Stretches for Recovery and Flexibility
Many of my clients do not understand the importance of stretching when they first come to me. In their minds, it often only equates to flexibility, which is not a goal for most people. However, stretching is so much more than that. After a workout, stretching helps with venous blood return to the heart to become re-oxyginated, and thus, the muscles heal faster and prevent soreness. It also helps muscles return to their optimal length, since they often tighten up after a hard workout.
It can also promote flexibility if you hold stretches long enough and do them on almost a daily basis. But why do we want to promote flexibility? Well, flexibility is what keeps us mobile as we age, so the more limber our muscles and joints are, the less difficulty we have doing simple tasks, like getting out of a chair, when we are eighty. Also, flexibility can improve range of motion, and when we improve our range of motion,weight lifting becomes more effective as we are strengthening the entire muscle and joint.
Start in a seated position, and bring one arm over top of your head, palm on ear. Slowly exert pressure, drawing the opposite ear down to your shoulder while extending the other arm down towards the floor away from your body. This will stretch the side of your neck. To stretch the back of your neck, interlace your fingers at the back of your head and tuck your chin. Let gravity pull your arms down, letting the elbows come in towards your face.
Range of Motion Shoulder Stretch
Start in a seated position and interlace your fingers in front of you. Turn your palms away and push out to the front of the room while rounding the back to open up your shoulder blades. Next, reach your interlaced hands up towards the ceiling, like a big morning stretch, creating length in the sides of the body. Finally, bring your hands to an interlace behind your back and roll your shoulders back, puffing out your chest. Try to bring the hands up as high as you can to stretch the front of the shoulder and chest.
Upper Back and Chest Stretch
Using any flat surface, bring your elbows to the edge and clasp hands. Come onto your knees, shifting the hips slightly back, and allow your chest to sink down towards the ground.
Rolling the shoulders onto the back of the body, one hand will grab the opposite elbow and guide it to point up towards the ceiling, while the hand reaches down the back. Press the back of your head into the tricep to increase the intensity of the stretch.
Deep Shoulder Stretch
Start on your stomach, legs straight, arms out to your sides in the shape of a T. Press into your left hand, bringing it under the shoulder to help roll your body on top of the opposite shoulder, stacking your legs on top of one another. If more intensity is needed, sole of the foot of the top leg on the floor behind you to deepen the twist.
Middle Back and Hamstring Stretch
With bent knees, come into a forward fold. Create a little cup with your thumb and index finger that fits around the back of your heels. Bring your elbows to tuck on the inside of your knees, and even press into them and push out with them. Then begin to straighten your legs, lifting your tailbone up to the sky while still pushing at the elbows and knees to open the middle back.
Wrist and Forearm Stretch
Begin on your hands and knees. Place your hands flat on the mat, fingers pointing in towards your knees, elbow creases facing outward. Still keeping weight in your hands, slowly begin to send your hips back, increasing the angle of your arms.
Start in a cross-legged position and bring your hand to rest on the opposite knee. The other arm is going to reach up and over the side of your body towards the wall, elongating the side of the body. To deepen the stretch, the hand on the knee can pull, helping to twist the spine as the other arm reaches.
Start in a high plank position and draw one knee into the chest and lower the shin down to touch the mat. The foot will swing out to the side of the body and the knee will point straight ahead as you begin to lower your bodyweight onto the leg. Push the glute out away from you to feel the stretch.
Hip and Glute Stretch
Start in a seated position with one leg extended. Bent the other leg at the knee and place the ankle right above the extended legs knee. The extended leg will then bend, bringing the heel in close to the butt. Your hands behind you can press your torso up towards the leg to deepen the hip stretch.
Come up into a high side plank and then bring the top leg in front of the body. Pressing equally through the hand and the front foot, push the hip up towards the ceiling to feel the stretch.
You’ll need a jump rope or a yoga strap for this one. Wrap the strap around the ball of your foot and lay on the ground. The leg on the ground should remain straight and engaged. Keeping a minute bend in your leg, use the strap to pull back on the foot to stretch the hamstring.
Come to standing and kick one foot up into your hand. Holding on to the top of the foot, draw it in towards your butt as you balance on the other leg. To get the deepest stretch, make sure your posture says upright, shoulders back and back straight, then bring the bend knee in line with the standing knee.
Using a wall, brace your hands and take a large step back. It should be a large enough step so that when you try to press your heel to the floor, you cannot touch. Push into your hands to stretch the back calf.
Reverse Calf Stretch
Using something you can grip onto, place your toes against the base of the surface, your heel touching the floor. Then use your arms and the back foot to pull you towards your front foot to stretch the calf.