Safe and Effective Stretching Exercises
Think back to your physical education classes in school back in the days: the only thing you wanted to do back then was run off and play but there was always something to take care of first— those warm-up and stretching sessions led by your teachers. Those stretches may have seemed annoying back then, but they can actually help improve your health in many ways, as well as ensure your safety and wellbeing.
Before you dive into doing a million different stretches, make sure that you know how to do them safely and effectively. For each stretch, focus on slow, steady movements to loosen your muscles rather than extending it to the point of discomfort. Stretching can help loosen your joints, as well as muscles, which means that with the increased range of movement, you will be less prone to accidents. Additionally, stretching has great health benefits, as it promotes blood circulation and increases the nutrient supply to your muscles. Stretching both before and after a workout can also reduce any lingering muscle soreness from exercise.
1. Standing Back Arch
Stand up straight and place your palms on your lower back. Arch your back backwards, making sure that your arms are supporting your lower back the entire time. Hold this stretch for 5-15 seconds, then return to your original position. Repeat 3-5 times. This pose releases tension in the neck and shoulders, as well as expands your respiratory system to allow for deeper breaths.
2. Overhead Triceps Stretch
Extend your arm to the ceiling, then bend your elbow as if you are reaching to scratch your upper back. Use your free hand to gently push your elbow downwards and hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat for each arm about 2-3 times. Triceps stretches are great if you’re looking to improve your flexibility, lengthen your muscles, and increase your range of motion. Additionally, this stretch can also boost circulation and aid muscle recovery.
3. Cat and Cow Stretch
This is a typical yoga position. Start on all fours on a flat surface, with your hands at a 90-degree angle to your shoulders, and your knees directly aligned with your hips. Arch your spine downwards into the ‘cat’ stretching position and hold for 5-10 seconds. Then round your spine upwards into the ‘cow’ stretching position and hold for 5-10 seconds. Both stretches can improve your posture and balance, as well as strengthen your spine and neck. Furthermore, the organs in your stomach, like the kidneys and adrenal glands. However, these stretches aren’t just good for you physically, but emotionally as well. Both stretches create emotional balance and are helpful in relieving stress. Your mind will also be calmer and more relaxed.
4. Hamstring Stretch
Sit on a flat surface with both legs stretched out in front of you. Extend your arms and bend forward as far as they can go, while keeping your knees straight. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times. Hamstring flexibility is particularly important if you do sports such as running, and it is an integral part of most activities. Hamstring stretches aim to reduce muscle tears and strains, as well as improve your overall running efficiency, agility, and speed.
5. Knee to Chest Stretch
Lie on your back on a flat surface with your knees bent and feet completely flat on the floor. Bring one knee slowly up to your chest while keeping the other flat on the ground, and your lower back firmly touching the floor. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds and repeat with the other leg. The knee to chest stretch is used to stretch your hip and low back muscles. This stretch not only boosts your blood circulation, but it can relieve pressure on your spinal nerves by creating more space for those nerves to function well.
It is important to follow the correct techniques when deciding to include stretching exercises into your routine, as this will prevent injury. Stretching incorrectly can be harmful to your muscles. If you are injured or already have tense muscles, make sure not to overwork them. If you experience unusual pains while stretching, stop immediately and consult your doctor.
You will receive the most benefits from stretching if you perform your stretches regularly! Make stretching a habit, so that your body and mind can be at peak performance.
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