July 21, 2015
Stretching is an excellent way to avoid injury and increase your flexibility. You should always stretch before exercising, but it's also beneficial even if you aren't preparing to exert yourself. And it always feels great to loosen up stiff muscles. We already mentioned stretching in a previous post, but today we will go more in depth on the subject. Your stretching routine should ideally include all of your major muscle groups. We've chosen seven stretches you can perform to touch on many of them, from your head to your feet, but the list is by no means exhaustive. Read on if you're ready to limber up. 1. Head Tilts and Rotations This stretch is great for relief from stiff neck muscles. Stand with your back straight or sit upright in a chair, and square your shoulders. Tilt your head sideways toward each shoulder and hold it there for 5-10 seconds. You can hold it with your hand if you like. Next, rotate your head toward each shoulder without moving your back, and hold the stretch for 5-10 seconds. You'll feel a pull on your neck muscles as they are lengthened. Perform this cycle a total of five times. 2. Behind-the-Back Arm Raise If you slouch a lot, this stretch is the perfect remedy. While standing or sitting upright, clasp your hands behind your back and then raise your arms as high as you can. You'll feel the burn in your triceps and the outer edges of your pectoral muscles. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat twice. Bad posture shortens the muscles in your chest, but regularly doing this stretch will help combat the effect. 3. Standing Side Stretch For an all-body stretch that focuses on your abdominal obliques and your arms, begin by standing straight and with your feet together. Raise your arms above your head and clasp your hands with your forefingers extended. Inhale as you reach upward. Then exhale as you bend at the waist to one side. Take five slow breaths as you hold the stretch, and then return to center. Repeat on the opposite side, and then do the whole routine once more. 4. Seated Back Twist This is another great full-body stretch, but this one targets your obliques, back muscles, and glutes. Start by sitting on the floor with your legs straight. Bend your right leg at the knee and step your foot over your left leg, placing your right foot next to your left knee. Place your right hand on the floor with your fingers facing out to support yourself. Bend your left elbow so your hand is pointing up and turn to your right, placing your elbow against the outside of your right knee. Inhale, and then exhale as you twist your torso to the right. Also turn your neck and look over your right shoulder. Hold the position for five slow breaths, then switch sides. After the left side, do each side one more time. 5. Knee-to-Chest Stretch This stretch will firm your glutes and also help if you have lower back pain. First, lie on your back with your legs straight. Bend one of your legs and bring your knee up to your chest. Use your hands to pull the knee as close to your chest as you can without discomfort. Keep your other leg in a relaxed position, either outstretched or bent and with your foot on the floor, and hold for 30 seconds. Then perform the stretch on your other leg. Repeat once. 6. Wall-Assisted Leg Stretch Here's a great stretch for your hamstring, which runs along the back of your upper leg. Lie on your back near a door frame or the outer corner of a wall. Raise your leg and rest your heel against the wall, keeping your knee slightly bent. Then straighten your leg until you feel a pull in your thigh. If you want to maximize the stretch, you can try gradually scooting closer to the wall, but stop if it is painful. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and then switch sides. Do this twice for each leg. 7. Leg Lunges Last but not least is a stretch for your calves, which are especially important muscles for runners. If you want to support yourself with your hands during this stretch, you can stand at arm's length from a wall. Place your right foot in front of your left foot and bend your right knee. Lean forward slowly while keeping your left leg straight, your left heel on the floor, and your back straight. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then switch legs. Repeat once or twice. This routine should get you feeling nice and supple and ready to face whatever the day presents. However, there's no need to stop with these seven. Check out the injury prevention page for more stretches and exercises to keep you healthy, accompanied by video guides! If we've left out one of your favorite stretches, leave a comment and tell us about it. And as always, stay tuned to the blog for more helpful information about exercise, nutrition and health.