Stretching – is a form of physical exercise in which a specific muscle or tendon (or muscle group) is deliberately flexed or stretched in order to improve the muscle’s felt elasticity and achieve comfortable muscle tone. The result is a feeling of increased muscle control, flexibility, and range of motion.
We all need to stretch the muscles. Stretching helps your blood reach your muscles and your joints move through their full range of motion. Stretching also improves your posture and lowers the risk of injuries and pain.
It is very important to know which muscles you are actually stretching or if you are performing each stretch the right way?
When you feel nonregular pain, the one when you are aware that something is not ok, you need to find the muscle which causes you pain and changes the technique you have used in order to avoid injury.
You should feel the stretches in the belly of your muscle. But, if you feel pressure in your joints, it means that you push too hard. Also, it is very important to focus on your breathing while stretching.
And if you feel that the stretch you are doing is not good for your muscles, change it immediately.
We present you with illustrations made by Vicky Timon, a yoga expert and author of “Encyclopedia of Pilates Exercises”, and James Kilgallon, CSCS, creator of Mazio’s Body Maintenance Program.
1. CAMEL POSE
You are stretching the Rectus Abdominus and the External Obliques.This stretch is for people with good flexibility. Sit on your heels, put your hands behind you, push your hips up and forward. Do not put too much pressure on your lumbar spine. Also, do not drop your head back if you have problems with your neck.
2. WIDE FORWARD FOLD
You are stretching the adductors. You just need to open the hips. Begin with your knees bent, holding your spine straight. As you start feeling your muscles starting to release, straighten your legs, round out your back and reach for your feet. Pull easily on the bottom of the balls of your feet in order to release the calf muscles. If you are a beginner, you might not be able to reach your feet.
3. FROG POSE
You are stretching the adductors. This stretch can also put pressure on your knees, so it is recommended that you perform it on a soft surface. Rest your hands and knees, and then bring your knees wider until you feel your groin muscles well stretched. You will feel a bit differing stretches as you actively push your hips back and forward.
4. WIDE SIDE LUNGE POSE
You are stretching the adductors. Start by putting your both feet forward in a wide position, holding your legs as straight as possible. With your hands, walk to your right foot and then bend your right knee and rotate your left toes up to the ceiling, sitting in your right hip. Make sure that your right foot maintains flat on the ground.
5. BUTTERFLY STRETCH
You are stretching the adductors. Sitting, bring the soles of your feet together and sit tall through your sit bones. Grow this stretch by putting pressure on your knees with your hands. If you want to stretch your groin muscles better, keep your feet closer to your body. Now, make sure your feet are far from your hips and slowly round your upper body to loosen your back muscles.
6. FOREARM EXTENSOR STRETCH
You are stretching the Forearm extensor. Pack your shoulders and your back down and rotate the shoulder towards the outside in order to get into the best position to stretch the forearm muscle.When your body is in this position, put pressure on your other hand to start the stretch. You can develop this stretch if you touch the tips of your fingers together in the shape of a teacup.
7. LATERAL SIDE FLEXION OF THE NECK
You are stretching the sternocleidomastoid “SCM”. Stretch your neck as much as you can and slowly drop your ear to your shoulder, ensuring that you are not collapsing your cervical spine. You can develop this stretch by sitting on a chair and holding onto the bottom of the seat. This is going to make the pressure down your arm and neck consistent, and thus it will let you target the upper traps.
8. NECK ROTATION STRETCH
You are stretching the sternocleidomastoid “SCM”. Start by rotating your neck in a slow manner, while keeping your chin a bit elevated to isolate the SCM. If you want a bigger stretch, you will need to put pressure with the opposite hand from the direction that you are rotating.
9. NECK EXTENSION STRETCH
You are stretching the sternocleidomastoid “SCM”. Start by putting your hands on your hips. Keep your spine long start to tilt your head back in the meantime, in order to ensure that you are not collapsing your cervical spine.
10. LATERAL SIDE FLEXION OF THE NECK WITH HAND ASSISTANCE
You are stretching the sternocleidomastoid “SCM” and the upper trapezius. Stretch your neck as much as you can while you slowly drop your ear to your shoulder. Make sure that you are not collapsing your cervical spine, while you do this. You can extend this stretch by sitting on a chair and grabbing the bottom of its seat. In this way, you will make consistent pressure down the arm and the neck, and it will let you target the upper traps.
11. HALF KNEELING QUAD / HIP FLEXOR STRETCH
You are stretching the psoas and the quadriceps. Start in the position of half-kneeling. Then bring forward the right hip, and you will start feeling a stretch in the front of your hip while you do that. Take your back foot and squeeze your back glute in order to add to the stretch on your hip flexors.
12. FOREARM EXTENSOR STRETCH
You are stretching the forearm extensor. Start by packing your shoulder and your back down. Then rotate your shoulder towards outside to get into the best position to stretch the forearm muscle. When you get into this position, put pressure on your opposing hand to start the stretch. You can develop this stretch if you touch the tips of your fingers together in the shape of a teacup.
13. LATERAL SHOULDER STRETCH
You are stretching the side deltoid. With your arms across your body, put pressure on your arm to add to the stretch on your shoulder.
14. STANDING ASSISTED NECK FLEXION STRETCH
You are stretching the trapezius muscle. Stand on the ground with your feet together. Make sure your spine is extended and slowly sit your hips back and round your upper back, pushing your chin to your chest at the same time.
15. LAT STRETCH WITH SPINAL TRACTION
You are stretching the latissimus dorsi. Take a firm grip on a bar and slowly lift your feet off the ground. You need to feel the stretch in your chest and lats. If you completely take your feet off the ground, you will feel traction in your lumbar spine.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not make this stretch, if you have recently undergone a shoulder injury or you have impingement of the shoulder.
16. LAT STRETCH AT THE WALL
You are stretching the latissimus dorsi. Put your both hands on the corner of a wall or post. Maintaining your spine extended, push your hips out to the side slowly.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not make this stretch, if you have problems with your lower back,
17. CHILD’S POSE
You are stretching the latissimus dorsi. Being on the ground with your hands and your knees on the floor, slowly bring your hips back until your forehead is on the floor. If you want a better stretch in your hips, bring your knees wider. Your upper back should be positioned in the shape of an arch, and then you should externally rotate your shoulders to stretch your lats and chest muscles.
18. STANDING CALF STRETCH
You are stretching the soleus and the gastrocnemius. You can make this stretch on a rack or on the edge of a stair step. Rotate your ankles a bit towards inside and outside to stretch your calf muscles.
19. FRONT SPLIT
You are stretching the psoas and the hamstring. This stretch is not for beginners because it is difficult to perform. Also, it should be performed carefully, especially if you have any hip problems. Start in a position of a kneeling lunge.
20. SEATED FORWARD FOLD / SEATED TOE TOUCH
You are stretching the hamstrings and the calfs. Sit into your seat bones and bend your knees if you need to. Your legs will become stronger as your flexibility gets better. Make sure that your spine is as straight as possible, especially if you have back problems.
21. SINGLE LED FORWARD BEND
You are stretching the hamstrings. Start by positioning your feet one in front of the other. Keep your back straight, bring your hands to your hips and start bending from the hips.
22. DEEP SQUAT
You are stretching the glutes. This movement has an impact on all parts of your body. If you have troubles with your knees, or if you can’t keep your heels on the ground, perform your squat before proceeding. Start by standing with your feet apart in the width of your shoulders and then start gradually lowering into the deep squat. When you get to the position of the deep squat, bring your arms inside your legs and put a little pressure to the inside of your knees, sitting into the hips and heels.
23. SEATED HALF KING PIGEON POSE
You are stretching the glutes. Start in a seating position and gradually pull your leg to your chest and rotate your hip towards the outside, while keeping your spine straight.
24. STANDING CALF STRETCH AT THE WALL
You are stretching the soleus and the gastrocnemius. Start in the lunge position, having the back of your foot a bit turned out. Slowly bring the back of your heel to the floor to stretch your calf muscles.
25. LATERAL FLEXION AT THE WALL
You are stretching the external obliques. Keep your spine extended and slowly push your hips outside.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not make this stretch, if you have problems with your lower back.
26. SUPINE TWIST
You are stretching the glutes and the external obliques. This stretch is very good and beneficial for people who suffer from sciatica pain and try to get rid of it. Start by lying flat on your back and then bring one leg across your body, and slowly rotate your gaze and upper body in the opposite direction. Very important about this stretch is that you use your breath to open up your rib cage and sacroiliac joint and hip area without putting too much pressure on the lower back.
27. LATERAL FLEXION WITH A DOWEL
You are stretching the external obliques and the latissimus dorsi. Keep your spine long, and slowly push your hips out to the side while keeping your shoulders rotated outwardly.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not make this stretch, If you have troubles with your lower back,
28. TRIANGLE POSE
You are stretching the external obliques. Start with a wide stand and with your front foot straight ahead, and your back foot at 90 degrees. Put your hand on your front leg or on the floor, and sit back into your front hip, keeping your back straight. Rotate away from your front leg and keep your look on the hand that it is in the air.
29. CHEST STRETCH AT THE WALL
You are stretching the pectorals. For beginners, face the wall with your thumb up. Gradually rotate away from the wall in order to stretch your chest muscle. You should feel this stretch in the belly of the muscle, but be careful not to push too hard, because it will cause a pain in the shoulder joint.
30. ASSISTED CHEST STRETCH
You are stretching the chest and the latissimus dorsi. Lie down on the floor and hold your palms faced up. Your partner should sit in a deep squat and hold your hands. You should feel a stretch in your chest and lats. This stretch should also cause some traction in your spine.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not make this stretch if you have problems with your shoulders i.
31. SEATED HALF PIGEON VARIATION
You are stretching the anterior tibialis. Sit with your feet positioned in front of you. Put one hand behind you and rotate your hip outwardly and put one foot above your knee. If you want to make a better stretch on your hip, gradually lean forwardly and start the movement by hinging at the hips.
32. SUPINE SHOULDER EXTERNAL ROTATION STRETCH
You are stretching the subscapularis. Lie flat on your back. Then, put your arm straight out to the side with your elbow at an angle of 90 degrees. After that, slowly bring the back of your hand to the floor. If you can’t bring your hand close to the floor, and it is still far away, it means that your rotator cuff and other muscles that control internal rotation are tight.
33. DOWN DOG VARIATION AT THE WALL
You are stretching the pectorals and the latissimus dorsi. Stand far enough from a wall or rack so that when you touch the wall your body gets into parallel position to the ground. Move into this position by pivoting at the hips and make sure that your spine is straight all the time. When you are in this position, move your chest forward and make a slight arch in your upper back and stretch your lats and chest muscles. If your hamstrings are tight, try bending at the knees.
34. ASSISTED CHEST STRETCH VARIATION
You are stretching the pectorals. Lie down on the floor with your face down and your palms faced down. Your partner needs to pull your hands back. You should feel a stretch in your chest muscles.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not make this stretch if you have problems with your shoulders.
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