After working out the last thing you probably want to do is spend time stretching. It is already difficult to find time to get into the gym or to head out for a run, so you may think that adding 10 minutes of stretching may just be too much for your busy schedules. Yet, as you learn about all the benefits of stretching, you may just find it worth it to take those few extra minutes to stretch.
Simply taking a few moments to stretch may help prevent numerous injuries. When done properly, stretching takes your joints through a full range of motion, which can increase balance and coordination. Stretching increases flexibility, which can help you avoid injury. This is because the more flexible a muscle is, the more strain it can withstand. Finally, stretching helps you avoid tight, sore and aching muscles, which can often plague you following a hard workout.
#1 Butterfly Pose
To help stretch out your hips and lower back, begin by sitting on the ground with your knees out to your side, each knee bent so that the pads of your feet are touching each other in front of you. Using your hands, peel apart the pads of your feet like a book. While you are doing this, engage your buttocks and quadriceps muscles to push your knees closer to the floor. Finally, fold forward over your feet, stretch your arms out in front of you and draw your belly button into your spine. You should feel a lengthening in your spine. Relax your shoulders and take five slow breaths before straightening back up into a seated position.
#2 Seated Straddle
To stretch you hips, hamstrings and back, begin by sitting with feet stretched out in front of you in the shape of a V. You will want to have your feet approximately 3 to 4 feet apart. Sit tall, engage your abdominal muscles and fold forward at your waist. As you do this, slide your arms down your legs towards your ankles until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Hold this position for approximately 15 seconds.
#3 Calf Raises
To stretch out your calf muscles after a hard workout, stand on the balls of your feet on a raised platform, such as a step. If necessary, hold onto a secure object for balance. As you exhale, slowly drop your heels towards the floor. Your toes will naturally lift off the platform at the same time. You can do this stretch one leg at a time or together. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
#4 Arm Stretch
One way to stretch out your shoulders, arms and upper back is a simple over-the-head stretch. Sit in a chair and reach your arms over your head with fingers interlaced. You will want to extend your arms fully and have palms facing the ceiling. Exhale and hold this stretch for 20 seconds. You should feel the stretch in your shoulders.