stretch is felt on front of hip. Repeat with both sides 2-3 times.
Place your right foot above the left knee. Slowly lift your left leg towards your chest. Keep your arms flat on the floor. Repeat with both legs 2-3 times.
Ok, let’s move onto the muscles of the upper body.
Sit or stand with your hands loosely at your sides. Gently tilt your head sideways, hold for 5 seconds. Go to the other side, hold. Now tilt your head forward, hold, and then backwards Repeat 2-3 times.
Place both arms directly behind you against a flat surface, (a doorway works well )with arms parallel to the floor. Push against the jambs until a stretch is felt in the chest. Repeat 2-3 times.
Lying Ab Stretch
Lie on your stomach and push your upper torso upwards with your arms until the stretch is felt. Repeat 2-3 times.
Begin by kneeling and extending forward until stretch is felt.Slide hands forward and push your butt backward. Repeat twice.
Pull your left arm across your chest and push on your elbow close to your chest with your right hand. Repeat 2-3 times on each side.
Raise your right arm over your head, with your elbow pointing towards the ceiling. Pull down on your elbow and lean towards the opposite side. Repeat 2-3 times.
Reach your arms behind your back and interlock your fingers. Slightly raise the arms and pull them away from your trunk. Repeat 2-3 times.
These stretches will effectively hit the major muscle groups of your body. There are many different variations of course. If some of these don’t feel comfortable, feel free to check out alternative methods. Go slow, and listen to your body, it will object at first, but with repeated work over time, it will appreciate this new feeling of looseness and reward you accordingly. Be safe, be healthy and be happy!