Stretching is the deliberate lengthening of muscles in order to increase muscle flexibility and join range of motion. Stretching is an important part of any exercise or rehabilitation program. We all need to stretch, whether we are chronic sitter, a weekend warrior or a daily exerciser. Stretching helps warm the body up prior to activity thus decreasing the risk of injury and pain.
Stretches has so many benefits. Just start a program of stretching, and you will soon notice many of them.
Some of the Stretching benefits are:
- Relief from pain
- Increased energy levels
- Increased flexibility
- Better range of motion of the joints
- Greater circulation of blood to various part of the body
- Relaxation and stress relief
- Enhanced muscular coordination
- Improve posture
During the stretching you shouldn’t feel pain, and if you start feeling it, you should pinpoint the muscle that gives you trouble and change the technique you have been using in order to avoid getting injured. You must try to concentrate on your breathing and make sure these movements are as natural as possible.
The illustrations we are going to present are made by Vicky Timon, a yoga expert and author of ‘Encyclopedia of Pilates Exercises” and James Kilgallon.
- Camel Pose
With this pose we are going to stretch rectus abdominus and external obliques. You must sit on your heels; put your hands behind you and start pushing your hips up and forward.
- Wide Forward Fold
This exercise is great for stretching the adductors and the hamstrings. Start with your knees bent, holding your spine straight. Then straighten your legs, round out your back and reach for your feet. You need to pull easily on the bottom of the balls of your feet to release the calf muscles. If you can’t reach your feet you can try using a belt or a towel.
- Frog Pose
We use frog pose to stretch the adductors. You should rest your hands and knees, and then bring your knees wider until you feel your groin muscles well stretched. Try to push your hips back and forward.
- Wide Side Lunge Pose
Put your both feet forward in a wide stance and hold your legs as straight as you can. With your hands, walk to right foot and then bend your right knee and rotate your left toes up the ceiling, sitting in your right hip. With this pose you are starching your adductors.
- Butterfly Stretch
Sitting, bring the soles of your feet together and sit tall through your sit bones. Start putting pressure on your knees, using your hands. Make sure your feet are far from your hips and slowly round your upper body to lose your back muscles.
This is one of the best ways to stretch your adductors.
- Forearm Extensor Stretch
To stretch your forearm extensor you should pack your shoulders and your back down and rotate the shoulder towards outside to get into the optimal position. Then put pressure on your other hand to start the stretch. You will develop this stretch by touching the tips of your finger in the shape of a tea cup.
- Lateral Side Flexion of the Neck
To stretch you sternocleidomastoideus you must prolong your neck as much as you can and slowly drop your ear to your shoulder. Doing this you must take care that you are not collapsing your cervical spine.
- Neck Rotation Stretch
This is also stretch for m. sternocleidomastoideus. Start with rotation of your neck, while keeping your chin a bit elevated to isolate the sternolceidomastoideus. You can put pressure with the opposite hand from the direction that you are rotating.
- Neck Extension Stretch
You can start this stretch by putting your hands on your hips, and in meantime, by keep your spine long start to tilt your head back.
- Lateral Side Flexion of the Neck with Hand Assistance
Start this exercise by dropping your ear to your shoulder prolonging your neck as much as possible. You can advance this exercise by creating consistent tension down the arm and the neck, achieve this by sitting on a chair and grabbing the bottom of its seat.
- Half Kneeling Quad/ Hip Flexor Stretch
You should start this position by half kneeling. Proceed by bringing your right hip forward and you should start feeling a stretch in the front of you hip. After you feel the stretch you should reach for your back foot and squeeze your back glute, with this you will add extra stretch to your hip flexor.
- Forearm Extensor Stretch
Begin this exercise by packing your back and shoulder down. Then proceed by rotating your shoulder towards outside in order to stretch your forearm muscle. To advance this exercise try touching the tips of your fingers together in the shape of a tea cup.
- Lateral Shoulder Stretch
Stretch your arm across your body and with the other arm apply pressure to add the extra stretch to your shoulder.
- Standing Assisted Neck Flexion Stretch
Start the exercise by standing on the ground with your feet side by side. Slowly sit your hips back and round your upper back, making sure that your spine is prolonged.
- Lat Stretch with Spinal Traction
For this exercise you will need a bar. Take a firm grip on the bar and slowly lift your feet of the ground and you should feel the stretch in the chest and lats. Be advised not to perform this kind of exercise in case of recent shoulder injury or if you have impingement shoulder.
- Lat Stretch at The Wall
This is an easy exercise to make, although make sure not to perform this kind of exercise if you have problems with your lower back. Put both of your hand on the corner of a wall or a post. Push your hips out to the side maintaining your spine prolonged the whole time.
- Child’s Pose
To start this position you should get on the ground with both your hands and knees. After taking this pose than slowly move back with your hips until your forehead is on the floor. Bring your knees wider for better stretch.
- Standing Calf Stretch
All you need for this exercise is a stair step. Rotate your ankles a bit towards inside and outside to stretch your calf muscles.
- Front Split
Since this is an advanced exercise, it should not be performed by beginners or by someone with hip problems. Being in position of kneeling lunge. Chair support can be pretty beneficial while your hip flexor and hamstrings release.
- Seated Forward Fold/ Seated Toe Touch
Sit into your seat bones and bend your knees if you need to. Your legs will become stronger as your flexibility gets better. Make sure your spine is as straight as possible.
- Single Led Forward Bend
Have your feet positioned one in front of another. Keeping your back straight, bring your hands to your hips and start bending from the hips.
- Deep Squat
This is a great stretch with impact on your whole body. If you have knees problems or cannot keep heels on the ground, we recommend you to perform squats before proceeding. Stand with feet apart in shoulder width and then start gradually lowering into deep squat. When you get to the position of deep squat, bring your arms inside your legs and put little pressure to the inside of your knees.
23.Seated Half King Pigeon Pose
Muscles emphasized: glutes. Start in a seated position, then gradually start pulling your leg in the direction of your chest while rotating your hip towards outside. It is important to keep your spine straight. This stretch will be felt in the glutes.
24.Standing Calf Stretch at the Wall
Muscles emphasized: solves and gastrocnemius. Begin in a lunge position, while having the back of your foot a bit turned out. Slowly start bringing the back of your heel to the floor to stretch your calf muscles.
25.Lateral Flexion at the Walt
Muscles emphasized: external obliques. While your spine is prolonged gradually push your hips outside . Keep in mind that if you have troubles with your lower back, do not perform this stretch.
Muscles emphasized: glutes and external obliques. If you are suffering from sciatica pain this exercise is incredibly good to get rid of it. Start with lying flat on your back and slowly bring on leg across your body like it is shown on picture 26. Afterward gradually rotate your gaze and upper body in the opposite direction. The important thing here is the flat that you use your breath to open up your rib cage and sacroiliac joint and hip area without putting enormous pressure on the lower back. This one may be difficult. If so, stack both of your knees on top of each other. When you are in this position, more stretch on the upper spine will be felt when the knees are higher, also more stretch on the lumbar spine when the knees are lower.
27.Lateral Flexion with a Dowel
Muscles emphasized:external obliques and latissimus dorsi. Keep your spine long, push your hips out to the side while your shoulders are rotated outwardly. Important thing is that if you have problems with your lower back, do not perform this one.
Muscles emphasized:external obliques. Start with a wide stand and keep your right foot straight ahead in front, and the back foot at 90 degrees. Your hand should be put on the front leg or on the floor. Keep your back straight, while sitting back into your front hip. Rotate away from your front leg and maintain your look on the hand that is in the air.
29.Chest stretch at the Wall
Muscles emphasized:pectorals. Stand near the wall and face it with your thumb up. Gradually rotate away from it in the event to stretch your chest muscle. You will feel this stretch in the belly muscle. You should be careful not to stretch too far, because it will result with a pain in the shoulder joint.
30.Assisted Chest Stretch
Muscles emphasized: chest and latissimus dorsi. Starting position – lay down on the floor and hold your palms faced up. This one should be performed with a partner. Your partner should sit in a deep squat and hold your hands, thus you are supposed to feel a stretch in your chest and lats. Some traction in your spine will be caused by this stretch. Do not perform this stretch if you have shoulder impingement.
31.Seated Half Pigeon Variation
Muscles emphasized: anterior tibialis. Starting position for this stretch is sitting with your feet positioned in front of you. One hand should be put behind and then rotate your hip outwardly and put one foot above your knee.
32.Supine Shoulder External Rotation Stretch
Muscles emphasized: subscapularis. Lay flat on your back. Gradually place your arm straight out to the side with your elbow at an angle of 90 degrees. Then slowly bring the back of your hand to the floor. If you can’t perform this with your hand on the floor, and it is still far from the floor it means your rotatory cuff and muscles that control internal rotation are tight.
33.Down Dog Variation at the Wall
Muscles emphasized:pectorals and latissimus dorsi. Stand far enough from a wall or rack so that when you touch the wall your body is into parallel position to the ground. Pivot at the hips and make sure your spine is straight all the time. Next step is to move your chest forward and make a slight in your upper back and stretch your lats and chest muscles. If you feel your hamstrings tight, try bending at the knees.
34.Assisted Chest Stretch Variation