The main role of stretching is to keep your muscles strong and flexible, preventing tears and muscle damage. Keeping muscles loose and healthy also allows them to hold your weight rather than allowing it to fall on your joints. If your muscles become fatigued, the joints end up having to work over time which can lead to joint pain, strains, sprains, fractures, dislocations and other injuries. Stretching after a workout, or daily, helps to keep those muscles strong and flexible, which can then reduce your risk for pain and injury.
Different stretches will be more beneficial based on certain exercises you’ve been doing. For example, if you’re focusing on any type of cardio such as running or walking, you’ll want to stretch out your legs. If you’re lifting weights, your arms will require more stretching. You’ll also be able to tell what part of the body needs to be stretched from a tight or sore feeling in those muscles.
Find out more about why stretching is important, how to incorporate it into your daily routine, and what movements will maximize your stretching efforts. If any of the stretches below are too painful, you may be dealing with an injury and it’s best to contact a doctor before continuing to stretch.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
Stand up straight with your arms by your side. Bend forward at your waist and let your arms fall in front of you, then reach toward the floor as you bend. Exhale as you lean forward and reach. Depending on your flexibility, your fingertips may touch the floor or they may not - that’s okay. You’ll feel the stretch in the backs of your legs, or your hamstrings. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute.
Pirformis Stretch (Hip Rotator)
The pirformis is a muscle deep in the internal hip rotator and that allows a lot of movement in the hip. While the muscle is small, it does a great deal of work and can irritate your sciatic nerve if left unstretched.
Sit on the floor and extend both legs in front of you. Cross your right leg over the left, bending the knee and putting your foot flat on the floor. Turn your body to the right, place your right hand on the floor behind you, and your left elbow on your right knee. You’ll feel the stretch on the right side of your bottom and up into your hamstring.
Don’t twist your torso so much if this stretch is giving you pain in your back.
The frog stretch targets your hips that tighten up throughout the day as you sit and cross your legs, causing lower back pain. This stretches hard-to-reach muscles in your groin and hips to keep them limber and lean.
Start on all fours, moving your knees wider than hip width apart. Then turn your toes out so the inside of your feet are resting against the floor. Shift your weight in your hips back, pushing your chest forward to the floor. Slide your knees apart or rest on your forearms for a deeper stretch. Hold for 20 to 45 seconds. This is a sensitive area so avoid overstretching.
Stand tall, take your left leg, bend at the knee, and bring your left foot up over your right knee. Shift your weight back into your hips and bend your right knee to produce a stretch in the back of the left leg.
This stretch targets a hard to reach area that can be difficult to loosen.
You hold tension in your back and shoulders from standing, sitting at a desk, running, and stress. Poor posture also contributes to this tension and leads to back pain. This stretch will allow you to release the tension in your upper back and relieve tightness due to poor posture.
Sit down on the ground and place your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Extend your arms behind you and clasp your hands together. Straight your arms and squeeze your shoulder blades together. You’ll feel the stretch in your shoulders and also in your triceps. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and repeat on each side 5 to 10 times.
You use your core more than you realize. Almost every body movement you make engages your core so you can stay balanced and use various parts of the body. Your core rarely gets a break due to its constant use, so taking the time to stretch it out will keep your abdominal muscles healthy.
Kneel on the floor on your knees, sitting up tall. Straighten your left leg and extend it out to your side. Raise your right arm straight up overhead and bend your body, reaching your right arm toward your left leg, while keeping your hips facing forward. Hold for 30 second and repeat on the other side.
Stretch both before and after your workout, especially after your workout. Your muscles will still be warm from the workout and stretching them will ensure that they don’t get tight which can cause an injury. Ending your workout and carrying on with your day without stretching may be tempting because you’ll feel loose and limber, but you’ll regret it when your muscles get sore later.
If you don’t follow a workout regimen, stretching is still important. Your muscles are engaged for various movements you make throughout the day, whether it’s walking, sitting or standing. Stretching the body keeps you healthy and reduces pain, as well as risk of injury.
A muscle sprain, strain or injury can cause pain during the most basic movements, but you don’t have to suffer. Treatments such as physical therapy can help you return to your life before your injury. Schedule an appointment with Rothman Orthopaedics to get relief today.