Enjoy this simple yoga flow anywhere!Read More
There are mixed reviews when it comes to the benefits of stretching, or if there are even benefits at all. I personally believe that it helps your over all health, so I am going to give you a little insight on the Pros of stretching. you can also see one of my lower body stretch routines here.
Stretching without question does help with flexibility or as I like to call it #Flexxibility. An increase in your flexibility results in an increase in joint range of motion, which could help to prevent injury. Your muscles are able to work more efficiently when you joints move through their full range of motion. Stretching also increases blood flow to the muscles, which helps to increase circulation. This will help with muscle soreness. Lastly, stretching can help to alleviate stress. Stress can cause the muscles to contract and become tense. Gentle stretching exercises relax the muscles associated with stress. Stretching is a form of exercise in itself and has similar endorphin-increasing effects that help improve the way you feel mentally as well as physically.
Some suggestions for getting your stretch on:
Focus on major muscle groups. When you're stretching, focus on major muscle groups such as your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Sretch the muscles and joints that you use more frequently. Make sure to even out the body. For example, if you stretch you left quadricep do the same on the right.
Hold your stretch. Try not to bounce, hold the position in one smooth movement. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds. I personally like to breath into the stretch. Meaning when you take a breath in, focus on breathing into the muscle you are on and when you breath out make an effort to release the muscle to go further into the stretch. I like to take 10-20 long breaths depending on the level of tightness.
Don't aim for pain. Expect to feel tension while you're stretching, not pain. If it hurts, ease off a bit to the spot where you feel no pain and hold the stretch there.
Stay consistent. Stretching can be time-consuming and as I have mentioned in My Stretch Routine, it is not something we leave time for when we plan out our training. But when you do make it a part of your routine you will see more benefits and increase in flexibility. I personally try to go to yoga 2 times a week and stretch on my own. A good routine 2-3 times a week would be ideal.
The importance of stretching!
I have come to realize that most athletes have their very own specific stretch routine. Myself included. As always you have to decide what works best for you and your body as we are all different.
For some stretching is a chore, especially when you plan that 30 to 60 minute training session and then want to get on with your day. I know how you feel. I also know how much better I feel when I do stretch. My body craves the stretch almost as much as I crave a massage as often as I can get one. I promise as tedious and as daunting a task as it may be try to find a few key stretches that work for you and hold each one for 10-20 breathes after a workout.
Below I share my stretch routine which primarily focuses on the lower body. What can I say my legs are always tight. I work them to death and they appreciate the TLC.
Stretches: inner thighs, groins and knees
Modification: For a more restorative variation, move your feet further away from your midline, creating more space between your upper and lower legs. To release pressure on the knees and hip joints, place blocks under the knees.
Turn your torso toward the foot then reach your head toward the foot and your belly towards your leg
Stretches: the low back, hips, and pelvis, along the back of both legs, the side abdominals and intercostals, and open the shoulders.
Modification: Keep your opposite leg bent with the bottom of foot along inner thigh, sit on the edge of a foam block to tilt your pelvis forward.
Modification: lower hips and increase the space between the floor and the knee.
Start in a down dog the pedal feet holding each foot for a few breaths, then switch.
Stretches: hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands, releases tension from your spine.
Modification: Place hands on blocks or on the seat of a chair to release and open your shoulders.
I like to walk the feet in slowly stretching the calf in different spots along the way, until I reach a full forward bend.
Stretches: hips, hamstrings, and calves
Modification: Open your feet hip width apart and keep your feet parallel, leave a slight bend in the knee, hold opposite elbows and just hang.
Stretches: your hip flexor muscles (psoas, rectus femoris) and your groin muscles, and gluteus medius & minimus. May relieve sciatic nerve tension and ease low back pain.
Modifications: Place a foam block under the bent leg thigh to add support will add support. If you are feeling any tension or pain around the front knee, back off, place the foot closer to the opposite groin, or place a block, under the thigh. Do not continue in pain.