Quick and Easy Stretching Routine
Stretching is one of those things that most people acknowledge they should do more of but very often don’t get around to doing. I have found over the last 12 years as a trainer that the most effective stretching routines are the easiest ones to do. Here are some guidelines to a quick and easy stretching routine to help keep you mobile and pain free.
Stretching is best done after exercise while the muscle is warmed up. You should not stretch a cold muscle in fear of straining or injuring it, so make sure you warm your muscle up with some mild cardio, range of motion exercises, or a hot bath. Research has shown that stretching prior to exercise is not as effective as a pre exercise warm up routine (such as range of motion exercises or light cardiovascular exercise) but is most effective after exercise.
Stretching should never hurt. You want to slowly lean into the stretch until you feel a pulling sensation, but nothing sharp or shooting. Once you feel your stretch, take five to ten slow deep breaths and lean a bit more into your stretch as you breathe out. This should take approximately 30-60 seconds, but try to focus more on slow deep breathing than the length of time you are stretching.
The following stretches are easy and you can do them pretty much anywhere: using a chair, your kitchen counter, a tree stump, the bumper of a truck, a park bench, or the cross bar of your bicycle propped against a tree. If the stretch is too much, simply use a height that is closer to the ground or make yourself higher by standing on a platform.
1. Hamstrings (back of your leg)
Place one leg up on the ledge. Keeping both legs straight and your hip square to your feet, lean forwards bringing your belly button to your leg.
2. Quadriceps (front of your leg)
Face away from the ledge, bend your knee and put your toe up on the ledge behind you. Keeping your glutes (bum) squeezed, lean back and bring your hips towards your ankle.
3. Gluteals (hips and bum)
Place the outside of your foot and leg on the table in front of you. Keeping your hips square to the table, bend forwards and bring your belly button to your leg.
4. Gastrocnemius (calves)
Face the ledge with your feet staggered, back heel on the ground. Bend your front leg towards the ledge keeping your back leg straight and heel on the ground. You may want to hold onto the ledge.
5. Chest/front of shoulders
Place your arms on the ledge behind you. Stagger your legs and lunge forwards without arching your back or raising your shoulders.
Holding onto a ledge with your feet directly below the ledge, slowly bring your hips back and down. Start with your knees bent, but progress to straightening them. Make sure your ledge is fixed and will not move or fall over as you are leaning back! A pole or railing works too.
Please note that this is just a few of many stretches out there and if you have any specific pain or injuries, consider a more appropriate routine suited to your needs. I like to say you should always be able to smile while you stretch so do not overdo it, just relax, breathe, and enjoy the benefits!