For many of us, stretching is an afterthought. Exercise tends to take priority, and stretching ends up neglected. But stretching shouldn’t be trivialized. It keeps your muscles strong, healthy, and flexible—and believe it or not—we all need that flexibility. Stretching shouldn’t be a hassle, and knowing some tips and tricks could help you enjoy your stretch sessions that much more.
The FitMyFoot brand is dedicated to the health-cause, and one of the ways we can contribute is by providing our readers with knowledge that can help them keep striving towards their personal goals. That’s why we’d like to present you with the reasons stretching is imperative, and the strategies for getting started.
Why is stretching imperative?
According tohealth.harvard.edu, if you don’t stretch, your muscles can shorten and tighten up. That means the next time you call on them for activity they’ll be weak and unable to extend properly, putting you at a significantly higher risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.
Not only that, stretching on a regular basis can provide you with an abundance of health benefits. Below is a list of the top five:
- Improved posture—The muscles in your chest, hips, and upper/lower back aredirectly related to poor posture. Stretching these can drastically improve the issue.
- Improved range of motion—Our joints lose their range of motion as we age. You can counteract this by stretching regularly.
- Decrease in back pain—If you have poor posture in your upper back, your lower back is forced to compensate. Stretching your posture muscles can help alleviate that pain.
- Injury prevention—A moderate level of stretching will warm up your muscles and prevent strains and tears, drastically decreasing the likelihood of injuries.
- Decrease in muscle soreness—If you’re sore, stretching can help relieve some of the discomfort. Injured muscles tighten up as a protective response, and stretching can help soothe them.
For more on this topic, check out this article on “The benefits of stretching.”
When should you stretch?
Every day, if you can. The benefits of stretching only take effect through dedicated repetition over an extended period. The goal should be to stretch three or four times a week—at the very least.
Interestingly enough, stretching before you're warmed up can actually hurt your muscles. That being said, if you exercise a little bit first, your blood flow will increase and your muscle tissue will be more pliable. All it takes is five to ten minutes of light activity. This could be anything from a quick walk or jog, to a few pushups or squats. Easy—and worth it.
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Top ten stretches for your muscles
Now that we know why stretching is so important, it’s about time we got started. The list we’ve provided below covers ten stretches that will help you reduce muscle pain, and help you obtain better flexibility for some of the most important muscles in your body.
Caution: Never bounce when stretching—it can cause muscle tears or other injuries. You should feel some tension during these stretches, but you shouldn’t feel any pain.
Try to hold each stretch for 30 seconds.
- Stand upright and bend one leg back, grabbing the top of that foot.
- Bring your foot as close to your butt as possible while keeping your bent knee inline with your other knee.
- Push your hips forward for a deeper stretch.
- Hold onto a wall for balance if needed. Repeat with your other leg.
- Stand upright, bending one knee and extending the other out straight in front of you about 6 inches.
- Make sure you’re bending at the hips and keeping your back straight.
- Lower your chest down until you feel a stretch in the back of your extended leg.
- Sit up straight on the ground with your knees bent and the soles of your feet touching.
- Grasp your feet with your hands.
- Gently open your knees and push them down and outwards.
- Lie on your back and bend both knees so your feet are flat on the floor.
- Bring your left knee closer to your chest and bend it at 90 degrees so your calf crosses over your body.
- Bring your right knee towards your chest, making contact with the ankle or shin of your left leg.
- Wrap your hands around your right leg and pull it closer to your body, deepening the stretch.
- Chest and shoulders:
- Stand up straight or sit on a surface so that your legs are at a 90 degree angle.
- Clasp your hands together behind your back so that your arms are extended behind you.
- Lift your hands to the ceiling to stretch your chest and shoulders.
- Upper back:
- Stand up straight or sit on a surface so your legs are at a 90 degree angle.
- Place one hand on top of the other with arms straight in front of you.
- Press your arms away from your body.
- Lift your arms straight out to the side.
- Make a thumbs up with both hands and rotate your thumbs down and then back up until they are pointing behind you.
- Raise one arm straight above you, then bend your elbow so your forearm is behind your head.
- Gently push your bent elbow back with your other hand.
- Take one arm and extend it across your body.
- Gently press and pull your extended arm to deepen the stretch.
- Side stretch:
- Raise your arms straight above you and clasp your hands together.
- Push your hands up and then over to each side of you.
Remember—if you stretch muscles too far they can strain or tear.If you feel pain while stretching, there may be an injury or damage to your muscle tissue. Avoid stretching that muscle and talk to your doctor. It’s important to push yourself—but not at the expense of your health.
Stretching your feet
FitMyFoot is a foot brand first—which is why we’re throwing in some foot stretches as an accessory. Exercising and stretching your feet and ankles helps to ensure they’re providing you the best support possible. For an in depth explanation of foot related exercises, visit this article covering “9 foot exercises for strengthening, flexibility, and pain relief.” And the best part—none of the stretches above require any complicated equipment. You can do them right at home, or in the gym as an addition to your exercise routine.