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Stretches You Should Be Doing

Stretches You Should Be Doing

Faith McKay, CPT

Stretching is one of the most important things to add to your daily/exercise routine. Sadly, it is widely neglected by most of us. A lot of us know we should stretch and stretching is good for us. But most times we don’t really know why it’s that big of a deal or where we should even start.

A few benefits of stretching are reduction and prevention of low back pain, improvement of posture, Improvement of circulation, Increased range of motion and injury prevention.

BENEFITS OF STRETCHING

Prevent Low back pain- Tightness in the hips and hamstrings can cause low back pain. When we stretch we can gain better flexibility in those muscles/areas and alleviate the pressure and pull of those muscles on our spine.

Improve posture- When our muscles are tight and restricted for a long period of time it can affect our posture. For example, if your career requires you to sit at a desk for long hours at a time, your shoulders and back probably will start to round. Your back will start to ache and your posture will begin to suffer. A stretch in the chest can lengthen your Pecs, pulling your shoulders back to an upright position and improving your posture.

Improve Circulation- Stretching brings blood flow to the muscles and joints being stretched. Blood flow to the area will bring helpful nutrients to our muscles and removes harmful wastes. Improved circulation to those areas will also help prevent unnecessary injuries during workouts or strenuous work.

Increase range of motion- As we get older our muscles can begin to tighten and do not have the same range of motion as before. Daily tasks that once seemed simple can become a chore when we do not have the range of motion that we need. Adding some stretches into your daily routine can give your body back range of motion, making functional movements easier throughout your day.

Now that you know WHY you should stretch, here are eight stretches you can start incorporating before and/or after your workouts.

PIGEON STRETCH
Great for the hips! 
 

HOW TO:

  • Start on all fours in a squared table pose.
  • Slide the right knee forward toward your right hand. Angle your right knee at two o'clock.
  • Slide your left leg back as far as your hips will allow.
  • Keep your hips square to the floor. If your hips are not square, there will be unnecessary force on your back, and you won't be able to open the hips to their fullest.
  • If you're not feeling a deep stretch in your right glute, slide the right foot forward--little by little--toward your left hand. With practice, bring your foot parallel with the front edge of your mat.
  • Your right thigh should have an external rotation, and your left thigh should have a slight internal rotation. This keeps pressure off the knee cap.
  • Depending on how you feel, you will be upright on your hands while sinking the hips forward and down. Level two will rest on their forearms, and level three will rest the chest on the floor with the arms fully extended in front of you.
 
LAT STRETCH
Great for the Arms and Back!
 

 

HOW TO:

  • Standing toward wall. Bend over and place palms of hands on wall, approximately shoulder width and waist height.
  • Lower torso. Hold stretch.
 
HURDLE STRETCH 
Great for the Glutes, Low back, and Hamstrings!
 

 

HOW TO:

  • Get in a seated position and extend one knee at a 45-degree angle from your hips, resembling the position a track athlete has when clearing a hurdle.
  • Position your other leg straight out in front of you. Reach along your straight leg as far as you can.
  • If you are able to reach your ankles, grab them and relax. Otherwise you grab the farthest point of your leg that you can and relax.
 
CHEST STRETCH
Great for the Chest and Shoulders!
 

 

HOW TO:

  • Stand facing a wall. Place your right palm on the wall so it's in line -with your shoulder, and point your fingers to the right.
  • Keep your right hand planted firmly, and bend your left arm behind you to encourage your left shoulder to open.
  • Now walk your feet to the left or lunge forward and stop when you feel a good stretch in your right shoulder and chest.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and then walk your feet back to the right. Then do this stretch with your left hand on the wall.
 
HAMSTRING STRETCH
Great for the Hamstrings!
 

 

HOW TO:

  • Lay down with your back on the floor.
  • Flex the hip to 90 degrees.
  • Extend the knee -Flex the ankle and hold,
 
DANCER STRETCH
Great for the Lower Back!
 

 

HOW TO:

  • Sit up on the floor.
  • Place  your legs out in front of you as wide as you can, keeping your legs as straight as you can. Your left leg is straight and down on the floor.
  • Place your left arm on your right leg and your right hand on the floor.
  • Rotate your upper body to the right, and hold for 10-20 seconds. Switch sides.
 
FIGURE 4 STRETCH
Great for the Piriformis and Glutes!
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HOW TO:

  • -Sitting on a bech or chair, cross one leg over the other with the ankle resting on the opposite knee. 
  • Reach and connect your hands behind the hamstring of the non-bend side.
  • Gently pull the hamstring towards your belly and feel a stretch to the opposite side. Hold for 10-15-seconds and repeat sides.
 
SAMSON STRETCH
Great for the Hip flexors and Psoas!
 

 

HOW TO:

  • Place one knee on the floor with the other leg flat behind, forming a lunge position.
  • Keeping your chest tall, lunge forward into the forward knee while slightly leaning your shoulders back.
  • To increase the stretch, interlock your fingers overhead and reach back tall with your hands and shoulders. 
 
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