Stretching lengthens muscles and loosens the joints to which they connect. Having long muscles doesn’t mean you get longer legs or arms, it just means the muscle is strong, flexible and healthy, allowing you move more freely, walk without stiffness and bend, reach and twist with ease. Adequate flexibility is also important in helping you avoid injuries and can improve your exercise performance.
The following total body stretching routine can be performed as part of a cool down for any physical activity. Before you start stretching, be sure you understand the basic rules of stretching:
- Hold your stretches 8 to 20 seconds. The less flexible you are, the longer you will need to stretch the muscle.
- Never ever bounce. Bouncing is for balls. For people, it can result in injuries.
- Relax and breathe deeply as you stretch. Concentrate and focus. Some people like to close their eyes. Be sure that you feel the stretch where you’re supposed to feel it. It should never hurt.
- Give priority to the muscles you use the most in your workouts and in everyday life. But don’t neglect any major muscle group.
Total Body Stretching Routine
- Hamstrings: Sit on the floor and extend one leg out in front. Tuck the other foot in so that the sole of your foot is close to the inside of the opposite thigh. Keeping the extended leg relaxed and hands on the floor, reach your chest forward until you feel the stretch along the back of the thigh.
- Quadriceps: Lie on your side, resting on your upper arm. Bend the top leg behind you and hold onto the foot. Keep your back arm straight and press your hips forward to feel the stretch all the way up the front thigh.
- Back: Move to a hands and knees position, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Round your spine, tuck your chin and feel the stretch along both sides of the spine.
- Abdominals: While lying on your tummy, prop yourself up on your elbows, elbows directly under the shoulders. Look straight ahead and reach the top of your head towards the ceiling. Be sure not to force the spine into this position. If you feel any discomfort or pressure in the back, move the elbows further away from the body.
- A) From a standing position, take a big step forward and rest your hands on your front thigh. Position your back foot so that your foot is in a straight line, heel to toe. Press the heel of your back foot down to the floor or ground. Keep your chest up and your hips pressed forward.
- B) From this same position, move the back foot in three or four inches and bend the back knee slightly. Feel the stretch lower in the calf.
- Chest:Standing with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent, clasp your hands behind your back. Keeping your body still, slowly lift the arms behind you until you feel the stretch across your chest.
- Triceps:Reach one hand down your back as if to scratch between your shoulder blades. With the other hand, hold onto the elbow. Carefully try to move the elbow so that it points towards to the ceiling and is close to the side of your head. Feel the stretch in the back of the upper arm.