Stretching is something that is sorely overlooked in our society. It is amazing how much better you can feel with simple stretching exercises! I mean, stretching can really help you out if you:
- Live a relatively sedentary lifestyle
- Live a health and active lifestyle
- Are a hardcore athlete
- Have general aches and pains
- Feel tight or sore during certain movements
- Are alive in any way
I am pretty sure that, unless you are already a Yoga instructor or guru, or do Pilates on the reg, that you can definitely benefit from simple stretching exercises. Even a little bit of daily stretching can help alleviate general achy-ness, help with back or knee problems, help increase flexibility, and decrease joint pains. With as little as 5 minutes a day! Well, maybe a couple times a day, but lets not get carried away. I am not asking you to morph into a human pretzel, or discover your inner cheese (or is it Chi? I'd rather discover my cheese, yum). Also, to take your health a bit further, check out Health Tips for Lazy People here!
Simple Stretching Exercise DOs
- Stretch for 20-30 seconds or until you tension release
- For the last 10 seconds, pull the stretch a little tighter.
- Stretch any time of day! If you are extra stiff, stretch lightly in the morning, then again in the evening
- Stretch after every workout
- Stretching does not have to take hours. Five minutes here and there will do ya.
- Stretch past the point of comfort, but never to the point of pain.
Simple Stretching Exercise DON’Ts
- Don't over stretch or push your limbs past what they are designed to do.
- Don't stretch to the point of pain
- Don't do extra deep stretching first thing in the morning. Do a light stretch, get your blood flowing, and wake up those muscles.
- Don't bounce your limbs to get a deeper stretch, This can cause muscle/ligament/tendon injuries
- There is not a lot of scientific evidence that shows holding stretches longer than 45 seconds does any extra good, so keep it short and sweet. You have other things to do!
- Don't quickly pull yourself into the stretch, and don't release the stretch quickly. Slowly get in the stretch, slowly get out of it.
Lying Hamstring Stretch
Lie on your back (hey, wake up!). Lift your left leg up and grab behind your knee, then pull until you feel mild discomfort, but not pain. Hold for 20 seconds, then pull it a little tighter for the last 10 seconds. Slowly lower your leg, then repeat on the other side. You can also wrap a band, belt, or tie around your foot to help pull it down. Tight hamstrings occur from prolonged sitting, improper exercise, distance running, etc. They can cause lower back problems and knee problems, and are one of the most commonly tight muscles.
Lying Glute Stretch
- Stay on your back and cross the ankle of your right leg over the knee of your left. Lift your left leg and grab behind your knee, threading your arm through the gap between your legs. You should feel this in the right butt cheek. If it is difficult to grab behind your leg (hey man, we are trying to increase flexibility, I don’t expect you to already have it!), then situate yourself near a wall, so you can prop that left leg up onto the wall. Scoot closer to the wall for a closer stretch. Obviously then you will switch legs. Ok, so this looks a LITTLE bit like a pretzel. My bad.
Low Back/Lat Stretch
- Situate yourself on your hands and knees. Lean back and sit on your heels with your arms straight in front of you, kind of like a cat! Sit there and chill for about 10 seconds, then take both your hands and reach towards the left. Pretend someone is pulling on your hands opposite your body. Really lengthen your torso but keep your butt on your heels. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat to the right. This is a great way to decrease back pain, and tightness in your upper body.
Upper Back Stretch
- Sit criss-cross applesauce on the ground. Bring your right arm across your body, palm facing your body. Lightly pres your forearm with your left hand. Don't wrench it as close to your body as you can. A light press is effective. Keep a mostly open palm, this will help keep your arm in the proper position.
- You will need a doorway, hall corner, window frame, etc. Bring your right arm up at 90 degrees, so your elbow is in line with your shoulders. Place your hand and forearm against the frame of the door (corner, whatevs). Now step forward slightly, keeping your hips and shoulders even and facing forward (i.e. don’t take a huge step and wrench your body to the side, small movements matter). Your chest muscles shorten and can become tight especially when you spend a lot of time on the computer. This can compromise your posture and increase back/shoulder pain.
Hip Flexor Stretch
- Sit on the ground on your knees, then bring your left leg forward and push your hips forward, keeping them square. Make sure your left shin stays vertical and your full foot and heel is in contact with the ground. Hold this position for about 10 seconds, then reach your right arm up and lean slightly to the left. You should feel a good stretch in your right hip flexor and abs. Hip flexors become tight and inhibited with prolonged sitting or long sessions of running/jogging.
- This is the one that combats carpal tunnel! Something I know I am familiar with, and it can be a huge inconvenience in life. This is a simple stretch. Just hold your arm out in front of you, palm up. Now with the other hand, slowly pull back on your fingers until you feel a stretch in your forearm. You can get a deep stretch by placing your hands on a table and doing the same movement. SImple wrist circles and rotations can keep the warm and fluid as well.
- Omg, I lied! I did put a Yoga one in here! Sue me. (please don't, I promise I'll behave). For serial though, this stretch is a great way to stretch the entire posterior chain (shoulders, back, glutes, hamstrings, calves, ankles). I could be totally repetitive and say these muscles get tightened with prolonged sitting, but I have beaten that dead horse enough. Basically, unless you are actively stretching these muscles daily, everyone's posterior chain is tight because it is generally underused, or misused. We live in a forward motion world, so it is to be expected that the backside muscles don't get enough attention. Downward dog is a great way to stretch and release everything, while also having fun upsidown. Situate yourself on all fours. Straighten your arms and legs, press your head through your arms, looking towards your feet, and press your heels to the ground. No it is not the most comfortable, yes it gets better, as do all these stretches.
- Yes, that is Han Solo in the background. This is a nerd site after all, how nerdy can I make stretching? And yes that is me smiling like a dork in the pictures. I figured I might as well get involved with my own articles, right? Anyway, I hope you enjoyed these simple stretching exercises and find time to incorporate them into your daily life. Be sure to check out my Health Tips for Lazy People article (linked below) Thanks for reading and be sure to subscribe for more!