The Art of Stretching

The Art of Stretching: Lower Your Risk of Pain and Injury with These 30+ Stretching Exercises

Experts agree that stretching is a simple but extremely beneficial activity if done in the right way.  It is the deliberate lengthening of muscles with the aim to increase muscle flexibility and joint range of motion.

These activities are vital in any exercise or rehabilitation program, as they warm up the body before the physical workout and lower the risk of muscle soreness and injury. They help warm the body up prior to activity thus decreasing the risk of injury as well as muscle soreness.

The Mayo Clinic reveals the top five benefits of stretching:

“Increased flexibility and joint range of motion: Flexible muscles can improve your daily performance. Tasks such as lifting packages, bending to tie your shoes or hurrying to catch a bus become easier and less tiring. Flexibility tends to diminish as you get older, but you can regain and maintain it.

Improved circulation: Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles. Blood flowing to your muscles brings nourishment and gets rid of waste byproducts in the muscle tissue. Improved circulation can help shorten your recovery time if you’ve had any muscle injuries.

Better posture: Frequent stretching can help keep your muscles from getting tight, allowing you to maintain proper posture. Good posture can minimize discomfort and keep aches and pains at a minimum.

Stress relief: Stretching relaxes tight, tense muscles that often accompany stress.

Enhanced coordination: Maintaining the full range-of-motion through your joints keeps you in better balance. Coordination and balance will help keep you mobile and less prone to injury from falls, especially as you get older.”

Here is a list of stretches that you can do throughout the entire day, and reap the benefits of stretching:

Head

Lateral side flexion of the neck (fig.7)

Target: Sternocleidomastoid “SCM”

You can intensify the stretch by sitting on a chair and clutching the bottom of the seat

Neck rotation stretch (fig.8)

Target: SCM

For a deeper stretch, press with the opposite hand

Neck extension stretch (fig.9)

Target: SCM

Note that you should be careful not to collapse your cervical spine

Lateral side flexion of the neck with hand assistance (fig.10)

Target: SCM

For a deeper stretch, sit on a chair and grab its bottom

Upper Body

Forearm extensor stretch

Target: Forearm extensor

To extend the stretch, touch the tips of your fingers in a teacup shape

Lateral shoulder stretch (fig.13)

Target: Side deltoid

Standing assisted neck flexion stretch (fig.14)

Target: Trapezius muscle

Lat stretch with spinal traction (fig.15)

Target: Latissimus dorsi

If you suffer from a shoulder pain, avoid this stretch

Lat stretch at the wall (fig.16)

Target: Latissimus dorsi

If you suffer from lower back pain, avoid this stretch

Child’s pose (fig.17)

Target: Latissimus dorsi

Lateral flexion with a dowel (fig.27)

Target: External obliques and latissimus dorsi

If you suffer from lower back pain, avoid this stretch

Triangle pose (fig.28)

Target: External obliques

While rotating away, stare in the hand in the air

Chest stretch at the wall (fig.29)

Target: Pectorals

Note that you should not feel shoulder stretch while doing it

Assisted chest stretch (fig.30)

Target: Chest and latissimus dorsi

Do not do this stretch if you have shoulder issues

Supine shoulder external rotation stretch (fig.32)

Target: Subscapularis

In case the hand is far from the floor, your rotator cuff is tight

Down dog variation at the wall (fig.33)

Target: Pectorals and latissimus dorsi

Bend the knees in case your hamstrings are tight

Assisted chest stretch variation (fig.34)

Target: Pectorals

Do not do this stretch if you have shoulder issues

Standing upper trapezius stretch (fig.35)

Target: Upper trapezius muscle

Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side

Standing upper back extension (fig.36)

Target: Teres major, rhomboids, and upper traps

Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds

Lower Body

Camel pose (fig.1)

Target: Rectus abdominous and external obliques

If you have neck problems, do not drop the head back

Wide forward fold (fig.2)

Target: Abductors

You can also lie down on the floor and elevate the feet up the wall

Frog pose (fig.3)

Target: Abductors

For a deeper stretch, push the hips back and forward

Wide side lunge pose (Fig.4)

Target: Abductors

Your feet should be flat on the floor

Butterfly stretch (fig.5)

Target: Abductors

Bring the feet farther from the hips and slowly round the upper body to stretch the back muscles

Half kneeling quad/hip flexor stretch (fig.11)

Target: Psoas and quadriceps

To deepen the hip flexor stretch, squeeze the back foot to the back glute

Standing calf stretch (fig.18)

Target: Soleus and gastrocnemius (low body)

While stretching, lightly rotate the ankles

Front split (fig.19)

Target: Psoas and hamstring

Use a chair as a support while releasing the hip flexors and hamstrings

Seated forward fold/seated toe touch (fig.20)

Target: Hamstrings and calves

You can lie down on the back and place the feet up the wall

Single leg forward bend (fig.21)

Target: Hamstrings

Deep squat (fig.22)

Target: Glutes

You can lie down on the back and place the feet up the wall

Seated half king pigeon pose (fig.23)

Target: Glutes

You should feel the stretch in the glutes only

Standing calf stretch at the wall (Fig.24)

Target: Soleus and gastrocnemius (low)

Lateral flexion at the wall (fig.25)

Target: External obliques

In case you suffer from lower back pain, avoid this stretch

Supine twist (fig.26)

Target: Glutes and external obliques

When the knees are lower, you will stretch the lumbar spine, and when the knees are higher, the stretch is deeper in the upper spine

Seated half pigeon variation (Fig.31)

Target: Anterior tibialis

To deepen the stretch on the hip, lean forward

Source: www.womendailymagazine.com