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BEST POST-WORKOUT STRETCHES

10 Dec

Although some exercisers claim to never stretch, most top athletes continue to incorporate stretching into their post-workout routine. As well as being the perfect way to relax your body after exercise, stretching helps you check in with your body and can alert you to ‘overuse’ injuries before they become a problem.

DOES STRETCHING HELP RECOVERY OR IMPROVE FLEXIBILITY?

The short answer is that we don’t know for sure. However, most studies only look at the short-term benefits of stretching, so it’s difficult to measure how stretching affects long-term flexibility. What we do know is that people who are inflexible are more prone to injury. We also know that people are living longer, and those who can avoid degenerative joint diseases as they age are likely to have a better quality of life. Research confirms that most people feel better after stretching post-exercise, so whether you’re interested in the short-term or long-term benefits, it’s worth fitting stretching into your regular workout schedule.

WHAT SORT OF STRETCHING IS BEST POST-WORKOUT?

The most popular form of post workout stretching is static stretching, which involves holding an extended muscle at its maximum point for around 30 seconds. Post workout is the ideal time to stretch, because a warm muscle is more pliable and less likely to be injured while you stretch it.

Another effective form of stretching is Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF), which is best done under the guidance of a qualified instructor. Ask your trainer for guidance if you want to try some PNF stretches.

HOW LONG SHOULD I STRETCH FOR?

To ensure that you get your stretching time in, program 10 minutes of stretching for every hour of exercise. Studies indicate that 30 seconds is the optimal time to hold a stretch. Repeat each stretch two to three times.

STRETCHING TIPS

  • Avoid overstretching or bouncing. Bouncing stimulates the stretch reflex, which makes the muscles contract even tighter. It can also cause small tears in the muscle.
  • Hold the muscle in a slow, sustained stretch. Once the muscle feels comfortable, gently increase the stretch and then hold again.
  • Keep breathing as you stretch, and concentrate on small changes in the muscle.
  • Keep your joints soft, avoiding locking out elbows and knees.

WHICH STRETCHES SHOULD I DO AFTER A WORKOUT?

Often your body will tell you where it wants to be stretched, but every full body workout should include the following stretches.

 

STANDING QUAD STRETCH

  • Stand tall with your legs together and your knees slightly bent.
  • Keeping your hips neutral, bend one knee and lift your ankle behind you.
  • Hold your ankle but try not to pull on your foot.
  • Repeat on other side.

 

HAMSTRING STRETCH

  • Find a fixed object about hip height, such as a fence or the back of a park bench, that you can rest your leg on at about hip height. Stand with your hips facing the fixed object and lift one straight leg onto it letting the back of your heel rest on it.
  • Stand tall, keeping the knee of the supporting leg slightly bent.
  • Repeat on other side.

 

NB: Some people like to lean over the extended leg to increase the stretch, but pushing back on the bony part on the front of your hip and bending the supporting leg also stretches the hamstring without risking injury to the lower back.

 

HIP FLEXOR STRETCH

  • With your leg still on the fence, bend the raised leg so that the middle of your foot is now resting on the railing.
  • Stand tall, with your bottom tucked in.
  • Lean forward until you feel a stretch down the front the hip of your grounded leg.
  • Repeat on other side.

 

CALF STRETCH

  • Stand on the edge of a step.
  • Drop the heel of one foot off the edge of the step and towards the ground.
  • Repeat on other side.

 

TORSO STRETCH

  • Place your hands together straight over your head as though you are about to dive into a pool.
  • Keeping your hands together, lean slowly to one side, stretching the opposite side out (ie if you lean right, your left side should be stretched out).
  • Repeat on other side.

 

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