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Is it necessary to do stretching exercises?

Exercise

Written by:
Birgitte Nymann (www.nymanns.dk )
Author, speaker and educator within Exercise, health, nutrition and motivation. Concept – and seminar developer at Pro Academy, Denmark. Educated and trained in sport from University of Copenhagen.

For many years, we did not stretch our muscles. Eventually, we found out that it was good to do stretching exercises in order to avoid sore muscles, and to a great extend to prevent our muscles from becoming stiff. However, a couple of years ago it was discovered that stretching exercises did actually not counteract soreness. Regardless of how much you pull and stretch a muscle, it will still become sore for some days after unaccustomed exercise. And this is where we are today.

However, stretching is necessary for a great number of people – whether you exercise or not. The working positions that we adopt hour after hour every day, end up with stiff and tensed muscles that can cause great pain and injuries in the entire body.

Stretching exercises do not reduce soreness

You cannot avoid soreness by stretching your muscles. The degree of soreness is exclusively dependent on how hard you exercise in relation to your condition. Try to imagine a small rubber band that is slightly frayed. What happens if you stretch the rubber band? It brakes even more. You can compare this example with what can happen in your muscles. When you exercise, your muscles fray a little. If you stretch afterwards, your muscles can fray even further and you risk being more sore than you otherwise would have been. Do your own test if you are not convinced. Try to only stretch the muscles of one arm or leg the next time you exercise, and find out if you are less sore in these muscles the next day??

When and for how long?

The time that you choose to stretch your muscles is not very important. If you don’t have the time to do stretching exercises right after the exercise, you can easily do it the next day or after 4 hours. The muscles just need to be stretched in order to achieve a beautiful posture, well-being and keep injuries away.

First of all, you must stretch the muscles that have the greatest impact on the posture of the spine and pelvis, since these muscles can create great damage in the body when they become too stiff. The stretching exercises should be performed at least twice a week. The stiffer you are in the muscles, the more often you should do the stretches and the longer you should hold every position. Perform the stretching exercises when you watch television, when you are waiting for the copying machine to finish, in the train, on the plane, on the escalator, in the elevator, when you talk on the phone etc. Incorporate the stretching exercises as a natural element in your everyday life and you will soon feel a difference in your stiff muscles, in your energy and well-being.
Hold the stretches for at least 30 seconds – and preferably for much longer. Take deep breaths while you hold the stretch and focus on releasing after the stretch. If you perform stretching exercises without having exercised before and your muscles are not warmed up, then do the stretch and hold it for 5 seconds. Take a break. Repeat 3-4 times and hold the position. Now the muscle has become slightly warm and thus more indulgent.

Stretching exercises:

Hip Flexor Stretch (front hip and thigh)

  1. Stand with one leg approximately 1 metre in front of the other.
  2. Straighten your upper part of the body completely.
  3. Pull navel in.
  4. Bend as far down in the front leg as you can, while keeping the upper part of your body straight.
  5. If necessary, support with your hands on the front leg.
  6. Repeat the exercise with the other leg in front.

Rear thighs

  1. Stand with one leg approximately 50 cm. in front of the other.
  2. Pull navel in.
  3. Lower shoulders.
  4. Lean forwards over the front leg until you feel that the muscle of your rare thigh stretches.
  5. Repeat the exercise with the other leg in front.

Waist stretch

  1. Stand with legs hip distance apart.
  2. Straighten your back completely.
  3. Lift one arm above your head and bend the spine to the side, until you feel the stretch on the side of your body.
  4. Repeat the exercise to the opposite side.

Stretching exercise for chest and front shoulders

  1. Stand with your side against a wall or a door frame.
  2. Place your hand on a wall or door frame above shoulder height.>/li>
  3. Stretch your arm.
  4. Turn your body in the opposite direction of your arm.
  5. Feel the stretch in your front shoulder and chest.
  6. Repeat the exercise to the opposite side.

Stretching exercise for the abdominal muscles and decompression of the pelvis

  1. Lie on your abdomen with hands placed on the floor right in front of the shoulders.
  2. Breathe in and stretch your arms as much as you can at the same time.
  3. Hold your position while you breath in calmly 5-10 times.
  4. Lower down your arms and repeat the exercise 2 times more.

Hip muscles

  1. Sit down with parallel legs stretched forwards.
  2. Straighten your back completely.
  3. If you cannot sit with back straight in this position, place a pillow or something similar under your behind so you are able to straighten your back.
  4. Cross one ankle over the opposite thigh, so your legs draw the number 4.
  5. Place your hands at your hips and stretch your arm completely.
  6. Bend the lowest leg until you feel the stretch around your hip, inner and rear thigh.
  7. Repeat the exercise with the other leg.

Inner thighs

  1. Sit down with your legs as spread as possible.
  2. Pull navel in.
  3. Place your hands on your behind and stretch your arms.
  4. Lower shoulders and stretch your back completely.
  5. If you cannot feel the stretch in your inner thighs, spread your legs further.

Neck and back of the head

  1. Sit on a chair or in crossed-legged position on the floor.
  2. Straighten your back completely.
  3. Pull navel in.
  4. Lower your shoulders.
  5. Lower your head to one side.
  6. Look straight forwards.

Neck

  1. Sit on a chair or in crossed-legged position on the floor.
  2. Straighten your back completely.
  3. Pull navel in.
  4. Lower your shoulders.
  5. Let your head fall to one side and tilt your nose sideways against the floor.
  6. Lift the opposite shoulder towards your ears slowly and lower down again. Repeat the exercise to the opposite side.

Rotation stretch – stretch for the oblique abdominal and back muscles

  1. Sit on a chair or in crossed-legged position on the floor.
  2. Straighten your back completely.
  3. Pull navel in.
  4. Lower your shoulders.
  5. Turn the upper part of your body as much to the side as you can and hold the position.
  6. Repeat the exercise to the opposite side.
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