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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

Try These Flexibility Stretches to Enhance Your Daily Workout

Try These Flexibility Stretches to Enhance Your Daily Workout

Having a flexible body is essential for everyday life, and particularly for exercise. Think of all the things you do throughout your day that cause your muscles to tighten or create discomfort: Being stuck behind a desk, standing for long periods of time, repetitive motions, driving long distances, and exercising without properly maintaining a limber body are all ways that keep you from having a well-balanced and efficient lifestyle.

To fully optimize your workout, it is necessary to be flexible in order to perform your exercises properly — by getting full range of motion in which your joints can potentially move. Here’s why:[1]

When we don’t stretch before and after a workout, our muscles hold onto toxins, we risk injury, recovery time takes longer, and our performance is decreased.

In order to prevent restrictive mobility, we must do flexibility stretches.[2] Common areas that need stretching and/or flexibility are the hips, back, knees, and ankles. In this article, you will see why it is not only important to stretch, but to balance the planes of motion in which our body parts move.

How To Stretch

Done consistently, the following flexibility stretches will enhance your workout, you will gain greater range of motion, improve balance, and recover more quickly for your next workout.

Typically, a static stretch should be held for 20-60 seconds (International Sports Sciences Association), remembering not to overstretch which can cause injury as overstretching can cause pulled muscles and tears.

In a comfortable stretch, you should feel just a slight pull without going beyond normal range of motion. Always be aware of your breathing during a stretch.

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For example, if you are doing a flexibility movement for the knee, just before you go into the stretch, take a deep breath and then exhale once you are into the stretch. Breathing is important as it relaxes the muscles and helps to loosen them.

Your body should be warm before stretching to increase blood flow. This can be a 3-minute ride on a stationary bike or slowly-controlled, 45-60 second body weight squats.

Hips Stretches

The hips tend to give us trouble when we get into our 40’s and 50’s, and the cause of pain is not always injury or over-use, but rather, lack of stretching in the hip flexor muscles.

Even if you’re not a sedentary person, you walk throughout your work day, climb stairs, or stand for long periods of time, you must keep your hips flexible to keep them from tightening which can cause other problems, like lower back pain. (Everything is connected.)

Oftentimes, people who are active tend to think that because they cycle, run, or perform other exercises that recruit the hip flexors, they don’t need to stretch because their hips are constantly moving; Not so. What people don’t recognize is that over time these and other movements create muscle imbalances, spasms, and affect posture.

When your hips are flexible, the exercises that recruit gluteal muscles, like the squat and lunge, have better control. Take a look at these 4 hip flexor stretches by Guerilla Zen Fitness:

Back/Spine Stretches

The back and abdominal muscles support the core and are necessary to have a strong gait. In order to have a strong back, you must open up your chest and sides of your back with various stretches.

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Sometimes, without noticing it, we rely on our back for a variety of movements, such as looking over our shoulder to pass safely in our vehicle, rising up from a chair, reaching up high for an object, etc.

These passive movements seem easy, but without a stable core, you’re left with a weak spine and the movements can become challenging over time.

Having a flexible spine and strong core is great for exercises like crunches, torso circles, side bends, lying leg raises, and sit-ups.

Here are 3 spinal flexibility stretches by Strength Side:

You can also incorporate regular yoga practice into your daily routine as a holistic approach to gaining flexibility in your back.

One of my favorite things about yoga is that it moves energy throughout the entire body, with special attention to the spine. In addition, yoga helps to lengthen muscles and opens up the space between the ribs and vertebrae, which minimizes tension and reduces headaches and backaches.[3]

Try these yoga poses that are not only good for flexibility but for overall relaxation. Hold each pose for 10 to 15 breaths:[4]

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    Knees Stretches

    The use of our legs to walk, run, swim or do any the movement that involves the legs also involves the knees. Flexibility in and around the knee joints is essential for mobility, and because everything is connected, flexibility in the knees will also create flexibility in other areas, such as the ankles, which will I will address next.

    So, if the exercises you perform on machines, such as the leg extension or leg curl, which move in the sagittal plane – that is, forward and backward or up and down – are among your go-to’s when training your lower body, you must have flexible knees.

    Here are 3 knee strengthening examples by Strength Side:

    Ankles Exercises

    Ankles run into all kinds of problems, like walking, wearing high heels or uncomfortable shoes, flat feet, trauma, improper footing when performing exercises, arthritis, and even swimming. All of these can cause tendonitis – The inflammation surrounding tendons in the lower leg muscles.

    Despite what it may look like, the foot does not remain in the same position during up-and-down movements which is why it is important to maintain flexibility in the muscles surrounding the ankle joint.

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    Flexibility allows for various positions (International Sports Sciences Association). In addition to the following exercises, R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is also effective for relieving ankle pain. Here are some examples of how to increase ankle and foot mobility:

    Planes of Motion

    Balancing your body’s planes of motion is necessary, not only for weight training and other exercise, but for gaining flexibility as well.

    Our body is a powerhouse because it is not limited to a single plan of motion movement, and instead has the ability to move in multiple directions – Sagittal, frontal, and transverse.

    For example, when doing flexibility exercises for your back, you should also work our abdominal muscles. Similarly, when weight-training your quadriceps, you should balance them by also training your hamstrings. This creates balance, coordination, and functionality:[5]

      Bonus Tip

      Keep in mind that stretching can go hand-in-hand with the use of sports medicine equipment, such as a foam roller to pre-condition tight muscles and break up lactic acid, compression apparel to maintain warmth, and even a lacrosse ball to target trigger points.[6]

      Now that you are familiar with stretches where common injuries occur, you should experience relief in multiple areas of your body and in your daily life. Tension, stress, and tight muscles can now be curtailed by effective stretching before and after your activities, and your muscles will be more relaxed and efficient, thereby increasing your performance.

      More Resources About Stretching Exercises

      Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Muscle Mechanics, International Sports Sciences Association, “Fitness: The Complete Guide,” page 166
      [2] Flexibility Training, International Sports Sciences Association, “Fitness: The Complete Guide,” page 343
      [3] Top Fuel Crossfit: Yoga Poses to Relieve Headaches: Lengthening the Spine
      [4] Rukmani Iyengar: 5 Yoga Asanas to Reduce Back Pain
      [5] Kai Simon: How To Improve Your Workout: Planes Of Motion
      [6] Flexibility Training, International Sports Sciences Association, “Fitness: The Complete Guide,” page 343.

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      Terri West

      Certified Fitness Trainer & Nutrition Specialist

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      Last Updated on March 3, 2021

      10 Workout Tips for Building Muscle the Right Way

      10 Workout Tips for Building Muscle the Right Way

      Building muscle is one of the best ways to help you feel better about your appearance, but it’s also a great way to improve your physical efficiency, stabilize your bones and joints, and reduce risk of injury in everyday life. However, most people aren’t sure how to go about building muscle in the best way.

      By carefully selecting the time of your workout, the combination of techniques, and the proper post-workout snacks, you can maximize your workout to build strength and muscle. Here are the essential tips you need to know.

      1. Work out at the Right Time of Day

      The time of day when you choose to work out can make all the difference when it comes to working out to your maximum potential. Anthony Hackney, a professor in the department of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, says that working out in the morning is best for weight loss due to the body’s hormonal composition at that time. If you really want to lose fat, exercise on an empty stomach[1].

      Now, if your goal is to build muscle, you’ll want to eat something first. This means that an afternoon or evening workout can serve you better as your body will have the necessary nutrients to perform well during a workout.

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      Ultimately, the best time to work out is the time of day that fits into your schedule. Not everyone has the luxury of working out in the morning or right after work. If you’re able to stick to a schedule, it will help you on your journey to building muscle.

      If you need help just getting started and finding motivation to get to the gym, check out Lifehack’s Ultimate Worksheet for Instant Motivation Boost.

      2. Weights Before Cardio

      If your goal is to lose weight or build muscle mass, strength training should come first, according to researchers. Furthermore, studies have shown that “Moderate- to high-intensity endurance training decreases the efficacy of strength training.” Therefore, if you’re going to train for a marathon, do so after you lift weights.[2]

      3. Eat Often (and More)

      Keep your energy up and give your body plenty of fuel for building muscle by eating small meals every three hours or so. Make sure to eat plenty of protein, ideally the equivalent amount of protein in grams as your current body weight in pounds. For example, a 150-pound man would aim to take in 150 grams of protein per day.

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      When trying to build muscle, aim to eat 250 to 500 calories more than you normally would, but don’t go too far beyond that. Your body may store the extra calories as body fat if it doesn’t use them during or after the workout.

      4. Eat a Snack After You Work out

      After a workout, your body will need a good dose of protein and amino acids in order to aid in muscle growth and recovery. This is essential to building muscle, as without the recovery, you can open yourself up to muscle strain and injury.

      You should aim to eat this high-protein snack within about 60 minutes of ending your workout. This will help the muscles absorb the nutrients when they need them. Try yogurt, cottage cheese, chocolate milk, nuts, or a protein shake as a great post-workout snack.

      5. Stay Hydrated

      The last thing you need complicating your workout is a cramp or fatigue, so drinking water before, during, and after your workout for best results. This will also aid in the recovery process as the muscles will use water to heal.

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      6. Never Skip the Warm up or Cool Down

      Stretching prevents muscle strain, helps blood more easily reach the joints and muscles, and can help lower cholesterol when done as part of a yoga or Pilates routine. Muscles also need to realign themselves after an intense workout, which a few minutes of stretching can help to accomplish.

      7. Combine Compound and Isolate Movements

      While isolating certain muscles is important, you need to alternate compound motions as well, which will target multiple muscle groups at once. Compound workouts are good for beginners and for toning certain parts of the body. They’ll also burn more calories and increase your mobility.

      Compound movements include squats, deadlifts, and pull-ups. These target several muscles groups at once. If you find that one muscle group is weaker than the rest, you can incorporate isolate movements to build it up.

      8. Gradually Increase Your Weights

      Increase the weight you’re lifting on each exercise by about 5 percent each week. If you bench-pressed 100 pounds this week, for example, then next week you should try doing 105 pounds. This gradual increase will yield the best muscle building results without overly straining your body.

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      9. Budget the Correct Amount of Time for Your Workout

      Studies have found that working out a muscle group two times a week is the best way to start building muscle more quickly. You will certainly see some results by only working a muscle group once a week, but try twice to give yourself a boost.

      Also, you don’t need to spend two hours in the gym each time you go. 20 to 30 minutes of weight lifting and strength training will help you see results and increase your muscle mass. If you go to the gym for an hour, try varying your workout a bit in order to avoid overworking a certain muscle group.

      10. Look in the Mirror

      Try to do all of your weight lifting in front of a mirror. That way, you can correct your posture and make sure you are fully extending your muscles. Correct form means means maximized results.

      This will likely feel strange at first, especially if you feel self conscious at the gym. However, know that this is normal and what many seasoned weight lifters do to ensure proper form.

      The Bottom Line

      Building muscle is a worthy goal to have as it will ultimately improve your everyday life from the ground up. You’ll find that everyday tasks become easier and that you have more energy for both your workouts and personal life. Use the tips above to start building muscle today.

      More on Building Muscle

      Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

      Reference

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