Athletes and people who are physically active often stretch before and after a workout. But what are the benefits of stretching? Are they really necessary?
Most people stretch because they think it will help them avoid injuries. But does stretching actually help? The answer is yes – but only if you do it correctly.
Stretching helps improve your flexibility, which can make your movements more fluid and less likely to cause injuries. It also increases blood flow and circulation, which can help reduce muscle soreness after a workout.
Types of stretches
There are many types of stretches that one can do in order to increase flexibility. The most common are static, dynamic, and ballistic stretches. Static stretches involve holding a stretch for a certain amount of time, usually 10-30 seconds. Dynamic stretches involve moving the body through its range of motion, and Ballistic stretches use bouncing or jerking motions to take the muscle beyond its normal range of motion.
Static vs dynamic stretches
Static and dynamic stretches are both forms of stretching, but they are different in how they work and the results that they produce. Static stretching is a type of stretch where you hold a position for a certain amount of time. This type of stretch is usually used to increase flexibility because it allows the muscle to lengthen over time.
Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, is a type of stretch where you move your body through a range of motion. This type of stretch is usually used to improve athletic performance because it warms up the muscles and gets them ready for action.
The best stretches for better flexibility
There are many benefits to having better flexibility. You'll move more easily through your day-to-day life, you'll feel less tension and pain in your muscles and joints, and you'll improve your overall athletic performance. That's why it's important to add some stretches to your daily routine. But which stretches should you do? Below are some of the best stretches for better flexibility.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
The hamstring muscles are located at the back of the thigh. They are responsible for bending the knee and extending the hip. The standing hamstring stretch is a simple way to stretch these muscles.
To do the stretch, stand with your feet together and your hands on your hips. Bend forward at the waist, keeping your back straight. You should feel a stretch in the back of your thighs. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then release and repeat two more times.
You can also reach down and touch your toes to get a deeper stretch. This stretch targets the hamstrings, glutes, back, and calves.
- Piriformis Stretch
The piriformis muscle is a deep internal hip rotator, located on the outside of the hip. It helps to rotate the hip inward and is responsible for stabilizing the femur in the hip socket. The piriformis can become tight and sore from overuse, which can lead to pain in the buttocks and hips. A simple stretch can help to relieve tension in the piriformis muscle and improve flexibility.
How to Stretch the Piriformis Muscle :
Lie on a mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip width apart. Slowly stretch your right leg straight out behind you, keeping your knee locked.
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- Lunge With Spinal Twist
Atkins notes that this stretch is commonly referred to as the World's Greatest Stretch (WGS) in the fitness community. And for good reason: "It's essential to help with posture-related pain or for people who sit for prolonged periods of time," says Dan Giordano, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., cofounder of Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy in New York City and Seattle. "It helps open your hips and improve thoracic (mid-back) mobility," he tells SELF.
Triceps Stretch(Stretches neck, shoulders, back, triceps)
Kneel, sit, or stand tall with feet hip-width apart, arms extended overhead. Bend your right elbow and reach your right hand to touch the top middle of your back. Reach your left hand overhead and grasp just below your right elbow. Gently pull your right elbow down and toward your head. Switch arms and repeat.
Butterfly Stretch(Stretches hips, glutes, back, thighs)
Sit tall on the floor with the soles of your feet together, knees bent out to sides. Try Hold onto your ankles or feet, engage your abs, and slowly lower your body toward your feet as far as you can while pressing your knees toward the floor. If you're too tight to bend over, simply press your knees down. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
Side Bend Stretch(Stretches groin, hips, inner thigh, obliques)
Kneel on the floor with your legs together, back straight, and core tight. Extend your left leg out to the side. Keep it perpendicular to your body (not in front or behind you). Extend your right arm overhead, rest your left arm on your left leg, and gently bend your torso and right arm to the left side. Keep your hips facing forward. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Repeat on the other side.
Knee to Chest Stretch(Stretches lower back, hips, hamstrings)
Lie on your back with both legs extended. Pull your right knee into your chest, while keeping the left leg straight and your lower back pressed into the floor. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Repeat on the other leg.
Knees to ChestStretches lower back, glutes
Lie on your back and pull your knees into your chest with both hands. Keep your lower back on the floor. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
The benefits of stretching and how to do it correctly
Do you suffer from back pain? If so, you're not alone. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, back pain is one of the most common medical problems in the United States. It's also one of the most expensive. A report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that Americans spent more than $86 billion on back pain in 2008 alone.
While there are many different causes of back pain, tight muscles are often a contributing factor. That's where stretching comes in. Stretching can help to loosen tight muscles and relieve tension in the back.
One stretch that is often recommended for people with back pain is the lunge with spinal twist. This stretch is simple to do and can be performed just about anywhere.