More and more people are paying attention to their health and how much exercise influences it. Stretching exercises are very popular. They are useful as stand-alone exercises to stay fit and are recommended for athletes to perform after intense training.
Stretching exercises after training help to avoid injuries, reduce the feeling of pain after physical exertion, prevent soreness, and strengthen muscle attachments and joints. It is also good when the exercises take place outdoors, where you need to wear appropriate clothing.
Appropriate clothing will be provided by thermo-active underwear for physical work, appropriately selected in terms of the season and temperature.
Stretching exercises are recommended for practically everyone, but their scope and dynamics will be slightly different when it comes to stretching exercises for children and different when it comes to stretching exercises for seniors.
Often, various groups of exercisers look for exercises for a specific group of muscles. In this respect, spine stretching exercises are probably the most popular because the modern lifestyle, mainly sitting, often in front of a computer screen, forces a specific, unhealthy position.
This promotes the development of degeneration and thus discomfort or even pain. That is why physiotherapists and trainers recommend stretching to everyone, regardless of age and health. Naturally, different exercises will be recommended for an athlete after training, others for a child or a person 65+, and still different for people practicing gymnastics.
What is Stretching, and How do you Start Exercising?
As we mentioned before, stretching is an exercise that must be performed after each training session to “soothe” muscles and joints and prevent them from injuring themselves. But how to properly perform basic stretching exercises when we are not athletes, and these exercises are an end in themselves? First of all, start your exercises with a warm-up.
The room where we exercise should be warm, but not hot. We warm up the muscle groups that we want to stretch. When we stretch our legs, it can be a few squats, a jog, or a walk, while working on the spine; depending on the part, it can be, for example, bends.
Stretching affects not only the muscles but also tendons and ligaments, which are made of connective tissue, and improperly performed exercises can lead to their tearing or tearing, leading to an injury. Therefore, it is worth sticking to the instructions for performing the exercises, and in any case, when you feel pain while exercising, stop the exercise. The same way in which you perform the exercise also matters.
According to many therapists and trainers, maintaining the stretching position during the exercise should last 120 seconds because only after this time the exercise gives a long-lasting effect.
After all, the muscle fibers will stretch effectively. An equally important rule of thumb is to progressively and slowly deepen the position with each repetition without sudden movements.
It does not matter what the names of the stretching exercises are – each of the trainers can name them freely, for example, “flexibility exercises,” “exercises for the spine,” or exercises for a specific muscle group. The golden rule is to use exercises that work on all muscle groups in turn in such a way as to stretch the entire body evenly. While exercising, we do not forget about proper hydration.
Stretching Exercises – Health Benefits
Stretching exercises bring many benefits to the exerciser, among which the following can be mentioned:
Types of Stretching Exercises
We can distinguish between two types of stretching exercises, and we do not mean the muscles that we exercise. They can be divided into:
• Dynamic stretching can be used as a warm-up before the actual training. In this type of stretching, exercises are performed dynamically, selected 5 to 8 exercises performed in repetitions of 10 times.
Exercises such as swinging, jumping, jumping ropes, jumping rope, arm circles, and leg lifting work well here. Such exercises increase the mobility of joints and ligaments, improve muscle flexibility and reduce the risk of injuries during training;
• Static stretching calms the muscles down after exercise and restores their balance. With the help of these exercises, we strengthen the muscle groups subjected to stretching. Such exercises involve slowly stretching, such as sitting wide apart, stretching your legs by placing one on a ladder or chair and performing deep bends or turns. Pulling your knees or head to your chest will also be a stretching exercise. Each exercise should last 10 to 15 seconds, and you should perform 1-2 exercises for each muscle group. Such training should last 30 – 40 minutes and be performed 1 – 2 times a week.
Proper breathing is extremely important in both types of training. You have to be careful not to hold your breath. Properly should be with the nose and exhale with the mouth. Training, too, should begin with the upper body and gradually move downward and end with the feet.
In a sedentary lifestyle, the most important thing is to stretch the muscles in the iliolumbar and chest areas because they are the most vulnerable to any stiffness and weakness.
What Exercises to Stretch the Back?
We start the descriptions of exercises with exercises in this part of the body, the ailments of which are a big problem for many. Of course, we are talking about the back because back pain is the most common pain ailment.
It is a disease of civilization; back pain is an ailment resulting from too little exercise and long hours spent in front of the computer in an unnatural position, most often with a hunched back, head tilted down.
The following exercises are best done every day. Ideally, your morning stretching exercises will become a daily ritual. You also need to adjust the training to your abilities individually; we never do exercises when we feel pain during them.
Here are 10 sample stretching exercises:
1. Child’s pose is one of the exercises offered by yoga – stretching exercises are performed by sitting on the floor on the heels with the knees apart. Being in this position, slowly lean the body forward, stretching the head and hands forward, we place them on the floor in front of us;
2. Cobra Pose – This exercise is also derived from yoga. Lying on the stomach on the floor, raise your chest up to the hips, lean your hands on the floor, and lean your head back.
3. Cat’s back – from the position on all fours, where the width of the hand is equal to the width of the shoulders, bend the back upwards in such a way as the cat flexes its body and then lowers it downwards, bending the spine in the opposite direction and stretching the head up. It is important to do the exercise smoothly as you move from one position to another.
4. Raising the pelvis – from the prone position with the legs bent at the knees and the arms along the body, lift the hips using the palms. This exercise requires the shoulder blades to rest against the ground, and the lifted body should be held in this position for 10 seconds.
5. Drawing your knees to your chest – starting position is lying on your back. The exerciser pulls the bent legs to the chest with his arms around them. Hold the position for 30 seconds.
6. Stretching on a Big Ball – This exercise involves placing your body on the ball to center your lumbar region on the ball. Lower the head loosely, and the legs support the body. Such exercises to stretch the chest help with back pain.
7. Hamstring stretching – lift one leg as high as possible from the prone position. At the same time, grabbing this leg by the calf, we pull it towards ourselves as much as we can. The feeling of pulling in the thigh confirms the correctness of the exercise.
8. Cradle – from lying on your stomach, fold your legs up and catch them at the ankles with your hands. In this position, try to stretch the chest as much as possible, tearing it off the floor. The hips should remain “glued” to the floor while performing the exercise.
9. Letter C – in a knee in which the knees are hip-width apart, raise your arms above your head. We push the hips forward while tilting the chest back in this position.
10. Stretching with support – stand sideways against a wall, door frame, or a stable piece of furniture, and place one hand on the wall at a 90-degree angle. The exercise involves twisting your torso in the opposite direction of the support. After a few repetitions, rest your other hand in the opposite direction.
Leg Stretching Exercises
Leg stretches are designed to prevent thigh muscle injuries. They must be performed as stretching exercises after running. We mainly act on the biceps, semimembranous, and calf muscles, as well as stretching the Achilles’ muscles. Here are some examples:
• Forward bends – sit on the floor straight, legs parallel to each other and toes pointing up. Stretching our arms forward, we bend the torso while catching or trying to catch the toes. Keep the position for a few seconds.
• Leg pulls – starting position standing. Lean on the back of the chair with your left hand. The right leg, bent at the knee, is grasped by the ankle and raised as high as we can. Change the support to the right arm and repeat the exercise by lifting the other leg.
• Lunge forward – standing position with legs splayed forward-backward. The forward leg has a bent knee and supports the entire foot; the back leg is straight. The back is to form a straight line with the hips, and the whole torso is slightly tilted forward. By changing the order of the legs, we repeat the exercise.
• Achilles muscles – stretching. We start in a standing position; arms lowered along the body. We start the exercise by lifting straight hands, standing on the toes, and holding the position for a few seconds.
• Calf stretching – In a straight seat on the floor, hook a gymnastics band to one of your feet, pull the band’s ends with your hands, and keep your back straight. We pull the gum until we feel the calf muscles stretching. After changing the leg, repeat the exercise.
• In the standing position, one hand rests on a support that allows you to keep your balance. The other hand grabs the foot of the bent leg and pulls it towards the buttocks. Repeat the exercise on both legs.
• In the standing position, move your legs to the front-back position. The front leg is slightly bent at the knee; the chair with the knee supports the back leg. We grab the ankle of the back leg with our hand and pull it towards the buttocks. After changing the legs, repeat the exercise.
• We kneel and then sit on bent legs. Slowly lean the torso back to the supine position. We keep positions for about 15 seconds.
The above-described exercises are rather post-workout exercises. However, exercise proper care and exercise slowly. Only this method gives good results and prevents injuries and soreness.
Exercises to Stretch the Abdominal Muscles
We have a little fewer exercises to stretch the abdominal muscles; examples are:
• Stretching your abdominals and hip flexors – Lie on your stomach with straight legs. We rest our hands on the ground at the level of the shoulders. Raising the torso on the hands, slowly straighten the elbows, similar to the so-called ‘Push-ups’ During this time, the buttocks and back muscles should be tense, and the abdomen should be drawn in.
Buttocks Stretching Exercises
The following exercises engage the gluteal and pear muscles and are performed as follows:
• Sitting on the mat with legs bent at the knees and feet together, one of the legs is moved back, while placing the torso on the other leg in front, stretch the arms forward and support the torso on the elbows, hold the position for a few seconds. We change legs one by one and perform the exercise in the same way.
• Sit straight with your legs stretched out. Bend the right leg at the knee and move the foot so that it is placed on the outer side of the knee of the straightened left leg.
Turn the torso to the right side, leaning on the back with the right hand and the left hand to resist the bent knee of the right leg. Maintain the position for a few seconds and change legs by repeating the exercise.
Exercises to Stretch Your Arms
Arm stretching exercises can be divided into two types. These are exercises that work on the triceps and biceps; let’s start with the triceps:
• Stretching the triceps – we stand slightly apart. Raise the arms up and move one of the hands bent at the elbow behind the head. The other hand grips the elbow behind the head and presses the elbow down towards the shoulder blade. We repeat the exercise after switching hands.
• Biceps stretching – In the standing position, extend one arm in front of you, not higher than the position of the shoulders, with the back of the hand up, with the fingers hanging down. The other hand presses against the lowered fingers of the first hand.
• Biceps Stretch – Sit cross-legged with the palms on the floor and facing your torso. The exercise involves putting your hands on the floor to exert pressure on the floor.
Above, we have presented a group of exercises that allow you to interact with different parts of the muscles and different parts of the body. It is obvious that the stretching exercises for beginners will differ greatly from those performed by athletes after training.
Whenever you do a Simple Stretching Exercise, one should adopt the principle that we begin to gradually increase the intensity and length of exercises, adjusting both parameters to our own abilities. If the exercise hurts, stop it. It would be best if you also remembered to breathe regularly and keep your body hydrated while exercising.