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15 Static Stretching Exercises to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

15 Static Stretching Exercises to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

Stretching is one of those aspects of fitness that many people conveniently forget about. Perhaps you’re one of those who consider stretching nothing but a mere chore meant for ballerinas and gymnasts.

Well… you’re wrong!

Everyone needs stretching! Irrespective of your reasons for working out, be it for sports or personal fitness, one thing is certain – stretching can help you. Stretching – static or dynamic – comes with myriads of benefits – such as improvement in flexibility and reduction in muscle tightness – which ultimately allow you to go through your workout routines with greater efficiency.

For the purpose of this article, though, we’ll zero in on static stretching and take a look at its benefits and when it should be done. Finally I’ll cap it up by revealing 15 great static stretching exercises that’ll help keep your whole body in tip-top condition. So sit back, relax and enjoy!

Benefits of static stretching

Static stretching comes with tons of benefits that can help you to make the most of your workout routine. Some of them include:

1. Improved flexibility

Alright! Here’s the deal – if you want to perform better, flexibility is of tremendous importance, irrespective of the specific workouts you do. And luckily enough, static stretching is all you need to get all the flexibility you desire.

Flexibility, also known as the range of motion (ROM) around a joint, has been shown by several studies to be improved by static stretching.[1] And although the specific mechanism through which this occurs is still unclear, static stretching has been shown to greatly increase joint flexibility[2] and tissue length,[3] which work in tandem to make your workout more effective.

2. Decreased risk of injury

If you’re looking to push yourself to your training limits without coming down with injuries, then stretching will do you a great service. Research has shown time and time again, that performing the right stretch exercises pre- and post-workout greatly helps with injury prevention.[4]

So, how does it work? Well, think of it this way:

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When you stretch you literally push your joints and muscle fibers to their limit. This increases the stretch tolerance in these muscles and joints over time and the increased tolerance allows you to perform more rigorous exercises without negatively impacting your body or risking an injury.

3. Increased blood flow and nutrient supply to the joints

Another benefit of stretching is increased blood flow – and by extension, nutrient supply – to the joints and muscles of the target areas. This, in turn, improves the performance of these muscles and joints due to the availability of more nutrients, improved oxygenation and removal of metabolites.

For static stretching though, the mechanism of action isn’t as straightforward. When stretching statically, blood flow (capillary oxygenation) temporarily reduces due to vascular compression.

However, immediately after releasing the stretch, the blood flow to these areas nearly doubles the pre-stretching levels.[5] Thus, blood flow increases.

4. Improvement in recovery

If you’ve been working out for some time, then you’ve probably discovered that a rigorous workout session can leave you battling with sore muscles… for days!

Recovery essentially means getting rid of this soreness and returning your muscle fibres back to their tip-top condition.

So, how does stretching come in? See…that’s the thing, research has shown that practicing static stretching after your workout session helps to reduce muscle soreness. And while some may argue that this effect is minimal, the fact still remains that stretching does help shorten your recovery time.

Stretching allows tissues to be better hydrated after the induced tension is released and this encourages the inflammation and faster repair of such tissues.

Other reasons why you really should incorporate stretching into your workout include:

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  • Improved relaxation
  • Increased movement efficiency
  • Reduction in the risk of lower back pain
  • Reduction in muscular tension
  • Improvement in neuromuscular coordination
  • Improvement in balance and postural awareness
  • Provision of relief from cramping

Alrighty! Now that it’s crystal clear that stretching does your body a world of good, let’s dive right into the actual stretching exercises.

15 Great static stretching exercises you should start doing

Here are some amazing exercises that will keep your body in tip-top condition and take your workout routine to the next level.

1. Neck stretch

    While sitting tall or standing, place your right arm gently on the right side of your head and place the other arm straightly on your side.

    • Slowly pull your head towards your right shoulder until you can feel the stretch on the left side of your neck.
    • Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing.
    • Repeat for the opposite side.

    2. Chest Stretch

      Stand right, with your fingers interlocked behind your back, near your buttocks.

      • While keeping your shoulder blades together and your back straight, push your arms up behind you, until you feel the stretch in your chest.
      • Hold for about 20-30 seconds before releasing.

      3. Cross-body shoulder stretch

        Stand right or sit tall

        • Extend one arm to your front to shoulder height.
        • Grab the extended arm with your other arm and pull it towards your chest while keeping the extended arm straight.
        • Continue the pull until you feel the stretch in your shoulder.
        • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat for the other arm.

        4. Triceps stretch

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          • Lift your arms overhead with both arms slightly behind your head and bent at the elbow.
          • Use your right hand to pull your left elbow until you feel a stretch in your triceps.
          • Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the other arm.

          5. Biceps stretch

            • Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
            • With your fingers pointing away from your body, place your two palms flat on the floor behind you.
            • While your hands are steadily in place, slowly slide your butt downward toward your feet until you can feel the stretch in your biceps, shoulders and chest.
            • Hold for about 30 seconds before release.

            6. Wrist stretch

              • While Standing straight or sitting tall, extend your right arm forward to shoulder height with your fingers pointing towards the ceiling.
              • Grab your right fingers with your left hand and pull your right hand to bend the wrist until you can feel the stretch
              • Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite arm.

              7. Side stretch

                • Stand straight with your feet hip-wide apart.
                • Take your right arm and reach over your head towards your left side while bending your side.
                • Keep bending your side slowly until you can feel a stretch on your right side.
                • Maintain this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite side.

                8. Abdominal stretch

                  • Lie down on your stomach with your face towards the ground and your palms facing the floor as though you’re about to do a push up.
                  • While keeping your pelvis firmly on the floor, gently push up your upper body from the ground. This should make your feel some stretch in your abs.
                  • Maintain this position for about 30 seconds before releasing.

                  9. Reclined spinal twist

                    • Lie down facing the ceiling, with your arms extended to the sides and placed on the floor.
                    • While keeping the right leg extended, pull up your left knee towards your chest, tilt it toward your right side and then drop it slowly over your extended right leg.
                    • Keep your shoulder blades flat on the ground and you should feel the stretch around your back
                    • Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite side.

                    10. Low-back stretch

                      • Lie on the ground facing the ceiling, with your knees bent.
                      • Hold your shins and pull up your knees toward your chest.
                      • This should make you feel some stretch in your lower back.
                      • Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing.

                      11. Hip flexor stretch

                        • Stand right in a standard lunge position.
                        • Place your two hands on your hips.
                        • Step out on your right foot into mini-lunge position, without your knee going beyond your right toe.
                        • Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left side.

                        12. Glutes stretch

                          • Sit tall on the ground with both knees bent and both feet on the floor.
                          • Lift your right leg and cross it over your left thigh, while your left knee remains bent.
                          • Pull both legs inwards toward your abdomen for a deep stretch of your glutes.
                          • Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.

                          13. Quadriceps stretch

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                            • Stand tall while maintaining a straight posture.
                            • With your left hand, grab a pole, wall or anything durable for balance.
                            • With your right hand, grab your right foot and pull up your heels until they touch your buttocks.
                            • Keep your knees close together while doing this and you should feel the stretch in your quadriceps.
                            • Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the other side.

                            14. Hamstring stretch

                              • Sit on the floor with your right leg extended straight in front of you and your left leg bent.
                              • Reach forward with your right hand and touch your right toes. This should cause a stretch in your right hamstring.
                              • Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left leg.
                              • If you’re unable to reach your toes, try holding your shin instead but seek to go further every time you perform the stretch until you can touch your toes.

                              15. Calf stretch

                                • Sit on the ground and extend your right foot straight in front of you.
                                • Gently pull your right toes backwards with your right hand. This should cause a noticeable stretch in your calf.
                                • Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left leg.
                                • If you’re unable to reach your toes, use a rope or towel to pull your toes inward.

                                When should you be doing static stretches?

                                Static stretching is great…when done correctly and at the right time. Over the years, research has shown that static stretching produces best results when done after working out or on rest days,[6] but not as a part of warm up exercises before an explosive workout session.

                                This is because static stretching exercises have a “cool-down” effect on the muscles and are more effective when done after the muscles are already warm.

                                So, does that mean you must never ever perform static stretches before working out? Certainly not! You can, but it should be kept to the barest minimum.

                                Dynamic stretches – that involve more movement – are generally recommended for warming up as it helps the body to prepare better for the work ahead.

                                The bottom line

                                Carving out the body of your dreams isn’t only about lifting weights and running, you need to keep your body “elastic” if you’re going to make the most of your training. And that’s the whole point of stretching exercises.

                                So, starting today, be sure to incorporate these static stretching exercises into your routine and in no time, you’ll find yourself recovering faster and performing better than ever before.

                                Just remember to keep these stretches a part of your post-workout dessert for maximum benefit.

                                You’ve got this!

                                Featured photo credit: Scott Broome via unsplash.com

                                Reference

                                More by this author

                                Richard Adefioye

                                Richard has a unique passion for healthy living and productivity.

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                                Last Updated on January 21, 2020

                                The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

                                The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

                                Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

                                your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

                                  Why You Need a Vision

                                  Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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                                  How to Create Your Life Vision

                                  Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

                                  What Do You Want?

                                  The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

                                  It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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                                  Some tips to guide you:

                                  • Remember to ask why you want certain things
                                  • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
                                  • Give yourself permission to dream.
                                  • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
                                  • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

                                  Some questions to start your exploration:

                                  • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
                                  • What would you like to have more of in your life?
                                  • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
                                  • What are your secret passions and dreams?
                                  • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
                                  • What do you want your relationships to be like?
                                  • What qualities would you like to develop?
                                  • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
                                  • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
                                  • What would you most like to accomplish?
                                  • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

                                  It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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                                  What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

                                  Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

                                  A few prompts to get you started:

                                  • What will you have accomplished already?
                                  • How will you feel about yourself?
                                  • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
                                  • What does your ideal day look like?
                                  • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
                                  • What would you be doing?
                                  • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
                                  • How are you dressed?
                                  • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
                                  • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
                                  • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

                                  It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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                                  Plan Backwards

                                  It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

                                  • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
                                  • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
                                  • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
                                  • What important actions would you have had to take?
                                  • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
                                  • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
                                  • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
                                  • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
                                  • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

                                  Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

                                  It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

                                  Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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