Flexibility exercises are an important part of every workout. Stretching lengthens your muscles, improves your circulation and helps to prevent injuries. Regardless of the type of exercise you engage in, flexibility exercises can be incorporated both before and after an aerobic or weight lifting session.
Always Warm Up Before Stretching
Becoming more flexible requires patience and daily effort. If you have not been stretching regularly, you will want to start slowly. Be sure to always warm up first before stretching. One of the ways that people injure themselves is by stretching when the muscles are cold. Always start with a warm up that elevates your body temperature for at least a few minutes.
The Importance of Breathing During Flexibility Exercises
When you begin your stretches, always breathe deeply. As you hold a stretch for at least 20 to 30 seconds, you will feel a melt of the muscle tension. Breathe in and out through the entire stretch. Some people tend to hold their breath when engaging in a physically demanding task. Breathing will help to deepen your stretch. It will oxygenate your cells and give you optimal results.
Stretching the Hamstrings
One common stretch is touching your toes while standing or sitting. This stretches the hamstrings. Hamstrings benefit greatly from flexibility exercises. They are often the hardest muscles to stretch. Experts recommend first stretching the calves, quads and buttocks before going to work on the hamstrings. When these other muscles are tight, they pull on the hamstrings.
Stretching the Calves, Quads and Glutes
To stretch your calves, place the ball of your foot on a phone book or small step and lean forward. For balance, you may need to hold on to a wall or a chair. Continue to hold this stretch until you feel a lengthening in the muscle. Never hold a stretch if you feel a sharp pain.
To stretch the quads, stand on one leg. Pull the other foot toward your buttocks and hold the foot until the tightness in the quad disappears. Again, you might want to hold on to a wall or chair with the other hand for balance.
To stretch the buttocks, lie down on the floor with both knees bent. Pull one foot up and rest it on the knee of the other leg. To deepen this stretch, pull the other knee off of the floor and pull it toward your torso.
Stretching the Upper Body
A simple stretch for the upper body is clasping your hands behind you while standing. Keep the arms straight as you raise them as high as you can without tipping the torso forward. You will feel a lengthening in the muscles of the arms and chest during this stretch.
To stretch the muscles on the sides of your torso, extend your right arm straight up toward the ceiling while standing. Then reach the arm over to the left side of your body. Repeat this stretch with the other arm.
Take advantage of when your muscles are warm after an aerobic workout to stretch them. Flexibility exercises work especially well during this time. This practice also helps to reduce the soreness you might experience after a strenuous workout.