Stretching is one of those aspects of fitness that many people conveniently forget about. Perhaps you’re one of those who consider stretching nothing but a mere chore meant for ballerinas and gymnasts.
Well… you’re wrong!
Everyone needs stretching! Irrespective of your reasons for working out, be it for sports or personal fitness, one thing is certain – stretching can help you. Stretching – static or dynamic – comes with myriads of benefits – such as improvement in flexibility and reduction in muscle tightness – which ultimately allow you to go through your workout routines with greater efficiency.
For the purpose of this article, though, we’ll zero in on static stretching and take a look at its benefits and when it should be done. Finally I’ll cap it up by revealing 15 great static stretching exercises that’ll help keep your whole body in tip-top condition. So sit back, relax and enjoy!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Benefits of static stretching
Static stretching comes with tons of benefits that can help you to make the most of your workout routine. Some of them include:
1. Improved flexibility
Alright! Here’s the deal – if you want to perform better, flexibility is of tremendous importance, irrespective of the specific workouts you do. And luckily enough, static stretching is all you need to get all the flexibility you desire.
Flexibility, also known as the range of motion (ROM) around a joint, has been shown by several studies to be improved by static stretching. And although the specific mechanism through which this occurs is still unclear, static stretching has been shown to greatly increase joint flexibility and tissue length, which work in tandem to make your workout more effective.
2. Decreased risk of injury
If you’re looking to push yourself to your training limits without coming down with injuries, then stretching will do you a great service. Research has shown time and time again, that performing the right stretch exercises pre- and post-workout greatly helps with injury prevention.
So, how does it work? Well, think of it this way:
When you stretch you literally push your joints and muscle fibers to their limit. This increases the stretch tolerance in these muscles and joints over time and the increased tolerance allows you to perform more rigorous exercises without negatively impacting your body or risking an injury.
3. Increased blood flow and nutrient supply to the joints
Another benefit of stretching is increased blood flow – and by extension, nutrient supply – to the joints and muscles of the target areas. This, in turn, improves the performance of these muscles and joints due to the availability of more nutrients, improved oxygenation and removal of metabolites.
For static stretching though, the mechanism of action isn’t as straightforward. When stretching statically, blood flow (capillary oxygenation) temporarily reduces due to vascular compression.
However, immediately after releasing the stretch, the blood flow to these areas nearly doubles the pre-stretching levels. Thus, blood flow increases.
4. Improvement in recovery
If you’ve been working out for some time, then you’ve probably discovered that a rigorous workout session can leave you battling with sore muscles… for days!
Recovery essentially means getting rid of this soreness and returning your muscle fibres back to their tip-top condition.
So, how does stretching come in? See…that’s the thing, research has shown that practicing static stretching after your workout session helps to reduce muscle soreness. And while some may argue that this effect is minimal, the fact still remains that stretching does help shorten your recovery time.
Stretching allows tissues to be better hydrated after the induced tension is released and this encourages the inflammation and faster repair of such tissues.
Other reasons why you really should incorporate stretching into your workout include:
- Improved relaxation
- Increased movement efficiency
- Reduction in the risk of lower back pain
- Reduction in muscular tension
- Improvement in neuromuscular coordination
- Improvement in balance and postural awareness
- Provision of relief from cramping
Alrighty! Now that it’s crystal clear that stretching does your body a world of good, let’s dive right into the actual stretching exercises.
15 Great static stretching exercises you should start doing
Here are some amazing exercises that will keep your body in tip-top condition and take your workout routine to the next level.
1. Neck stretch
While sitting tall or standing, place your right arm gently on the right side of your head and place the other arm straightly on your side.
- Slowly pull your head towards your right shoulder until you can feel the stretch on the left side of your neck.
- Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing.
- Repeat for the opposite side.
2. Chest Stretch
Stand right, with your fingers interlocked behind your back, near your buttocks.
- While keeping your shoulder blades together and your back straight, push your arms up behind you, until you feel the stretch in your chest.
- Hold for about 20-30 seconds before releasing.
3. Cross-body shoulder stretch
Stand right or sit tall
- Extend one arm to your front to shoulder height.
- Grab the extended arm with your other arm and pull it towards your chest while keeping the extended arm straight.
- Continue the pull until you feel the stretch in your shoulder.
- Hold for 30 seconds and repeat for the other arm.
4. Triceps stretch
- Lift your arms overhead with both arms slightly behind your head and bent at the elbow.
- Use your right hand to pull your left elbow until you feel a stretch in your triceps.
- Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the other arm.
5. Biceps stretch
- Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- With your fingers pointing away from your body, place your two palms flat on the floor behind you.
- While your hands are steadily in place, slowly slide your butt downward toward your feet until you can feel the stretch in your biceps, shoulders and chest.
- Hold for about 30 seconds before release.