Episode 4: Basic Stretch Exercises
Episode 4 – How to do basic stretching exercises you can do at home
Stretching is one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of fitness. It is important for a multitude of reasons and here are some of the most relevant:
- Helps the muscle and fascia extend into a more favorable length and tension more appropriate to take on various activities.
- Improves posture
- Increases joint range of motion
- Helps you mentally switch over between activities allowing a smoother transition between phases in your day.
- Increases blood flow into the muscles before training, and then after training, it helps return blood to the rest of the body.
Despite the benefits of stretching it can get a bit overwhelming because of the sheer number of types and kinds of stretches that you can do. Don’t stress! You don’t have to do them all, simply narrow down on the areas that are feeling particularly tight such as, the key muscle groups you’re planning to target, and then work from there.
In this article today, let’s focus on some basic stretch exercises – both static and dynamic stretches – to get you started.
What are the types of stretches?
There are two types of basic stretch exercises. Dynamic stretches are performed before the workout proper to warm up and are held for around 8 to 10 seconds maximum while static stretches are performed after your workout to cool down and are held for roughly 20 to 30 seconds.
Reminder: Light cardio before these stretches will be incredibly helpful to get your blood flow going and will make your stretches easier.
Hip Flexor Stretch exercise
- Start in a position similar to a lunge with one leg in front and the ankle underneath the knee, while the other leg is in a kneeling position, knee below the hip.
- Move your hips forward and lean into it initiating a stretch down the front of your thigh.
- To extend a little bit more you can reach your hands up to involve your abs as well.
- Extend your front leg a little bit further then proceed to move between a dynamic hamstring and a dynamic hip flexor.
Photo 1: Hip Flexor Stretch
Hamstring Stretch exercise
- Lay down on a mat.
- Bring your leg up and try to bring it as close as you can to 90o (or near enough).
- Hold that position.
- Bend your leg at the knee and then proceed to extend the leg.
- Lower it down to relax it, and then extend again.
Photo 2: Hamstring Stretch
Lateral Stretch exercise
- Stand with your legs beyond shoulder width apart
- Bend towards your left knee and reach over to the side with your right hand.
- Use your other arm to support your upper body.
- Switch over and bend your right knee this time stretching your left leg.
- Reach over to the side with your left hand.
- Reach over and gradually increase the range of motion.
Photo 3: Lateral Stretch
Quad Stretch exercise
- Make sure you’re standing straight and upright.
- Reach up, grab the leg, and keep yourself balanced. Feel free to hold onto a chair or wall to support yourself.
- Move into the static position, stretch for a short period
- Release your leg and return to the starting position.
- Go back into the static stretch position
- Gradually increase the tension.
Photo 4: Quad Stretch
Need to know the other basic stretch exercises to perform? Read on below!
Spinal Rotation stretch exercise
- Start off with your legs slightly beyond shoulder with apart. Allow your hips to sink down a little bit with your arms crossed and resting on your shoulders.
- Rotate through the hips and bring your shoulders all the way around from left to right and vice versa.
- Make sure only your upper trunk is in motion.
Photo 5: Spinal Rotation – Basic
Spinal Rotation Progression
- Next, include the legs and integrate the whole body into the rotation.
- Twist your legs and allow the rotation to involve your hips, spine, and the upper body.
- Vary the rotation by going lower and higher.
Photo 6: Spinal Rotation – Progression
Calf Stretch exercise
- Find a wall and put one foot against it.
- Keep that same leg straight so you can focus on the calf.
- Lean into the wall from the hips.
- Slowly shift more weight onto the leg against the wall and then release the pressure. Repeat the motion by gently bouncing into the calf repeatedly increasing the pressure and then relaxing.
Photo 7: Calf Stretch
Chest Stretch exercise
- Stand with your body facing perpendicular to the wall.
- Lean your hand and elbow against the wall forming a 90* angle with your body. Hold this position then gently stretch the chest by twisting away.
- Rotate out a little bit, feel the stretch then relax
- Return to starting position.
Photo 8: Chest Stretch
Ideally, it’s best to stretch 3 to 4 times a week and of course, the more you do it the better it’s going to be for you. Furthermore, if you can try to dedicate one session per week purely to basic stretch exercises, it’s going to make an immense difference for you whether you’re an athlete or a weekend warrior.
To summarize the tips again, here are the top four (4) tips to keep in mind:
1. Better performance
2. Improves the baseline range of motion and good for posture
3. Mental switch over time
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Feel free to watch the video
- Chek, P. (2009) How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy!
- Myers, T. (2009) Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists (2nd Ed.). Churchill Livingstone
- Sherwood, L.(2004) Human Physiology: From Cells to Systems (5th Ed.) Thomson, Brooks/Cole
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