Stretching exercises, not stretching before or after exercising is something we often do either out of ignorance or because we are simply short on time. However, rushing won’t get you anywhere, and if you want to exercise safely, you need to prepare well beforehand. Just 10 minutes of stretching will get your body ready for exercise, while also preventing injuries. After training or competing, it helps you relax your muscles and boosts your level of performance and overall health. Want to know more?
Why is it important to stretch properly?
Over time muscles, in athletes and sedentary people alike, become stiff. Joints lose flexibility and their natural range of motion. This can lead to discomfort in the back and other areas of the body.
This is why stretching exercises is so important, as it improves blood flow and promotes oxygenation of the muscles. What’s more, they are perfect for combating joint stiffness, stress and relieving headaches or back pain. It has also been shown to be effective inbouncing back from injuries and even improving sleep quality. Stretching exercides daily will help you keep your muscles strong… And, if you spend a lot of time in the same posture, you should take a special interest in knowing how to stretch properly.
But first let’s list the most immediate benefits of stretching exercises :
- Improves athletic performance. Stretching exercises helps keep muscles flexible, which will come in handy when exercising because, as well as preventing injuries, it improves joint mobility.
- Relieves postural pain. Staying in the same posture for hours on end will strengthen certain muscles but, at the same time, others will become weaker. With daily stretching you can make up for this. For example, one of the most common types of pain is back pain, so this area of your body will thank you later if you spend a few minutes giving it a good stretch.
- Improves joint health Daily stretching exercises helps prevent muscle atrophy while improving tendon flexibility and strength. It also promotes lubrication and joint health, which is lost through inactivity.
How to stretch your legs
- Hamstring stretch. Sitting on the floor, roll up a mat and stretch one leg over it while bending the other. Keep the foot of the flexed leg close to the other leg. Next, align the hips, lean forward and try to grasp the outstretched foot. Hold this position for a few seconds.
- Hip flexor stretch. With your legs hip-width apart, bend one leg and move it forward. Then move the other leg backwards. To make this stretch more effective, try pushing your hips towards the floor. For a more complete exercise, raise the arm opposite the forward leg and move your body to the opposite side. Remember that the shoulders should be relaxed.
- Calf stretch. Face the wall, rest your hands on it, place one leg backwards but completely straight, and keep your heel close to the floor. Hold this for a few seconds.
How to stretch your glutes
If sculpting your glutes is one of your key objectives during your workouts, you may be wondering: How do I stretch my glutes? We’ve got two options for you.
- Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out. Lift one of them, flexed, and move it over the one that is still on the ground. With the opposite arm, grab it and rotate your torso and neck. Repeat on the other side.
- If you find this uncomfortable, you can lie on your back on the floor, bend your legs and place one heel on the other leg at thigh level. Lift the leg that is on the ground and hold both legs in the air using your arms. Repeat on the opposite leg.
How to stretch the upper body
To stretch your back properly, fold a mat in front of you on the floor. Next, sit on your heels and stretch your arms towards it, with your head between your arms. Feeling the stretch in your back, hold the position for a few seconds.
You can also do a dorsal stretch. To do this, lie on a folded mat. Put your hands on your head and lean back. You should arch your back while trying to rest your head on the floor.
How to stretch the neck
Here are two types of exercises to stretch your neck.
- Posterior neck stretch. Sit on the floor with your legs crossed. Link your fingers behind the nape of the neck. In the meantime, lower your head, stretching exercises the back of your neck and ensuring that there is some space between your chest and chin.
- Lateral neck stretch. Now, sit cross-legged on your hamstrings and place your hand on your ear on the opposite side. Move your head to the side, as if you wanted to move your ear toward your shoulder. Hold this position until you feel the neck stretch, then repeat on the opposite side.
How to stretch your arms
When it comes to training, the arms are usually one of the most important parts of our body and, at the same time, the most difficult to work. In this post, we explain how to successfully get rid of flabby arms; but below are some key stretches for this area of your body:
- Biceps brachialis stretch. This stretch is really important, since this muscle works non-stop and is usually shortened. To stretch it, just extend the shoulder while keeping the forearm in pronation. In other words, bringing the palm of the hand upwards. Avoid moving the shoulder forward at all times.
- Tricep stretch. This muscle is an extension of the shoulder and elbow. It is exposed to different types of damage, and usually has active trigger points, although it isn’t usually shortened. To stretch it, keep the shoulder blades straight and flex your shoulder while keeping the elbow flexed.
- Finger stretch. Place a rubber band around the fingers and thumb. Then, slowly separate and join the fingers together, without letting the rubber band come loose. Do this exercise around 40 times.
- Wrist flexor stretch. With your arm outstretched and palm facing down, grasp the fingertips with your other hand and pull towards you slowly. Keep the elbow straight. Do this until you feel the wrist stretch, hold for 10 seconds and repeat 5 times with each hand.
- Wrist extensor stretch. This is the opposite exercise to the previous one. Hold out your arm straight with the palm facing the ground, and bend it downward while keeping your elbow straight. Now, your fingertips should be pointing towards the ground and your palm should be facing you. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 5 times on each hand.
Stretching exercises and electrical stimulation
Many athletes focus their efforts on becoming improving endurance as well as becoming faster and stronger. However, they sometimes neglect something that is equally or even more important: flexibility. As muscles become stronger and stiffer, they also tend to shorten and lose elasticity. To prevent injuries linked to muscle shortening, you need to stretch.
These can be performed as we have just explained, in the traditional way, but also using electrical stimulation. This system not only helps you get stronger and more toned muscles, or bounce back from knee injuries, for example, it also helps you to stretch easily. So, who can use electrical stimulation for stretching exercises? Anyone with problems shortening muscles, after intense training or during warm-up.
Stretching program with electrical stimulation
There are different techniques for stretching exercises with electrical stimulation. One of them consists of applying this therapy on a specific muscle so that the opposite muscle relaxes; this way it can be stretched longer and more easily. Let’s check it out with an example to stretch the hamstring, essential for runners.
First, place the electrodes on the quads in the normal position, just as you would do for training. Your leg should be parallel to the ground. Next, in the Wiemspro app, select the strength and endurance program. Increase the intensity as long as it feels pleasant, but skip the warm-up phase: go straight to the workout phase. The warm-up should be very gentle, until you reach the workout phase.
Once the contraction starts in the quads, stretch the hamstring. What you will notice is that, thanks to the contraction, the stretch is easier to perform. Try to maintain this muscle stretch for the duration of the quads contraction. When this is over, rest, and stretch again when the contraction starts again. Lean your body forward and bring your face to your knee. With each new contraction you will find that you can stretch a little bit more.
You can do 12-15 reps of a stretching cycle like this before resting. When you finish with one leg you can stretch the opposite leg, and then repeat for both legs. If you wish, you can also do stretching exercises sessions with electrical stimulation on other muscles. For example, you can relieve the soleus or stretch the calf muscles; you just need to place the electrodes in the right place.
Thanks to electrical stimulation, you will notice that every time you stretch your muscles, you can stretch them that little bit more.
Now that you know how to stretch your muscles in the traditional way and also with professional electrical stimulation equipment such as Wiemspro, we recommend doing more of it. Remember; don’t push your body too hard and you’ll soon start seeing results in terms of flexibility. If you would like to keep up to date with more electrical stimulation exercises, download the free Wiemspro workouts.