Stretching and becoming more flexible helps with athletic and performance prevents injury. It’s important to warm up before you stretch by slowly raising your heart rate to increase circulation and speed up nerve impulses in your muscles, ligaments and joints. When you warm up before stretching your muscles become more pliable, and so it protects your joints, too.
First things first. Here are some basic rules when it comes to stretching:
• Never stretch a cold muscle
• Always warm up for 5-10 minutes before stretching (longer on chilly days)
• Hold a stretch for 20-30 seconds for a total of 3 breaths
• Inhale to prepare for stretch, exhale while lengthening the muscles
• Take the time to align and balance yourself on uneven ground
• Don’t bounce—it can cause injury to muscles, tendons and ligaments
• Pay attention to pain. If it hurts, stop the stretch
1. Hip flexors: Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, take a giant step forward with your right foot, into a lunge position. With arms hanging loosely at your sides, slowly bend your knees until your fingertips touch the ground; at this point your left knee is resting on the ground and your left toes are pointed down. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, allow your hips to sink into the stretch. Repeat with your right leg.
Modification: Hip Flexor stretch with a Prop: Follow the same instructions as above, only place the center of your foot along the edge of a bench, block, stump or log.
2. Hamstrings: Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, step forward about six to eight inches with your right foot. Flex your right foot so that the heel is on the ground and the toes are pointing up. Bend your knees slightly place your hands on your thighs, and press your buttocks backward while keeping your back straight. As you begin to feel the stretch along the back of your right leg, tilt your tailbone up toward the sky. Hold. Repeat with your left leg.
Modification: Hamstring stretch with a Prop: Follow the same instructions as above, placing your right heel on a curb, step or log for leverage.
3. Quadriceps: Ground your feet on a firm surface and find a focal point. Place all your weight on your right leg. Bend your left leg behind you and grasp your instep with your left hand. With your left knee slightly behind your right leg, press your left hip forward while keeping your back straight and abs tight, and hold. You can lift your right arm perpendicular to the ground for added balance. Repeat with the right leg.
4. Calves: Stand facing a wall, tree, or post, approximately one foot away with your feet together. Place your right heel as close to the wall as is comfortable with the ball of your foot pressing against it, forming a 45-degree angle (keep your left foot on the ground). Gently push your right heel into the ground. as you slowly roll up on the ball of your left foot and lean your upper body into the tree. Hold the stretch. Repeat with your left leg.
Modification: Alternative calf stretch: Hang one heel over the edge of the curb or step a feel the lengthening of your calf muscles. Repeat on the other leg.
6. Inner thighs (adductors): From the athletic stance, extend your right leg laterally, resting on your right heel with toes up in a diagonal position. Slowly, bend the left knee keeping the knee over the heel, until the appropriate lengthening of the right adductors (inner thigh) can be felt. Hold the stretch. Repeat on the left leg.
Modification: Inner thighs (adductors) stretch with a prop: Follow the same instructions as above, placing your right heel on a curb, step or log for leverage.
7. Chest, shoulders, biceps: Clasp your hands together, as you press your chest forward, lift your arms up and away from your body. Feel a gentle stretch across your chest and shoulders.
8. Back (using a tree or post for assistance): Face the tree or post and then lace your fingers together around it. Draw back through the hips, pressing to stretch the area between the shoulder blades.
9. Upper back and rear shoulders: Draw your straight right arm across your upper chest. Place your left hand on the backside of the upper right arm and press into your body to release the muscles. Repeat on the left side.
10. Triceps: Lift your right arm up to the sky through the fingertips and rotate the arm so the palm faces back. Bend at the elbow and reach your fingertips down your spine. Place the left palm on top of the right elbow and apply gentle pressure to assist release of the muscles.
11. Torso: Reach for the sky and stretch out your torso by reaching above your head with your right hand, then alternating with your left. Manipulate the stretch so that you feel down the length of your torso.