There is controversy about just how useful stretching before calisthenics really is. Some experts say it doesn’t help improve athletic performance, nor has it been shown to prevent injury. But that doesn’t seem to stop anyone, professionals and beginners alike, from stretching. Some believe it improves their workout and others just like how it feels. Here we look at how to power stretch your whole body in preparation for a calisthenics workout.
Your neck muscles require very delicate stretching. Never force or strain a neck stretch past the point of comfort. To stretch your neck, simply tilt your head gently, side to side, envisioning a straight line between ear and shoulder. Do not move your head in wide circles or press your head too deeply toward your shoulder. A light stretch is the most important factor when concerning the neck.
These stretches are designed to work the chest, shoulders and arms. Perform all stretches on both arms, and hold each stretch for three deep breaths. Place your palm upon a wall. Gently open your body away from the wall, keeping your hand still. Then, draw the same arm across your chest, clasping your elbow with the opposite hand. These simple movements will open up all the muscles in your upper body.
Twists are still an excellent way to stretch out the muscles in your torso. Twist should be done slowly, moving until you can feel the muscle being used. Hold the twist for three breaths. Repeat three times. The effectiveness of the twist stretch can be increased if done in the sitting position. Draw one knee over the opposing leg, and twist your body in the direction of the bent knee. Extend your arm and reach. This position also serves to stretch the hips a bit.
A great stretch for the back is to utilize the popular yoga pose, Cat Cow. This involves getting on all fours and flexing your spine between the two poses. A high rounded back for Cat, then tilt at the pelvis and drop your back into Cow. This is a remarkably relaxing stretch, affecting torso muscles as well as your back. Repeat Cat Cow for three turns.
Upper Leg and Glutes
The lunge position provides a thorough stretch through the upper legs. To achieve it, you will take a gentle but large step forward, bending your extended knee into a ninety degree angle. The unextended leg should be toe-balanced if possible, slanted out behind you. Lower your body over your extended knee, placing your hands on the ground if possible, or your calves. Do not bounce this or any other stretch. Simply hold it for three breaths and then draw yourself back to standing. Switch legs. Repeat the process twice on each leg.
Hamstrings and Ankles
The simplest form of hamstring stretch is still the traditional toe touch. Bend at the waist, keeping your legs straight. Bend as far as possible, allowing your hamstrings to stretch. You can spread your legs to make the stretch more attainable. You may also perform it in the seated position, with your legs in a ‘V’ in front of you. In this seated position, you can extend the stretch to include your calves and ankles. Do this by simply flexing the top of your foot toward you while leaning in, allowing a gentle pull in your calf muscles. Repeat these exercises three times each.
These stretches can be done before or after your workout. Many athletes stretch both before and after, both to warm up and to cool down. In the case of stretching, you can do what feels right to you, as long as you’re careful not to strain.