How To Stretch For Better Fitness

A few minutes of your time before and after your workout can help ‘stretch’ its benefits much longer!
Stretching

Are you one of those people who arrive at the gym in a great hurry, race through your workout and rush off straight after citing a busy schedule as an excuse? If you are, you should know that your ‘time management’ might come at a cost. If you want to maintain peak-level performance while keeping your body injury free, your workout needs to include a proper warmup and cool-down stretch.

MH India spoke to Amit Chhikara, Senior Fitness Manager at Fitness First, Gurgaon to help you understand the importance of stretching  and how you can incorporate it into your own workout for maximum benefits.

Stretching 101

The first thing to know about stretching is that there are mainly two types of stretching—static and dynamic. A static stretch involves stretching a muscle to a point where you feel a little discomfort (but not pain), holding the pose there and then moving back to the relaxed position. Dynamic stretches, on the other hand, involve repeatedly moving your muscles through a full range of motion as they go in and out of the stretched position.

The second thing to know about stretching is that you’ve probably been doing the wrong kind before your workouts! If shoulder stretches, toe touches, hamstring stretches and other static stretches are part of your warm up, we’re sorry to have to inform you that you’ve actually been putting your body in harm’s way.

Static stretching actually causes the targeted muscle to relax, temporarily weakening it. It also reduces blood flow to the muscle in question, leaving you susceptible to muscle strains, tears and pulls. However, this doesn’t mean you should neglect static stretches altogether—they should be kept for after the workout as they’ll prevent soreness the next day. If you’re looking to warm up your muscles before an intense workout, dynamic stretches are the way to go.

Pre-Workout

The ideal warm up exercises to do before a workout, dynamic stretches boost flexibility of the muscles as well as improving performance by promoting blood flow to the area. These exercises require no equipment, which makes them extremely convenient.

How To Do It: Do one set of 10 repetitions of each exercise one after the other, adjusting the tempo and intensity as you go along.

1. Arm Circles

  • Stand up straight and extend your arms straight out. They should be parallel to the floor and perpendicular to your torso. This will be your starting position.

  • Slowly start to make circles of about 1 foot in diameter with each outstretched arm.

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Credits: pinterest.com/z00mzee

 

2. Trunk Rotations

  • Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold your arms out straight just below the chest, contract your core and pull your shoulders down and back. This will be your starting position.

  • Slowly rotate your torso in one direction. Your head, chest and torso should all move together and avoid leaning your torso in the direction of your movement.

  • Return slowly to the starting position and repeat for the other side.

3. Jumping Jacks

  • Stand with your feet together and your hands at your sides. Simultaneously raise your arms above your head and jump up just enough to spread your feet out wide.

  • Without pausing, quickly reverse the movement and repeat.

4. Front Lunges

  • Stand tall with feet hip-width apart.

  • Take a big step forward with your right leg and start to shift your weight forward so that your heel hits the floor first.

  • Lower your body until your right thigh is parallel to the floor and right shin is vertical. Make sure your knee doesn't go past your toe.

  • Press into the right heel to drive back up to starting position and repeat on the other side.

5. High Knees

  • Stand up straight and place your feet about hip-width apart. Place your hands palms-down facing the floor, hovering just above your belly button.

  • Quickly drive your right knee up to meet your right hand, bring it back to the ground and immediately bring the left knee up to meet your left hand.

  • Make sure you engage your core as each knee comes up to meet the hands.

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Credits: pinterest.com/workoutlabs

 

Post-Workout

After your workout is the best time for static stretches because it prevents muscle soreness and makes them more flexible, which means you’ll have a much easier time bending and kneeling in everyday life. You can even do these exercises at any time during the day to keep your muscles active—just not immediately before a workout.

How To Do It: Hold each stretch for 10-20 seconds. Initial tightness should gradually diminish as you hold the stretch. Repeat each of the stretching exercises two to three times in succession.

1. Shoulder Stretch

  • Interlock your fingers and raise your hands above your head.

  • Your lower back should be flat or slightly arched inwards.

2. Chest Stretch

  • Clasp your hands behind your back.

  • Gently straighten your elbows and raise your arms as high as you can.

3. Groin Stretch

  • Stand with your feet wide apart, toes pointing forward.

  • Gradually shift all your weight to your right leg by bending your right knee while your left leg stays straight.

  • Come back to the starting position and do the same for the left leg.

4. Quad Stretch

  • Standing upright and hold onto a support with one hand, clasp your ankle with your other hand and pull your heel up towards your butt. Repeat the same for the other leg.

5. Hamstring Stretch

  • Sitting down, stretch your legs out in front of you while keeping your back flat and upright.

  • Bend your left leg keeping your left foot flat on the floor. Slowly reach forward and try to touch your right toe with both hands.

  • Bend from your waist, keeping your lower back flat and your head up.

  • Come back up to the starting position and repeat for the other leg.

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It’ll only take a few minutes of your precious time and the benefits you’ll enjoy by including stretching into your workout make it all worth it!

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