Stretches for Maximum Fitness Results
Why Do I Need to Do Stretches? Is it Really Important?
Many people blast through their cardio, and weightlifting programs then make a break for the door without stopping to stretch. Unfortunately, they are missing out on a crucial component of getting maximum results!
Stretching is paramount to keeping muscles flexible, powerful and healthy. Stretching is also vital in helping to maintain correct range of motion in the joints. When we work out, muscles can become shortened and tight, which means they won’t be at an optimal length for recovery. What does that matter and what does stretching have to do with it? Quite simply when a muscle is shortened and tight, it can’t extend to its full length which makes them weak. Weak muscles put you at a higher risk for joint injuries and muscle strains.
The other part of the equation for stretching and why it is important is something called the “Length-Tension Relationship”. The Length-Tension Relationship states that muscle has an optimal resting length that can produce the greatest amount of force when contracted. When muscles are stretched to their optimal length, they can achieve maximum muscular contraction. In other words … when you stretch your tight muscles after working with weights, they will recover faster and have more strength the next time you lift.
Where Should a Stretching Routine Start?
Starting a new program can seem overwhelming; it may seem like just another thing that will take time away from an already busy schedule. However, stretching can be a time to bring you back into focus, help you to relax and get you ready to “get back into the game.”
The question then becomes, where do I start with a new stretching routine? That’s a big question when you consider that we have a minimum of 650 muscles in our body! The best rule of thumb is to start with the muscles that you worked out on that particular day, then move to the ones you know are consistently tight.
Since there are so many stretches, I am going to give you a few that will stretch the maximum amount of muscles while saving you time. Please remember, as with anything, if you have current injuries, are new to exercise, or you are pregnant, consult your physician or physiotherapist or alternate health care provider before trying these stretches.
Start From the Top and Work Your Way Down
Start from a standing position and working your way down to the floor is more time efficient than getting up and down for stretches. Do all of your standing stretches, then seated stretches and finally stretches on the floor
Stand in a doorway and place you hands and elbows on the door frame (elbows are at shoulder height). Gently step forward with one leg until you feel a comfortable stretch in your chest. The upper part of the chest will be stretched with the elbow lower. The lower part of the chest and Pectoralis Minor will be stretched with the elbow higher.
Overhead Triceps Stretch
Place one arm over your head, position the upper part of the arm close to the ear and the forearm as close as possible to upper arm, the hand should be resting on or near your shoulder blade. Grasp your elbow with the other hand, pull elbow back and toward head. You can incorporate the Latissimus Dorsi as well if you lean sideways away from the arm that you are stretching. If you are extremely flexible you can grasp the two hands behind in the middle of the back with will also stretch your rotator cuff.
Standing Quad Stretch
Stand up straight with your hand on the wall or stationary object. Grasp the top of the ankle with your hand or wrap a towel around the ankle if you can’t bend your knee back that far or if you have knee pain. Pull the foot towards your rear end, straighten the hips by moving knee backward and squeezing the butt cheek.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Kneel down on the mat and lunge forward with knee. Position the foot with the ankle in line with the knee and the foot neutral. Place hands on knee. Straighten the hip of rear leg by pushing hips forward while keeping the torso upright. You can leave your hands on the knees for stability if required or extend the hands overhead for a deeper stretch.
Sit on the mat and place the soles of the feet together on floor and close to body. Make sure you are sitting on your seat bones with the tailbone back not tucked underneath you. Grasp feet with both hands and position elbows on inside of lower legs and press down gently.
Seated Glute Stretch
Sit on a mat reclining back with both arms behind you supporting the body. Bend the knees approximately 90° with feet on floor. Cross one leg over the other with the ankle on the thigh close to the knee. Lean forward and hold the stretch.
Sit on a mat with your knees bent. Place a towel under the arch of your right foot with hands grasping both ends of the towel (or yoga strap). Lie back keeping the right knee bent and place the left leg straight out, flat on the floor. Slowly start to straighten the right leg while maintaining your grip on the towel or strap. Do not lift your head or shoulders off the floor.
Hold each position for 30 – 60 seconds and ensure you adjust your position so that you are feeling a stretch of about 4/10 (10/10 is a maximum stretch with pain). When you are at a 4/10 or 40% intensity, you will feel a comfortable stretch, however, there should be no pain. Follow the order of the stretches above for a good flow and efficiency. These stretches are passive static stretches and are meant to be done after a workout, not before!
Regular stretching keeps your muscles long, lean, and extensible, and this means more opportunity for muscle growth and improved performance. Stretching should be done after each workout, but daily would be even better!
Should you wish to take your training to the next level, consider hiring an Infofit elite personal trainer and maximize your fitness results.
Cathie Glennon – BCRPA/SFL, Rehabilitation Specialist, Pharm.Tech (Level 3)