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Benefits of stretching…properly!
Stretching is something that people either really hate because of comfort or are just not too sure exactly how and what to stretch. Don’t fret; I too am guilty of not properly stretching before a workout. And believe me I pay the ultimate price when trying to enjoy yoga. I am usually the one in the back making awkward noises and sweating like crazy when trying to get into a position. I have just recently found though how important it is to make it a habit when I hit the gym. If you only knew the key benefits of stretching, you would be very interested in partaking in that rigorous, painful, uncomfortable experience. Being more flexible and comfortable, more guys may become interested in trying other fun activities like Yoga and Pilates. If done correctly, stretching can improve flexibility to the joints and posture, reduce the chances of injury in physical activity while increasing blood flow to the muscles. There are also other benefits to proper stretching that can make you a lot more limber in the bedroom. That being said, stretching must be done carefully, the idea is to not force your muscles to a point where you injure yourself so you can’t enjoy what it is you’re going to do. Failure to stretch properly can even keep you out of the game longer than anticipated. When stretching never bounce when trying to hold the position, think of an elastic band expanding and contracting, and now picture your muscle reaction the same. A stretch should be a comfortable pull on the part being stretched, and held firmly for a desired count, whether it is 10, 15, or 20 seconds or more. When relaxing from the stretch, slowly ease yourself back to the normal or relaxed position. Any sudden jerks or twitches can do harm to your muscle as it is slowly coming to the resting position. A good idea to incorporate before stretching is to get those muscles warmed up. A light run or jog before hand, keep it simple and smooth, and keep it to about 5 minutes. It is also recommended to stretch after a workout to avoid any muscle cramps or joint stiffness.
Stretching can also be useful in our daily jobs. A lot of us either sit at a desk all day, on the road or are always moving. Take a couple minutes out of your day, whether it is before work, on break or even after work, to do a quick stretch. You will feel a lot better and your muscles will thank you.
Below are some basic techniques of stretching that you can implement into your daily routine. You can repeat each stretch as many times as you like. Also remember to take deep breaths while holding a position.
1. Calf Stretch
Find a sturdy partition, stand up straight. Place one foot on a 45 degree angle while guiding yourself closer to the wall or object. Feel the stretch, hold it, then ease yourself back and release. Switch feet and repeat as many times as you like.
2. Upper back and Shoulder Stretch
There are two different ways to do this stretch. The first, raise your arm above your head, with your other arm grab your elbow and push back, trying to reach the opposite hand down your back. The second, pull your arm across your chest, with the opposite hand guiding the stretch at the elbow.
3. Heel to Buttock/Quad Stretch
Stand up straight, and lift your heel to your buttock while standing on one foot. You can use something sturdy for balance. Hold the raised foot with the same hand to that leg. Stay upright while doing so. Hold for 5-15 seconds then switch feet.
4. Hamstring Stretch
Both feet planted, put one leg over the next and bend forward and try to touch your toes. If not, it’s ok to grab the shin of the leg overlapping the other. Switch legs and repeat. Remember not to bounce. You can also use a stick to help keep your back and legs straight.
5. Hip & Lower Back Stretch
Pretend like you are going to do a lunge, keeping your leg in front at a 90 degree angle. Take your opposite arm, twisting your body to the outside of the front leg. Use your elbow or back of triceps to hold the stretch. Slowly ease back into position, and then repeat. Once completed switch legs, using the opposite arm to guide the stretch.
6. Quadriceps stretch
Pretend like you are doing a lunge, keeping your foot in front at a 90 degree angle. Grab the top bridge of the hind leg pulling it up stretching your quad. Be careful not to pull too hard or jerk quickly. Once stretched release back into a comfort position and repeat or switch legs.
7. Groin Stretch
Can be done in a squatted frog position or while seated. If seated, push your tailbone outwards and put the soles of your feet together. You can use your hands or your elbows to push the inside of your knees downward toward the ground. Be careful to no apply too much force. You can also lean forward while pressing your knees downward. Hold – relax – repeat.
8. Quad/Groin/Back stretch
Very carefully, place the outside of leg flat on the ground with sole of foot outward to the side. Extend the opposite leg behind your body. Push your pelvis downward to the ground while stretching your arms forward, slowly stretching your back. Ease yourself into a comfort position and switch feet.
Sources: Pictures taken at Omar’s gym – visit www.primalathletics.ca