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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.

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      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.

      More by this author

      Terri West

      Certified Fitness Trainer & Nutrition Specialist

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      Last Updated on April 19, 2021

      15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

      15 Static Stretches 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. While they are great for both, static stretches can offer a boost to any workout routine for people of all fitness levels.

      Irrespective of your reasons for working out, be it for sports or personal fitness, one thing is certain: stretching can help you. Static stretches come 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, we’ll zero in on several great static stretches and take a look at the benefits and when they should be done.

      Benefits of Static Stretches

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

      Improved Flexibility

      If you want to perform better, flexibility is of tremendous importance, irrespective of the specific workouts you do. Luckily enough, static stretches are 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]

      Although the specific mechanism through which this occurs is still unclear, static stretches have been shown to greatly increase muscle and joint flexibility[2] and tissue length[3], which work in tandem to make your workout more effective.

      Prevent Injuries

      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 again that performing the right stretches pre- and post-workout greatly helps with injury prevention.[4]

      Think of it this way:

      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.

      Increased Blood Flow 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.

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

      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 sore muscles for days.

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

      Research has shown that practicing static stretches 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 reduced inflammation and faster repair of such tissues.

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

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

      15 Static Stretches to Enhance Your Workouts

      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 out to 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, and repeat for the opposite side.

        Many people tend to hold stress and tension in their neck and shoulders. If you find this is the case, this is one of the best static stretches to use for a muscle release in this area.

        2. Chest Stretch

          Stand upright, 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.

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          3. Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch

          Shoulder Cross-Arm Stretch « CASS FITNESS

            Stand upright or sit up tall on a chair or mat, and extend one arm out in 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 Static Stretch

              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.

              Many know this stretch from gym class, but it really is one of the best static stretches for the arms.

              5. Biceps Stretch

              Arm Exercises | Seated Bent-Knee 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 releasing.

                6. Wrist Stretch

                11 Best Tennis Elbow Exercises For Pain Free Mobility [PDF]

                  While standing up straight or sitting tall, extend your right arm forward to shoulder height with your fingers pointing toward 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-width 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.

                    The muscles down your side body are notoriously difficult to stretch out. This is one of the best static stretches to try on a consistent basis to get them loosened up.

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                    8. Abdominal Static 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 your upper body up 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

                      Supta Matsyendrasana - Supine Spinal Twist - Yogaasan
                        Lie down, with your arms extended to the sides and placed on the floor. While keeping the right leg straight, 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. Knees to Chest

                        Knee-to-chest exercise from Physical Therapists' Advice to Manage Pain at Home - The Active Times

                          Lie on the ground facing the ceiling, with your knees bent. Hold your shins, and pull your knees toward your chest. This should make you feel some stretch in your lower back. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing. If you’re looking to loosen up your back muscles, this is one of the static stretches you can do daily.

                          11. Hip Flexor Static Stretch

                          How to Do the Standing Lunge Stretch

                            Stand upright in a standard lunge position, and 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. Figure 4 Stretch

                            How to Do a Figure 4 Stretch | Openfit

                              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. Standing Quad Stretch

                                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.

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                                Keep your knees close together while doing this, push your hip forward, and you should feel the stretch in your quadriceps. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other side. This is one of the best static stretches for the quads.

                                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.

                                    Bonus: Stretch With a Resistance Band

                                    Resistance bands offer a unique benefit from free weights and create tension throughout your movement. Get the free 30 Day Resistance Band Full Workout Challenge, and challenge yourself to stretch with a resistance band.

                                    When Should You Do 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 routines before an explosive workout session.

                                    This is because static stretches have a cool-down effect on each muscle group and are more effective when done after the muscles are already warm.

                                    That doesn’t mean you must never ever perform static stretches before working out, but do it sparingly. Dynamic stretches, which involve more movement, are generally recommended for warming up as it helps the body 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 static stretches.

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                                    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.

                                    More Tips on Stretching

                                    Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

                                    Reference

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