It is hard to stretch properly when you do not have the right information on how to stretch. Many injuries are caused by improper or minimal stretching causing the muscles to seize, pull, strain and in some cases even tear. Taking five to ten minutes each morning before work or before a workout can do wonders for your upcoming activities. Being limber means more blood and oxygen to core areas, which can also make you more alert and sometimes even alleviate the blues or minor depression.
The legs are made up of many large muscles including the butt (gluteus group), quads (vastus group), the hamstrings (bicep femoris) and calves (gastrocnemius and soleus). To stretch the legs there are four simple steps:
- Pound Them: using your fists gently pound your legs in the front and back to get the blood moving and ready for the stretch.
- Quads: being careful of your knees, support yourself on a tree, wall or counter with one hand, and with the other hand, grab an ankle and attempt to bring your heel to your butt. Keeping the other leg bent can help with balance.
- Hamstrings & Calves: simple toe touching while keeping the legs straight will open up the back of your leg. Crossing one foot over another and keeping the legs straight while bending is an excellent advanced toe touch. For the calves, find a curb or step, put the toes of one foot on the edge and gently drop the heel down. There’s no need to make it all the way, just enough until you get that feel good burn in the muscle.
- Cross Drop Butt Stretch: lie down, put one leg straight out, bend and cross the other leg over that one, grab something with the opposite hand and drop toward the bent leg.
Arms, Shoulders and Back
The arms, shoulders and back consist of the biceps, triceps, forearm (flexors and extensors), trapezius (top of the shoulders), rhomboids, latissimus dorsi (back muscles) and intercostals (rib muscles). Stretch these groups as follows:
- Pound and Swing: to get started, swing the arms in large circles in both directions without bending the elbows. Gently pound the arms and the top of the shoulders.
- Arms – Reach and Grab: bend one arm behind your back reaching upward toward your neck and bring the opposite arm up and around so your forefinger touches your upper spine as far below the neck as you can go. Reach both hands toward one another. The goal is to be able to grasp fingers and hold. You may not get there, but just trying will stretch your triceps and rotator cuff — inner shoulder.
- Back: grab something that will hold you, bend your knees and lean back while extending your arms and holding on. Your back and ribs will open up with a nice stretch. If you have something to hang from, that will work even better.
There’s a whole bunch of muscles in your neck. The best stretch for this group is:
- Ear to Shoulder: reach your hand over your head and lay your palm over the opposite ear. Gently let your arm pull your other ear toward your shoulder. Repeat on other side.
- Chin to Chest: Clasp your hands on the back of your skull. Gently pull your chin to your chest. When you release let your head hyper-extend as far back as it can go.
Engage in these stretches regularly will improve your flexibility and help prevent injury.