What’s the best reward you can give yourself after any workout or sport? A nice, long stretch! So why do most of us rush through stretching, or just plain skip it? It doesn’t take long to stretch properly; it feels great; it will help your muscles recover; and it keeps you feeling good.
Today in Stretching 101, we’ll look at static stretches. Most effective after a workout, while your muscles are warm, static stretches involve holding a position for several seconds and gradually deepening the stretch. Here are 6 examples of static stretches you can do as part of your cool-down, after any workout. Delicately ease into each position until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds to re-lengthen your muscles, longer to improve your flexibility.
Lie on your back and hug both knees into your chest.
Rest your head and shoulders on your mat.
Gently pull inwards, allowing your lower back to peel off the floor.
Option: Lightly rock your body side to side, or in small circles, to massage your spine.
Lie on your back.
Rest one ankle, foot flexed, over opposite knee. Flexing your foot will keep your knee safe.
Reach your arms to hold your leg and gently draw it in toward your chest.
Rest your head and shoulders, to help you relax and enjoy the stretch more.
Front of thighs [pictured, top of post]
Lie on one side. You can support your head with your hand or arm or prop yourself up on your forearm. Simply, choose the position you find more comfortable.
Stack your knees and line them up with your hips.
Hold the front of your top and foot, heel toward butt.
Gently push your hips forward.
Back of thighs and inner thighs
Stand with knees soft and feet hip-width apart.
Keep your legs as long as possible; be careful not to lock your knees and brace your abs.
Reach down as far as you can: knees, shins, toes or floor.
Relax your upper body.
Options: To stretch inner thighs more, step your feet wider apart; you can also do these stretches sitting down with your legs extended.
Front of hips
Kneel on one knee; step the opposite foot forward, aligning knee to ankle.
Tuck in your hip and lean forward, to feel a stretch in the front of your hip and thigh.
Options: To deepen the stretch, reach up same arm as back leg; for an even deeper stretch, reach the arm over.
Upper back and chest
Stand with feet hip-width apart.
For your back, hug your shoulders and lightly lift and reach your elbows forward while opening up through your upper back.
For your chest, open your arms wide and lift your chest by pushing it up and out.
Bonus: Here’s a technique you can use to help deepen your stretches. Inhale and squeeze/tighten the muscle you are stretching for 3 seconds, then exhale and fully relax. Basically, the more you can relax, the more easily you can self-assist your stretches.
There are plenty more options and variations you can work with. The best solution for you is to simply choose what feels good. Remember to always hold the position and gently ease into it for more depth. To avoid injury, avoid any sudden movements, jerking or bouncing.
For warm-up stretches, check out Stretching 101: The Dynamics!
Katya Mohsen is a personal trainer with over 10 years of experience in fitness and sports training. Catch her practical fitness advice Thursdays on Slice.ca.