Stretching is so important for our muscles, especially before and after doing a workout.
Throughout the day, we are constantly stretching whether we realize we are doing it or not. It helps us be more comfortable and get the blood flowing again to the muscles that need it.
Whether you are sitting on the computer throughout the day or working outdoors doing physical work, your muscles are likely going to be a bit stiff and sore. Stretching can help relieve some of this tightness and soreness and help increase circulation and flexibility. It can also help relieve stress and improve your performance and focus throughout the day.
We have created a list of types of stretches that will loosen up your body from your head to toe.
Static Stretch: During static stretching, you will find yourself laying down, standing, or sitting still while holding a single stretched position for a period of time, usually up to around 45 seconds. Static stretching exercises help improve flexibility and your range of motion. It can also help release muscle tension and muscle stiffness.
Ballistic Stretch: Ballistic stretching is most popular among athletes; however, the average person can also do a ballistic stretch before a workout as well. During a ballistic stretch, you bounce or repeatedly push your body past its natural range of motion using momentum or force. It stretches your limbs and forces them into an extended range of motion.
Passive Stretch: Passive stretching is a stretching technique where you are relaxed and don’t contribute to your range of motion in any way. There is an outside agent that creates the force such as a resistance band, towel, gravity, or another person who is there to help you stretch. Passive stretching increases mobility and flexibility and improves your range of motion.
Dynamic Stretch: When performing a dynamic stretch, you are engaging in active movements where your joints and muscles go through the full range of motion. The muscles themselves bring about the stretch. Dynamic stretching before your workout helps prepare and warm up your muscles.
Active Stretch: When you use active stretching, you are enhancing your flexibility. It eliminates force and the adverse effects you may experience from stretching techniques. Active stretching only stretches the muscles and connective tissue and prepares the muscles for a workout by warming them up and activating them.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF): PNF is a stretching technique you can use to improve muscle elasticity. PNF has also been shown to have a positive effect on active and passive range of motions.
Starting from the bottom, our ankles constantly support us and can be easily overlooked by focusing on stretching our legs and feet. A good stretch for your ankles is to lay on your back and put your feet straight up into the air.
Rotate your ankles clockwise, then counter-clockwise for however many 10 second intervals. You can also do this by standing up if laying down is not an option by just lifting your leg and rotating your ankle with your hands. This will loosen up your ankles and help with blood flow and circulation.
An easy and effective way to stretch your calves is getting into the push-up position. Then slowly press backward, putting your heels to the floor; you will feel the stretch more as you put your heels further down. You can also stand up and do the same motion leaning against the wall with both of your hands out and pressing your heels down until you feel your calves stretch.
Your quadriceps are the biggest muscle in your body; it is the big muscle in the front of your thigh. You can stretch your quads by lifting one leg in the air and hugging it up against your chest. Hold your knee there until you feel a sufficient stretch and release, repeating for the other leg. Another easy stretch for your quads is sitting with your legs crossed on the ground and moving them up and down repeatedly like butterfly wings.
If you are someone sitting down for most of the day, stretching out your glutes can feel good. For the first stretch, lay down on your back and bend your left knee so your foot is on the floor. Then rest your right foot on your knee, so it is propped up, and reach behind your left knee and pull it towards your chest. You will feel the stretch in your glutes the more you reach.
You can also remain laying down, bend your knees, and extend your hips upward in the air and squeeze your glutes as you rise. This not only stretches the glutes but gives them a good workout too! This is a great technique to practice after a hamstring raise workout.
Hips and Sides
An easy stretch for your hips and muscle group on the side of your body towards your back is a twist. Reach your arms up in the air and reach toward either side with both arms up; you feel the stretch on the opposite side your arms are reaching to. You can also stand up and twist side to side with your arms out at your sides, which is great for your lats (upper back muscles) and external obliques (side muscles).
Chest and Biceps
There are many different types of stretches you can do for your chest and biceps. A simple and easy stretch you can do anywhere and likely do without noticing throughout the day is reaching your arms behind your back. Keep them straight and lock your hands together and lift them. You will instantly feel the stretch in your arms and your chest as it puffs out when you lift. This is a good stretch to practice both before and after a chest workout.
A close buddy to your biceps, your triceps are the muscles in the back of your upper arms. A good stretch for your triceps can be done by raising an arm and putting it behind your head. Then grab your elbow with your other arm and begin to pull down. You can do this for about 10 seconds or however long you want, and then switch arms!
Hamstrings are those muscles on the back upper part of our legs; it is one of the most commonly pulled muscles. An easy and effective way to stretch these muscles is sitting down with your legs spread out straight in front of you.
For this hamstring stretch, bend one leg and keep the other straight out, and lean forward, so you are trying to grab your extended foot. You will feel the stretch as soon as you begin leaning. The further you reach, the more of a stretch you will feel.
Your shoulders are known to hold lots of tension and stress, so stretching them is essential and can feel really nice. The first stretch can be done by reaching one arm across your chest, and your other arm holds it in the inner part of your elbow.
Pull to the side, and you will feel your shoulder stretch; you can do this stretching exercise for 10 seconds or longer if needed. In the second stretch, you can swing your arms in a circular motion as if you were jumping rope, and this rotates the shoulders and stretches them out.
Another easy (well, easy to perform but not necessarily do) is to simply just do a dead or active hang. In short, you just hang from your hands and let gravity do the work. In doing so, you’ll open up your shoulders, stretch your lats, and get stronger.
Finally, stretching your neck can feel amazing as it can easily stiffen and become sore from sleeping wrong or poor posture. To stretch your neck, simply look down, up, to the right, to the left, and hold for as long as necessary until you feel the stretched muscle.
Just ten minutes of any stretching exercise in the morning or whenever you have a bit of free time can significantly improve your mindset. Even if your muscles are not sore, it is a good idea to stretch to get your blood pumping and circulating. Make sure you are focusing on your entire body as well, since stretching the same muscles over and over may not give you all the amazing benefits compared to a full-body stretch.