Stretching regularly is vital to keeping our bodies healthy, fit, and injury free. Despite these benefits, many are unfamiliar with the role of stretching in reducing muscle soreness, the buildup of lactic acids, and injury. Knowing this, the team at Advanced Spine and Sportscare wanted to put together a list of stretches that can provide you with many of the aforementioned benefits.
Quadriceps are the muscle group on the front of the thigh that inspires “leg day” dread for gym goers everywhere. One of the most basic quad stretches is The Flamingo. To execute, lean against a wall or stand up straight. Raise your left leg up at the knee, then grab your foot with your left hand. Slowly pull back on the left leg with your left hand until you feel a stretch in your quad. Hold for a few seconds and repeat for each leg.
This move can also be performed on the floor as a Kneeling Quadricep Stretch. Find a yoga mat or soft pad and plant your right knee on it. Step forward with your left leg and place your left foot flat on the floor so that your knee is at a ninety-degree angle. With your right hand, grab your right ankle. Pull your ankle toward your glutes and squeeze. Shift your weight slightly forward for a good, deep stretch. Feel that wonderful feeling? That means you’re getting a great stretch in your quads.
The hamstring is posterior leg muscle and is often overlooked when it comes to stretching. Like the quads, it’s important to ensure that you are properly stretching the hamstrings to prevent injury and counteract muscle tightness.
Hamstring Stretch: Lay down flat on your back. Use a long towel or bands and wrap them around your left foot. Keeping your leg straight, pull the towel or bands toward your body, raising your leg toward your torso. You should feel a great stretch in the hamstring. Hold for a few seconds, and repeat several times per leg.
Calf Stretch: Calf stretches can easily be performed against a wall. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and place your hands on the wall before you. Put your right leg forward while extending the left behind you. Flatten your left heel against the floor and straighten your left leg until you feel a stretch in your left calf. Hold a count for about ten seconds, then switch legs. Repeat a few times for each calf.
Heel Drops: Another great stretch for the calf muscle is the Heel Drop. Locate a raised platform—stairs, curb, exercise block, etc. Place your toes on the edge of this surface, keep your leg straight, and drop the heel down. Hold for several seconds, then switch legs and repeat for a few sets.
Back pain runs rampant in modern society, the result of many factors including poor posture, incorrect lifting, and sore or weak muscles. Regardless of origin, it’s important to protect your back and reduce the risk of injury through quality stretches.
The Standing Back Arch is a simple move executable by all ages and fitness levels. Stand straight and place your feet shoulder-width apart. Place your palms on your lower back and push your torso forward, creating an arc through your legs, back, and shoulders. Keep your knees straight. Hold for a few seconds and repeat for a few more reps.
The Single Knee To Chest stretch is another exercise that hits not only the lower back but also the glutes and the hamstrings. Lie flat on your back with your legs resting on the ground and your knees slightly bent. Take a single leg, bend at the knee, and bring it toward your chest. Your lower back should press slightly against the floor. Hold the knee against the chest for a few seconds until you feel a good stretch, then alternate. This is an excellent move to prevent injury, relieve pain, and ease tension.
Now that we’ve gotten some of the major muscle groups out of the way, let’s talk smaller muscles. The triceps, extensors of the elbow, give us the ability to straighten our forearms. The triceps rest behind the bicep, or at the posterior of our arms, and the muscles have three heads: lateral, long, and medial.
To stretch your triceps, place your arm across your chest and hold with your other arm. Hold for about fifteen to thirty seconds before switching. To hit the other heads of the triceps, hold the same pose with your arm in higher and lower positions.
Another great method for stretching the triceps goes as follows: raise your arm up in the air until it is parallel with your head/ear. Bend the arm at the elbow until it falls behind you. Reach with your other arm and tug the elbow backward until you feel a stretch in your triceps. Hold this stretch for about fifteen to thirty seconds, then alternate for three repetitions on both sides.
We a few simple moves, you can get a great stretch on your pectoral muscles that can help prevent injury. Find an open doorway or narrow space between two vertical bars. Place your hands on the sides of the doors or bars. Keep your elbows to your sides and your hands about halfway between your shoulders and your elbows. Grab the sides tightly, then lean forward (step forward if you need to steady yourself). You will feel a stretch in your chest muscles. Hold for a minimum of thirty seconds, then return to the starting position. To stretch the tops of your pecs, move your elbows up to the height of your shoulders. Once again, grab the sides, lean forward, and hold. You can also perform this movement with a single arm at a time, focusing your stretch on a single pectoral muscle.
If you are without a frame to support you, there’s another great stretch you can perform. Stand straight, legs shoulder-width apart. Keeping your arms straight, bring them together in front of your chest as if you were clapping. Begin to “pretend clap,” but don’t let your hands touch. Move your arms back and forth in a clapping motion before you, then gradually open the clap wider, eventually opening your arms as wide as possible until you get a great stretch in your pecs.
The previous triceps and chest stretches also work very well for stretching shoulder muscles. But the shoulders comprise several muscle groups and a variety of stretches are needed to hit them all.
Lateral Neck Flexion: Humans tend to carry a lot of stress and pain in their upper trapezius muscles, the muscle group that extends from the shoulder blades to the base of the skull. To perform the lateral neck flexion, cock your head to the left or right, bringing the ear to the shoulder and hold for 15 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
Overhead Wall Stretch: Place your hands on a wall over your head. Stand about 8 inches from the wall. With palms planted, begin to drop your torso down. Hold for about fifteen to twenty seconds and repeat two more times for a set of three.
Rhomboid Stretch: The rhomboid stretch is easy to perform and provides a wonderful stretch to the rhomboid-shaped muscles in our upper shoulders/back. Grip a pole or fixed object. Bend at the hips, pushing your buttocks backward, and pull at the fixed object. Loosen and relax your shoulders so that you get a good stretch running from your arms to your back. Hold for ten to thirty seconds.
Whether sports heroes, weekend warriors, or home improvers, injury can come for any of us. So a good stretching regimen is great for any person, regardless of age or fitness level. And, as you can see, you can perform stretches for any muscle group in mere seconds.
If you ever do find yourself injured or in need of therapy or back care, the team at Advanced Spine & Sports Care offers a range of chiropractic services, including spinal decompression, physical therapy, and chiropractic adjustments. We’ve served the Chicagoland area for seventeen years, building our business on honesty and integrity and we would love to be of service to you.