Your ability to move your joints through their full range of motion indicates how flexible you are. The tighter your joints and muscles, the less you will be able to function normally. This range of movement is important in everyday activities as well as in terms of specific sports performance. Flexibility can also prevent future injury and you can improve your flexibility by stretching. Stretching involves deliberately lengthening the muscles through...
...a series of specific movements and exercises. Stretching not only increases your flexibility but also improves your posture and blood circulation and reduces stress.
There are four basic types of stretching techniques that you can use.
Ballistic stretching : It involves bouncing movements and repetitions. However, this type of stretching is no longer considered safe for the muscles and joints and is rarely used.
Dynamic stretching : It incorporates stretching with momentum and movements. These movements mimic the activity to follow and prepare the body for an intense work out. Dynamic stretching is used in warm up routines by athletes and in sports like soccer.
Static stretching : It involves stretching a muscle to its maximum point for a period of time. There should be mild pain felt during this kind of stretching to gain the most benefits.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) stretching: It uses a partner who pushes and pulls your muscles. This aided contraction and relaxation of the muscles leads to faster improved flexibility as compared to any other type of stretching technique.
Yoga stretching is another form that is extremely effective in improving your flexibility. Traditional yoga poses aim for balance and symmetry. Because of this it requires a full range of motion that brings to the fore the abilities and limitations of your own body. Once you face these limitations, yoga can help you discover a hidden strength in your mind and body. Through consistent yoga practice you will be able to push your body further than before while building strength, concentration and improving your body’s natural alignment.
Before starting any routine there are some stretching tips that you should always remember. Keep in mind that stretching is part of a warm up and not the warm up itself. Begin your routine with some light cardio such as jogging or walking to warm the muscles and joints. Move in and out of your stretches slowly and focus on the part of the body that is being stretched. Breathe normally at all times and hold each stretch for a minimum of ten to fifteen seconds. Holding your breath during a stretch will prevent you from reaching your optimum range and tire you out faster as well. Stretching involves pain but this pain should be a mild discomfort only. Any sharp, shooting pain means you risk injury and you should stop your stretch immediately.
Beginner And Ideal Stretching Routine
Whether you are a beginner or a professional athlete, a daily stretching routine before your workout is imperative. Many people are unsure about how to perform stretches and in what order they should be done. A beginner stretching routine should be done under the supervision of a trainer to ensure that the exercises are practiced properly. A trainer will also customize the best stretching routine for your specific requirements. An ideal stretching routine for flexibility should begin with exercise for your upper and lower back. After this you can move on to stretching your side and your glutes. Once the glute muscles are warmed up, you will be in a better position to stretch your hamstrings.
Best Time For Stretching
Later you can move on to stretches for your claves, shins, and quadriceps (in that order). You can end your stretching routine with your arm and chest. The best time for you to stretch might depend on your internal body clock. Some people are more open to exercise in the morning whereas others prefer working out in the evening or even at night. Reports indicate that flexibility is at its peak in the late afternoon or early evening. If this is true then you will be able to stretch your body optimally during this time. Ultimately, it is you alone who will know what the best time is for your stretching routine and workout. If you are considering a yoga stretching routine to improve your flexibility, make sure you perform the exercises only under the guidance of a trained yoga instructor. A yoga stretching routine involves a series of poses along with breathing exercises that can work your entire body from inside out. Start with a beginner’s class and work your way from there improving your strength and flexibility along the way.
There are a number of easy stretching exercises that you can do anyway – at home, at your gym, or even outdoors. Neck rolls reduce the tension in your neck and shoulders and reduce stress in the body.
- Back stretches : It releases the strain on your back muscles and helps align your spine. These stretches are typical of yoga stretching exercises and improve your posture as well.
- Side and forward bends : It helps stretch the muscles on your waist and lower back and warm up the hamstring muscles.
- Hamstring stretch : It is one of the best stretching exercises as it makes your entire lower body more flexible. Stretching your hamstring can also strengthen your lower back.
- Quadriceps and inner thigh stretches : These are ideal stretching exercises for flexibility as they also open out your hip joints and increase your range of motion.
You may notice that flexibility decreases as your body ages. However, this does not mean that stretching is not recommended for seniors. Rather it’s just the opposite where stretching exercises for seniors are imperative to keep the body pliable and flexible and prevent any injury.
Stretching Exercises For Seniors
Stretching can also reduce pains and aches and keep you supple no matter what your age. Stretching exercises for seniors generally involves only static stretching techniques where a position is help for a certain period of time. This is the safest way of stretching to lengthen your muscles and improve your range of movements. If you have suffered from any injury or illness and your movements are restricted, it is even more important to work out that particular area. The best stretching exercises here would include one or two types of stretches for each area of the body. Repeat each stretch between three to five times and hold for a maximum of 30 seconds. Remember to warm up before stretching and breathe normally throughout the routine.
Office Stretching Exercises
Working at a desk the whole day can ruin your posture and reduce your flexibility greatly. Office stretching exercises are important if you lead such a sedentary life and complain of chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain. There are specific exercises that you can do at your desk itself to relieve tension in these areas and improve your posture.
Try stretching your chest muscles to counteract the constant hunch over your desk. Shoulder shrugs are a great way to release stress in your shoulder and necks and improve circulation. If you have a phone crooked in your neck and shoulder the whole day, your upper back will be tense and tight. Upper back stretches can strengthen these muscles and prevent any repetitive stress injury. One of the best stretching exercises to do in office is the spine twist. If you sit for long periods of time, this can open up your vertebrae and relieve any tightness and pain that you feel. Add to these some arm stretches and wrist rotations to keep your arms and hands loose and flexible.
Benefits Of Stretching
When done properly, the health benefits of stretching are amazing.
- Stretching can increase your stamina, relax your body and mind, improve focus and concentration and reduce the risk of injury.
- Other benefits of stretching include reduced stress and tension, and lesser chances of muscle pain and soreness post your work out and increased flexibility and suppleness.
- Make sure that at no point in your stretching routine do you overstretch, perform the exercises in a wrong sequence and do not warm up properly before.
- These are some of the common mistakes made when stretching and can lead to injury and pain.
- Stretching needs to be done, both before and after a workout.
- As mentioned before stretching is not a warm up but rather an important part of a warm up.
- A proper warm up raises your body temperature by a few degrees and prepares your muscles and joints for more exercise.
- Making your muscles more elastic and reducing your risk of injury are the benefits of stretching before exercise.
- Stretching out post your work out is also part of the cooling down process.
- The benefits of stretching after exercise include reducing muscle fatigue and soreness.
- Stretching after exercise can lower the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles and help eliminate tightness and any chance of damage.
- To gain the most benefits from any stretching routine, the one thing to remember is to breathe properly. Slow, relaxed breaths through the nose and not the mouth can improve the flow of oxygen into the blood.
- As a result circulation improves, as does the smooth functioning of the different systems of the body systems.