Stretching is the most cost effective way to gain a
healthy body naturally. Implementing a personalized
stretching routine may take time, discipline and
patience, but do not let that stop you. The first step in
this process is to determine what you are physically
capable of doing. The next step is to put together a
routine that will increase the flexibility desired for a
particular region of your body. Sometimes it is
Stretching is defined as lengthening muscles by bending the body into various positions. There is much more
involved in stretching exercises than simply twisting and turning your extremities into specific directions. It is
about holding those stretches, while remembering to breathe, and releasing after a nice, slow count. Yoga is a
perfect example of slow stretching that can be performed at any age, with modifications available based on your
ability or injuries. This same concept can be used with any stretches given to you or ones that you come up with
on your own.
Remember, if the body is not stretched as it ages, the flexibility and suppleness of the joints deteriorates. Making
time for yourself is essential in keeping your body pliable and preventing the aches that occur when you are out of
condition. You will certainly be thankful when you experience the benefits you obtain from it. Exercising and
stretching will keep you youthful, physically fit, and gracefully agile. In fact, it is a fitness offense to skip stretching
after a workout. If you want to promote stiffness, invite injury and lengthen your recovery time, you can do all that by
not stretching the moment you finish your exercise routine and just head right back to your desk or the couch.
Retaining our mobility as we age is something we should all stop and think about. Too many elderly are being
rendered immobile and could have avoided this simply by stretching and taking better care of their bodies. It is
usually a slow process, but the time to begin is now. Consider this: Have you lost some mobility as you have
aged? If you can answer yes, then you should realize how vital it is that you begin stretching and being more
active now. We are the most advanced creatures on planet earth yet that seems to be our down fall as well. We
keep ourselves so busy, so preoccupied, that we forget about the simple stuff; we forget about ourselves.
Here are some benefits to getting on a regular exercise routine:
- Improved performance
- Reduced soreness and lower back pain
- Increased blood flow to the body
- Improved coordination
- Keeps you active and mobile as you age
- It helps your body to become flexible
- Increases the mobility of your joints
- Improves your circulation, posture and the range of motion of your limbs
- Prevents future injuries that usually occur while weight training or performing other exercises
- And one of the most important points . . . It relieves stress and feels good!
The Basics of Stretching
Your stretching program doesn't have to be complicated. Following these simple rules can make your routine
safe and easy:
- Make sure you stretch warm muscles. Stretching cold muscles can cause injuries, so save your stretch
for after your warm up or, even better, after your workout
- Never bounce when you stretch. This forces the muscle to go beyond what is comfortable and can cause
- Stretch all the muscles you use during your workout, lingering on any areas that are tight or tender.
- Hold each stretch for about 15-30 30 seconds and try to do each stretch 2 or more times.
Neck Rolls. Although this is a simple stretching exercise, it is an important one. It reduces the tension at the
nape of the neck, and is very relaxing for the entire body. Stand straight with your hands loosely hanging by your
sides. Take two or three deep breaths to relax your body. Now gently lower your head in front until your chin
comes in contact with the top part of your chest. Gradually rotate your head until your left ear is on top of your left
shoulder. Keep rotating your head around until your head tilts backward and your chin points upward. Continue
rotating, getting your right ear over the right shoulder. Then come back into the first chin-to-chest position. Repeat
the rotations 3-5 times, and then do them the opposite way. Do the neck rolls as slowly as possible and stretch
as much as possible, without over-stretching.
Hamstring Stretch. This stretch helps in making your lower body more flexible. Apart from stretching your
hamstrings, it also stretches the muscles in your lower back. Lift one leg and place the foot on a waist high
bench. Keep the leg you are standing on straight, and bend your torso forwards in order to grab hold of the leg on
the bench. Try to hold it as low down as possible. You will feel the hamstrings in the raised leg stretching. Repeat
the stretch with the other leg.
Forward Bend, Standing. This is an excellent exercise for stretching the lower back and the hamstring muscles.
It not only helps in relieving tight hamstring muscles, but it also lengthens them. Stand straight keeping your feet
together. Then, bend your torso forward, lowering your head, and grab hold of your ankles, taking care not to bend
your knees. Try to go down as low as possible, getting your chest as close to your thighs as you can. You will feel
a strong stretch in your lower back and hamstrings. Do this 3 to 5 times. This stretch can also be done in a
seated position, referred to as Seated Forward Bend.
Twists While Standing. This is a very good exercise wherein you use the resistance of your lower body to stretch
your upper body. Begin by standing straight, with your feet apart, keeping your knees bent slightly. Now raising
your arms on both sides hold them parallel to the floor. Now swivel the upper part of your body toward your right,
keeping your hips facing in the front in order to isolate your torso, and then turn around toward your left, twisting
as much as possible on both sides. Repeat 5 times.
Twists, Bent Over. This is a variation of the above exercise, the only difference being bending your body forward
so that your upper body is parallel to the floor. Now twist your torso towards your right leg, so that the fingers of
your left hand touch your right foot, and your right hand is pointing straight up, toward the ceiling. Then twist the
other way so that your right hand touches your left foot. Besides stretching the external oblique muscles, this also
stretches your hamstrings. Repeat 5 times.
Quadriceps Stretches. The quadriceps are the muscles in front of your thighs. Get into a kneeling position on
the floor, keeping your feet apart behind you. Now sit back, so that your buttocks are between your spread feet,
placing your hands on the floor at the back. Now, leaning back as much as possible, feel the stretch in your
quadriceps. Hold the stretch for about 10-15 seconds, and then release. You can repeat this exercise 2-3 times if
Inner Thigh Stretch. This is an excellent and very relaxing exercise which, apart from stretching your inner thighs,
also opens out your hips, making them more flexible. First, sit on the floor with your legs bent at the knees, so
that the soles of your feet face and touch each other in front of you. Then, bend your torso forward and clasp your
toes with your hands, resting your arms on top of your thighs. Now, gently pull your feet, drawing them as near
your groin as you can, while pressing your elbows down so that your knees are as close to the floor as possible.
Back Stretch. This is a stretching technique from yoga. Lie down on the floor in a prone position. Now bend your
knees so that your feet are pointed toward the ceiling. Then, lifting your head and torso off the floor, reach behind
with your hands, and clasp the ankles of each leg. Now pull your legs up towards the back of your head, tilting
your head back as much as possible, while you lift your chest up further off the floor. Hold this position for 10-15
seconds, and then release, getting back into the prone position.
Hanging Stretch. This is a wonderfully relaxing stretch. It uses the weight of your body to stretch your whole body
and your spine. Plus, it is quite simple to do. All you need to do is grasp a chin-up bar, or anything that will take
the weight of your body, and simply hang from it. Hold the stretch and then let go of the bar and relax.
Chest and Shoulder Stretch. Sit or stand and clasp your hands together behind your back, arms straight. Lift
your hands towards the ceiling, going only as high as is comfortable. You should feel a stretch in your shoulders
Upper Back Stretch. Clasp your hands together in front of you and round your back, pressing your arms away
from your body to feel a stretch in your upper back.
Biceps Stretch. Take your arms out to the sides, slightly behind you, with the thumbs up. Rotate your thumbs
down and back until they are pointing to the back wall to stretch the biceps.
Shoulder Stretch. Take right arm straight across your chest and curl the left hand around your elbow, gently
pulling on the right arm to deepen the stretch in the shoulders. Switch sides.
Side Stretch. Sitting or standing, clasp your hands straight up overhead, palms facing the ceiling. Gently lower to
the right side until you feel a stretch down your left side. Switch sides and repeat.
Triceps Stretch. Bend the left elbow behind your head and use the right hand to gently pull the left elbow in
further until you feel a stretch in your triceps. Switch sides and repeat.
necessary to consult a physician, a chiropractor, or a personal trainer to decide which stretches will get you the
results you are looking for, especially if you are trying to gain strength in a weakened area due to an injury. Once
you have completed these steps, it is simply up to you to begin and stay consistent. Pick a time of day and
frequency throughout the week that is best for your schedule, where you can relax and focus on you, and go for it.