06.18.2014 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness
By Deanna Jefferson, Celebrity and Nike Trainer
Flexibility is one of the most overlooked components of fitness.
Often times, we may take a few minutes to stretch before the workout and forget about the post-stretch. Or sometimes we don’t even stretch at all!
It is so important to properly take care of our muscles or else we put ourselves at a greater risk for injury.
Muscles are made up of collagen and elastin. These are elements made to expand and contract without losing their shape. When we put our muscles to use, they get tight from the strain we put on them.
While eventually this leads to increased strength, the immediate effect is a tightness that can be eased by a good stretch. Tight muscles are less elastic and become more prone to cramps, pulls and tears. The goal of stretching is to help our muscles release that tension to avoid cramps and injuries, and increase range of motion—-All of which help to improve the quality of your workout. Start dedicating 10-15 minutes before and after every workout to stretch.
Your pre-workout stretch should be dynamic or active stretching, while your post-workout stretch should be a cool-down with more static or steady stretching. The reason we opt for dynamic stretching pre-workout is to warm muscles up before taking them through a full range of motion. Think of your muscles as rubber bands. A rubber band can stretch further before popping when it’s warm as opposed to when it’s cold.
Try these dynamic and static stretches during your next workout!
Dynamic Stretches are active and continuous movements that stretch and warm muscles up before your workout.
Arm Circles: Stand with arms extended out to sides and move both arms in circular motions to warm and stretch the shoulders. Try forward and backward circular motions.
Straight Leg Kicks: (Frankensteins or Punters): Kick right leg straight in front of you and try to touch your foot with your left hand. Alternate sides and repeat to warm and stretch arms, hamstrings (back of legs), and torso.
High Knees: Stand on right leg only, and bring left knee up towards the chest. Hop to left leg and bring right knee up to the chest. Repeat in a continuous pattern.
Butt Kicks: Stand on right leg only and drive left heel towards your butt. Hop to the left leg and drive right heel towards butt. This will warm and stretch the quadriceps (front of legs).
Inchworms: Slowly walk your hands out into a push-up position. Without bending your knees or moving your hands, walk your feet up as close to your hands as possible. Walk your hands forward to push-up position. Repeat. This will warm and stretch the core (abs, back) and hips.
Static Stretches are stretches in which the position is held for 15-30 sec.
Trunk Rotation Stretch: Sitting tall with legs stretched out in front of you, bend the right knee and place the right foot on the ground to the left side of the left knee. Turn your shoulders so that you are facing to the right. Use your left arm against your right knee to help ease you further into rotation. Use your right arm on the floor for support. You will feel the stretch along the length of the spine and in the muscles around the right hip. Repeat on the other side. Pictured left.
Wall Calf Stretch: Stand facing a wall with your front leg bent. Press the back toe behind you, with the leg extended. Lower your heel toward the ground to feel the calf stretch. Switch legs and repeat.
Lower Back Stretch: Lay on the floor on your back. Bring your knees up to your chest and use your arms to pull them in further. You will feel this stretch in your lower back and along the length of your spine. Pictured left.
Glute (Buttocks) Stretch: Sit on the floor. Hold your knee to your chest and pull your knee and ankle towards the opposite shoulder. You should feel this stretch in your buttocks. Repeat on other side. Pictured right.
Quad (upper front thigh) Stretch: Stand on right leg. Lift left heel up towards the butt. Grab the left foot with the left hand. Do not pull so hard that you feel a pain in your knee. You should feel the stretch in the front of your thigh.
Tricep (back of upper arm) Stretch: Reach right hand towards the right shoulder blade. Push gently below the elbow with the left hand to increase the stretch until you feel the stretch in the back of your arm. Switch arms and repeat.
Pigeon Stretch: On the ground, bring a bent right leg in front of your body with your left leg behind you to stretch your hips and glutes. Repeat on the other side. Pictured right.
Redskins players do a pigeon stretch before practice during OTAs
Hamstring (back of thigh) Stretch: Stand on left leg. Bring the right heel down to the ground with your toe pointed up. Lower your butt to increase the stretch until you feel it in the back of your thigh. Switch legs and repeat.
Seated Straddle Stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs in a wide "V" position. Your knees should be straight. Be aware that the angle of your legs may need to be adjusted in order for you to achieve this stretch. Reach your arms out in front of your body until you feel tension and place your palms flat on the floor. You should feel a stretch through your inner thighs with some smaller stretching in your low, middle and upper back, calves and hamstrings.
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