The Benefits of Stretching
STRETCHING: FULL RANGE OF MOTION
JOEL PETERSON – Level 5 Personal Trainer Apple Athletic Club
If you’ve been following our “LET’S GET HEALTHY TOGETHER” articles you have a great start on improving your overall health, strength, mental health with some really great perks like feeling better and looking better. Wow! So much benefit for so little effort.
Just stay focused on the prize – and the prize is YOU. If you’ve missed past installments go into our archives and catch up. Be persistent, keep learning and don’t get discouraged. Remember, this is a journey – not a destination. Don’t let a couple of setbacks de-rail your goal. What’s that old adage “if you fall off the horse?” Yeah, you get it. Have some fun with this stuff and enjoy the wonderful fruits of your labor.
This week I want to impress upon you the importance of stretching our bodies and increasing our range of motion. Stretching is really cool as it takes very little time, you can do it anytime almost anywhere and boy oh boy does it make you feel good.
Let’s get started with the five main benefits of stretching:
- Increased Flexibility and Joint Range of MotionFlexible muscles can improve your daily performance. Tasks such as lifting packages, bending to tie your shoes or hurrying to catch a bus become easier and less tiring. Flexibility tends to diminish as you get older, but you can regain and maintain it.
- Improved CirculationStretching increases blood flow to your muscles. Blood flowing to your muscles brings nourishment and gets rid of waste byproducts in the muscle tissue. Improved circulation can help shorten your recovery time if you’ve had any muscle injuries.
- Better PostureFrequent stretching can help keep your muscles from getting tight, allowing you to maintain proper posture. Good posture can minimize discomfort and keep aches and pains at a minimum.
- Stress ReliefStretching relaxes tight, tense muscles that often accompany stress.
- Enhanced CoordinationMaintaining the full range-of-motion through your joints keeps you in better balance. Coordination and balance will help keep you mobile and less prone to injury from falls, especially as you get older.
KEEP THE FOLLOWING IN MIND AS YOU STRETCH
- Don’t BounceBouncing as you stretch can cause small tears (microtears) in the muscle, which leave scar tissue as the muscle heals. The scar tissue tightens the muscle even further, making you even less flexible — and more prone to pain.
- Focus on a Pain-free StretchIf you feel pain as you stretch, you’ve gone too far. Back off to the point where you don’t feel any pain, then hold the stretch.
- Relax and Breathe Freely
- Don’t Hold your Breath While You’re Stretching
- Stretch Doth SidesMake sure your joint range of motion is as equal as possible on each side of your body
- Stretch Before and After ActivityLight stretching after your warm-up followed by a more thorough stretching regimen after your workout is your best bet
Ok, I’m going to start you off with just a few basic movements and I’ll add to them as we go along. AGAIN, DON’T OVERSTRETCH RANGE OF MOTION. AS IN ALL EXERCISES NEVER PUSH YOURSELF BEYOND “MILD DISCOMFORT”.
- Position yourself on the floor on your hands and knees.
- Pull your belly in and round your spine, lower back, shoulders, and neck, letting your head drop.
- Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat 3-4 times.
- Lie on your back, with one leg extended straight out.
- With the other leg, bend the hip and knee to 90 degrees. You may brace your leg with your hands if necessary. This will be your starting position.
- Extend your leg straight into the air, pausing briefly at the top. Return the leg to the starting position.
- Repeat for 10-20 repetitions, and then switch to the other leg.
CALF STRETCH HANDS AGAINST WALL
- Stand facing a wall from several feet away. Stagger your stance, placing one foot forward.
- Lean forward and rest your hands on the wall, keeping your heel, hip and head in a straight line.
- Attempt to keep your heel on the ground. Hold for 10-20 seconds and then switch sides.
INTERMEDIATE HIP FLEXOR AND QUAD STRETCH
- Lie face down on the floor, with a rope, belt, or band looped around one foot.
- Flex the knee and extend the hip of the leg to be stretched, using both hands to pull on the belt. Your knee and your hip should come off of the floor, creating tension in the hip flexors and quadriceps. Hold the stretch for 10-20 seconds, and repeat on the other leg.
There you have four stretches that will do wonders for you lower body movement. You can repeat them as many times as you feel necessary. Don’t be discouraged. Most everyone is tight and inflexible at the beginning. Make a goal to do them every day for just one month and see how amazed and pleased you will be at the results.
Next week I will give you some upper body stretches to add to your arsenal of tools.
Meanwhile don’t rub your forearms in someone’s face. Why? I’ll tell you why. If you rub your forearm briskly for a few seconds, 300,000 skin cells will come off of it. By age 70, you will shed 105 pounds of skin!