Failing to stretch before and after exercise is the number one reason why people sustain injuries after their workouts. Neglecting to stretch has several painful and undesirable consequences including muscle tightness, higher risk of injury and inferior performance. Also, people who sit for long periods may experience muscle degeneration and poor circulation if they do not incorporate regular stretching sessions into their daily routine. Whether you work out regularly or are looking for a way to combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, stretching has several benefits to offer you. Below are a few highly effective stretching exercises to help you spring back into shape and enjoy total body flexibility;
A Piriformis stretch works on the piriformis muscle which is located behind the gluteus maximus. The piriformis muscle performs several functions including; connecting the lower spine to the femurs, stabilizing your hip joints and abducting the thigh muscles.
Stretching your piriformis muscle has several benefits; first of all, it eases knee pain. This is because walking with a tight piriformis can put great stress on your joints resulting in pain. Stretching out your piriformis will take this pressure off your knee joints, make them more flexible and reduce pain. Secondly, it helps to ease the symptoms of piriformis syndrome which is a condition that occurs when the piriformis muscle presses against the sciatic nerve and causes pain and other symptoms. Finally, it controls your joints and allows for a great range of motions, especially during exercise.
There are several variations of the piriformis stretch including; supine, standing and sitting stretches.
To perform a basic piriformis stretch; lie on your back with your knees bent and place your feet flat on the ground. Slowly bring your right knee towards your chest and pull your knee towards your left shoulder. Hold this stretch for ten seconds and release. Repeat with the other side and as many times as required on both sides.
Overhead shoulder and triceps stretch
The overhead shoulder and triceps stretch works your triceps, lats and trapezius muscles. Triceps perform the function of contracting and releasing your arm so you can pick, throw and push objects. The lats or latissimus dorsi muscles help to move the arms and also support your spine while the trapezius controls the movement of your head and neck.
These muscles are susceptible to injuries like trapezius myalgia, triceps tendonitis and traumatic tears to latissimus dorsi muscles. Stretching is among the best ways to prevent and treat injuries that affect these muscles and it has other benefits including; improving flexibility, increasing range of motion and boosting circulation.
Triceps and shoulder stretches are easy to perform. You start by standing straight with your feet hip-width apart, core engaged and arms at shoulder height. Next, use your right hand to grasp your left elbow and pull your arm towards the back of your right shoulder. Pull into a deep stretch and hold for 30 seconds. Release, change sides and repeat.
Having a strong core is important because it increases your stability, helps you perform day to day activities such, prevents back pain and improves overall flexibility. This is why you need to do core strengthening activities such as planks, hanging knee raises, sit-ups, crunches, and others. These exercises target your abdominal, obliques, pelvic floor, low back and other muscles in your abdomen and back.
Stretches are especially important for your core since they prepare your body for exercise and other activities, prevent injury and increase flexibility to take the pressure off your back and reduce the risk of injury. Abdominal exercises are best performed after your ab workout to lengthen muscles which may have cramped up during your routine.
Some of the best abdominal stretches you can use include; the cat-cow, cobra, and the seated side-saddle stretch.
Double knee to chest stretch
Building strong glute and general lower body strength has several benefits. First of all, strong glutes provide people who sit for long periods with extra cushioning so they can avoid back and neck pain. Secondly, they strengthen your core which helps your body support a wide range of movements. Finally, working the muscles in your glutes, quads, calves, and hamstrings leads to improve muscle balance and prevents problems with mobility.
Stretching your glutes and other lower body muscles have several advantages including; improved flexibility, reduced risk of injury and increased mobility. Your lower body contains most of the large muscle groups in your body and it is essential to stretch them since injuring any of them can put you out of action for a very long time.
The double knee to chest stretch is one of the best exercises you can do for your lower body. It stretches all the muscles from your calves, through to your obliques and hamstrings, up to your glutes and finally ends at your lower back. To perform a knee to chest exercise, lie flat on your back with your core engaged and your knees bent. Grasp both knees with your hands and pull them towards your chest. Squeeze your knees into your chest until you can feel the stretch in your lower body and back. Hold for thirty to sixty seconds. Release and return to the starting position. There are several variations of this stretch including the standing knee to chest, single knee to chest, and resistance band knee to chest.
Towel chest stretch
Exercising your upper body has several health benefits including heart health, improved posture, increased metabolism and easier performance of everyday activities. Some of the best workouts to incorporate into your workout include; overhead presses, pull-ups, bench presses and dips.
Your upper body is susceptible to many injuries due to the sheer amount of work it does performing day to day activities and working out. Some common workout injuries include tennis elbow, gymnasts’ wrist, and little league shoulder. These injuries manifest in the form of; painful or swollen wrists and shoulder, elbow pain and difficulty using the affected areas. Further, sedentary jobs may lead to rounded shoulders and stiff muscles which may also contribute to discomfort and pain. To counter the effects of the injury on the upper body, ensure that you stretch adequately before and after each upper body workout.
One of the best stretches you can use to prevent and treat upper body pain is the towel chest stretch. This exercise works your pectoral, bicep, rotator cuff and extensor and flexor muscles in the wrist. This exercise helps to improve posture and mobility while preventing injury to your shoulders, arms, and wrists. To perform this exercise, stand with feet hip-width apart and your hands stretched out behind you. Grab a towel in your hands and slowly lift them upwards until you feel the stretch in your chest and biceps. Hold up to thirty seconds, release and return to starting position. Repeat 2-3 times.
Stretching before and after exercise has many benefits for your whole body. These include; reduced risk of injury, greater flexibility, improved posture, and greater performance. Ensure to stretch every time you do a workout or if you have certain health conditions that can be improved by incorporating stretches into your daily routine. By stretching regularly, you can ensure that you have a stronger, more flexible and healthier body.