All too many of us forget the importance of stretching for our body. We finish our workout and leave the gym without a thought of taking a few minutes relax, cool down and stretch those muscles through.
So, what are the benefits of stretching?
Flexibility – Heavy workouts can cause muscles to shorten and become tighter, therefore reducing flexibility and causing us to become more prone to injury through our joints, muscles and tendons. Stretching can help to improve our flexibility, alleviate tightness and therefore reduce these injuries.
Improved Circulation – Stretching can increase the blood flow and therefore the supply of nutrients to muscles. Which can in turn help prevent soreness after a workout.
Posture – modern lifestyles can cause our bodies to become unbalanced and create poor posture – think about sitting at a computer all day, pulling the shoulders and head forward, leaving us hunched through the back. Stretching can help to lengthen the muscles that have been shortened by repeated lifestyle patterns and therefore pull us back into correct posture.
Here are a few of our favourite stretches, we want you to try adding them at the end of your workout, or even just take 15 minutes out of your day to perform them to relax, unwind and help your body recover. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds to ensure the muscles and tendons have stretched, and repeat all 2-3 times.
Calf and hamstring stretch – from a standing position, cross one foot over the other. Hinge from the hips bringing the tips of your fingers down the leg as close as you can comfortably get to the ground. Put your weight slightly through the front of your feet to feel an increased stretch through the calfs and hamstrings.
Glute Stretch – lying on your back with knees bent, feet on the floor, cross one ankle over the opposite knee. “Thread the needle” by taking hold of each side of the thigh (as shown in the picture). Gently pull the thigh towards your chest while easing the bent knee slightly outwards. You should feel a nice stretch down the outside of your bent thigh.
Tricep Stretch – while standing or sitting, take one arm up straight above your head. Bend at the elbow to bring the hand straight down the spine. Using your opposite hand, gently pull the bent elbow across a little to feel a stretch down the back of the arm.
Chest Stretch – while standing, take both hands behind you, clasping them together. Lift up slightly through the arms and open out through the chest.
Quadriceps stretch – While standing (holding onto a wall or chair if you need help to balance), take hold of the front of your foot with one hand and bring the foot up to the bottom. Try to keep your knees together and push through with the hips to increase the stretch at the front of the thigh.
Hip Flexor s- Start kneeling, lunge one foot forward then drop down through the back thigh, keeping your chest up, bring the hip down towards the ground. Keep both hips facing forwards. The more you sink the hip towards the ground, the more you will feel the stretch at the front of your hips. This is an excellent stretch for those who run a lot or who sit at a desk for a lot of their day.
Relax, breathe deeply and enjoy!