By Jose Fuentes/CPT/CN/C.S.P.S
Stretching has been a crucial part on top performance successful athletes, rehabiltation centers and exercise programs. In reality stretching can be done anytime you feel like, at work, in a car, waiting for a bus, walking down the road, under a nice shady tree, after a hike or at the beach. Stretch before and after physical therapy, but also stretch at various times of the day when you can. Here are some examples:
- In the morning before the start the day.
- At work to release nervous tension.
- After sitting or standing for a long time
- When you feel stiff.
- At odd time during the day, as for instance, when watching tv, listening to music, reading, or sitting and talking.
Stretching because it relaxes your mind and tunes up your body, should be part of your daily life. You will find the regular stretching will do the following things:
- Reduce muscle tension and make you body feel more relax
- Help coordination by allowing for freer and easier movement
- Increase range of motion
- Help prevent injuries such as muscles strains. (A strong, flexible pre-stretched muscle resists stress better than a strong, stiff, unstretched muscle)
How To Stretch:
Stretching is easy to learn, but there is a bad way and right way to stretch. The right way is a relaxed, sustained stretched with your attention focused on the muscles being stretched. The wrong way (unfortunately practiced by many people) is to bounce up and down, or to stretched to the point of pain: these methods can actually do more harm than good.
If you stretched correctly and regularly, you will find that every movement you make becomes easier. It will take time to loosen up tight muscles or muscle groups, but time is quickly forgotten, when you start to feel good.
The Stretch Reflex:
Your muscles are protected by a mechanism called the stretched reflex, every time you stretch the muscles fibers too far (either by bouncing or overstretching ), a nerve reflex responds, by sending a signal to the muscles to contract; this keeps the muscles from being injured. Thus, stretching too far tightens the very muscles you are trying to stretch ! (you get a similar involuntary muscle reaction, when you accidentally touch something hot; before you can think about it, your body jerks away from the heat. )
Pushing a stretch too far or bouncing up and down strains the muscle and activates the stretch reflex. This causes pain as well as physical damage due to the microscopic tearing of muscle fibers. This in turns leads to the formation of scar tissue in the muscle, with a gradual loss of elasticity. The muscle becomes stiff and sore. It’s hard to get enthused about daily stretching and exercise when you are pushing it to the point of pain!
Here are 4 of my favorite stretches for your back, hip, groin, and shouders:
Start in a downward facing dog position with your feet together. Then draw your left knee forward and turn it out to the left, so your left leg is bent and near perpendicular to your right one. lower both legs to the ground. You can simply keep your back right leg extended straight behind you. or for an added hamstring stretch, carefully pull your back foot off the ground and in toward your back. Hold the position for 5 or 10 breaths, the switch to the other side, and repeat as needed.
Forward fold with clasped hands :
Stand with hip feet with apart. Upon exhale, soften knees and fold your torso forward, letting your head go toward the ground. Straighten your arms directly above your shoulders, behind your back and clasp your hands together. Sty there 5 to 10 deep breaths. Be careful no too push your hands too far forward. Feel free to bend one knee and then the other one. Getting deeper into the shoulder.
Stretch for tight hips:
- Start on hands and knees, bringing your knees as far apart as is comfortable
- Rock back and forth in that position
- Keep the balls of your feet on the ground with toes pointing outwards
- Gradually add more weight bearing into the stretch. Take slow and easy and don’t force a range of motion you are not ready to achieve.
Quadricep stretches are a great way to reduce knee pain and help prevent injuries. Muscle tigthness is a common cause of knee pain as it changes the way the forces go through the knee making it more prone to injury.
The quadriceps are made up of four muscles that run down the front of the tight. They control how the knee straightens and are particular important for activities such as kicking and running. If the quadriceps are tight they can pull the knee cap out of position slightly, causing friction at the knee.
- Lying Quadricep Stretch:
Starting position: Half knee lunge position, knee to be stretched on the floor (resting on a pillow or towel for comfort)
- Action: Draw your foot towards your bottom either with one hand or using a towel/strap until you feel stretch down the front of your thigh. Hold for 30 secs.
Repeat 3 times. 2 x daily or before and after exercising.
Progression: Increase the stretch by clenching your glutes to roll your pelvis back or roll forward more onto the front leg.