Stretching is defined as lengthening muscles deliberately by bending the body into various positions. When you incorporate correct stretching techniques it helps your body to become flexible, increases the mobility of your joints, improves your blood circulation, posture, and the range of movements of your limbs and joints. It also prevents injuries that usually occur while weight training, or performing other exercises or sports. Also, it helps relieve stress.
According to recent research, it has been proven that a flexible body is less prone to soreness in the muscles after intense exercise. The research has established that less flexible, stiff muscles have a tendency of sustaining damage in the muscle fiber when they experience the strain of intense weight training, or any form of activity that puts extra stress on them. This only underlines the importance of incorporating muscle stretching exercises in your workout routine, or in your daily life. However, before you get down to stretch your muscles, given below are a few stretching techniques you need to keep in mind.
- Before you stretch your muscles or joints, it is important to warm them up by doing some kind of light-cardio exercise, like walking on the treadmill or riding a stationary bike for about 5 minutes.
- Breathe normally while doing perform your exercises. Never hold your breath when in the stretch.
- Stretching your muscles or joints to the point of pain should be avoided because this can result in injuries to delicate connective tissues.
- During the stretch, it is important to keep your mind focused on the group of muscles being stretched.
- Do your warm up in gentle and slow movements. Never use forceful, bouncy moves as this will injure the tissues and joints.
- Perform the stretches both before your workout, to prepare your body for the intense activity, as well as after it, as a way of cooling down. Stretching the muscles after an intense workout, whether with weights or a cardio session, can be very soothing and relaxing.
- One of the most fundamental stretching techniques is to hold your stretch for 10 to 15 seconds. While some people do recommend holding stretches for longer durations, there is no extra benefit derived from it, and it can sometimes even lead to over stretching of tendons and joints.
Although this is a simple exercise, it is an important one. It reduces the tension at the nape of the neck and is very relaxing for the entire body.
- Stand straight with your hands loosely hanging by your sides. Take two or three deep breaths to relax your body.
- Now, gently lower your head in front until your chin comes in contact with the top part of your chest.
- Gradually, rotate your head until your left ear is on top of your left shoulder.
- Keep rotating your head until your head tilts backward and your chin points upward.
- Continue rotating, getting your right ear over the right shoulder. Then come back into the first chin-to-chest position.
- Repeat the rotations 3-5 times, and then do them the opposite way.
This stretch helps make your lower body more flexible. Apart from stretching your hamstrings, it also stretches the muscles in your lower back.
- Lift one leg, and place the foot on a waist-high bench.
- Keep the leg you are standing on straight, and bend your torso forwards in order to grab hold of the leg on the bench.
- Try to hold it as low down as possible. You will feel the hamstrings in the raised leg stretching. Hold this stretch for about 10-15 seconds, and release out of it. Repeat the stretch with the other leg.
Forward Bend, Standing
This is an excellent exercise for stretching the lower back and the hamstring muscles. It not only relieves the tight hamstring muscles, but also lengthens them.
- Stand straight keeping your feet together.
- Then, bend your torso forward, lowering your head, and grab hold of your ankles, taking care not to bend your knees.
- Try to go down as low as possible, getting your chest as close to your thighs as you can. You will feel a strong stretch in your lower back and hamstrings. Hold the stretch for around 10-15 seconds, and then release, coming up to an upright position slowly. Do this 3 to 5 times.
Twists, Bent Over
- This is a variation of the above exercise, the only difference being bending your body forward so that your upper body is parallel to the floor.
- Now twist your torso towards your right leg so that the fingers of your left hand touch your right foot, and your right hand is pointing straight up towards the ceiling.
- Then, twist the other way so that your right hand touches your left foot. Besides stretching the external oblique muscles, this also stretches your hamstrings. Repeat 5 times.
Quadriceps are the muscles in front of your thighs.
- Get into a kneeling position on the floor, keeping your feet apart behind you.
- Now, sit back so that your buttocks are between your spread feet, placing your hands on the floor at the back.
- Now, leaning back as much as possible, feel the stretch in your quadriceps. Hold the stretch for about 10-15 seconds, and then release. You can repeat this exercise 2-3 times if you wish.
This is an excellent and very relaxing exercise which, apart from stretching your inner thighs, also opens out your hip muscles, making them more flexible.
- First, sit on the floor with your legs bent at the knees so that the soles of your feet face and touch each other in front of you.
- Then, bend your torso forward and clasp your toes with your hands, resting your arms on top of your thighs.
- Now, gently pull your feet, drawing them as near your groin as you can, while pressing your elbows down so that your knees are as close to the floor as possible. Hold this stretch for about 10-15 seconds, and then release it.
- Lie down on the floor in a prone position.
- Now, bend your knees so that your feet are pointed toward the ceiling. Then, lifting your head and torso off the floor, reach behind with your hands, and clasp the ankles of each leg.
- Now, pull your legs up towards the back of your head, tilting your head back as much as possible, while you lift your chest up further off the floor. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds, and then release, getting back into the prone position.
This is a wonderfully relaxing stretch. It uses the weight of your body to stretch your whole body and your spine. Plus, it is quite simple to perform.
- Grasp a chin-up bar, or anything that will take the weight of your body, and simply hang from it.
- Hold the stretch for about 10-15 seconds, and then let go off the bar and relax.
This is a very good exercise, wherein you use the resistance of your lower body to stretch your upper body.
- Begin by standing straight, with your feet apart, keeping your knees bent slightly.
- Now, raising your arms on both sides hold them parallel to the floor.
- Swivel the upper part of your body toward your right, keeping your hips facing in the front in order to isolate your torso, and then turn around toward your left, twisting as much as possible on both sides. Repeat 5 times.
As the body ages, its flexibility and suppleness deteriorates if it is not stretched. Hence, make time for yourself to stretch, in order to keep your body pliable and prevent the pains and aches that occur when you are out of condition. You will certainly be thankful for it when you feel the benefits you derive from it. It will keep you youthful, physically fit, and gracefully supple, no matter what your age may be.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.