When I go to the gym there is one thing I usually never do: stretch. Most of the time it is laziness or not having enough time, nonetheless I neglect my muscles and don’t allow them the opportunity to rest. I’m sure that I’m not the only person who forgets to stretch so I decided to research why stretching is so important. And because we haven’t been posting as mean health-related posts I decided to make this post even better and include a few stretching exercises that will tone your muscles!
Stretching has been said to have many benefits and mayoclinic.com and fitday.com provided excellent information on the benefits of stretching. Two key benefits to stretching is that it improves athletic performance and improves flexibility. There has been much debate on whether or not stretching actually reduces the risk of injury but people still believe that is a benefit as well. Stretching allows your joints to move through a full range of motion, increases flexibility, and it increases the blood flow to the muscle which reduces muscle soreness. Also, stretching can help reduce your stress because you are able to relax your tense muscles and straighten your lower back muscles! Those are definitely great benefits that makes me want to stretch more.
Tips for Technique!
Before you jump on the bandwagon and start stretching, here are a few tips to make sure you have the proper technique:
- Before stretching, do a light 5-10 minute warmup exercise. This is done so you won’t stretch tight muscles
- Hold off stretching before an intense activity because it might decrease performance
- Focus on major muscle groups like calves, thighs, neck, or shoulders
- Stretch muscles that you routinely use during daily activity
- Don’t bounce while stretching. You can cause tears in the muscles, making you less flexible. Hold the stretch instead of bouncing
As promised, here are my favorite stretching exercises that I found on fitnessmagazine.com that improve your body’s performance:
1. Active Pigeon
- Begin in a full push-up position, palms aligned under shoulders.
- Place left knee on the floor near shoulder with left heel by right hip.
- Lower down to forearms and bring right leg down with the top of the foot on the floor (not shown).
- Keep chest lifted to the wall in front of you, gazing down.
- If you’re more flexible, bring chest down to floor and extend arms in front of you.
- Pull navel in toward spine and tighten your pelvic-floor muscles; contract right side of glutes.
- Curl right toes under while pressing ball of foot into the floor, pushing through your heel.
- Bend knee to floor and release; do 5 reps total, then switch sides and repeat.
2. Modified Cobra
- Lie facedown on the floor with thumbs directly under shoulders, legs extended with the tops of your feet on the floor.
- Tighten your pelvic floor, and tuck hips downward as you squeeze your glutes.
- Press shoulders down and away from ears.
- Push through your thumbs and index fingers as you raise your chest toward the wall in front of you.
- Relax and repeat.
- Do 5 reps total.
3. Hamstring Stretch Series
- Place a small folded towel behind your head and lie face-up on the floor with legs extended and feet flexed.
- Bend right knee to chest and interlace fingers behind hamstrings as close to your groin as possible; gaze at your chest and keep your chin down, neck long (not shown).
- Tighten the muscles of your pelvic floor and extend leg, pushing through the heel and contracting quads.
- Return to start and repeat; do 5 reps.
- Repeat, turning thigh outward (heel points in), for 5 reps.
- Relax and repeat, turning thigh inward (heel points out, toes point in), for 5 reps.
- Switch legs; repeat series for a total of 15 reps on each leg
I hope you’re now more motivated to stretch when you hit the gym. I know I am! Enjoy your week everyone. 😀