Florida is all about fun in the sun, but there's nothing fun about a cramp. Stretching might just be the most important aspect of a fit lifestyle. Did you know that hundreds of sports injuries occur every year?
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
states that most of those injuries can be avoided by simple stretching.
There are a few different ways to loosen up your joints, and muscles. Some stretches require slow, and controlled, movement without any harsh bouncing. These exercises need to be held for 20 to 30 seconds, and repeated 2 to 3 times before a workout. Other loosening exercises might use a set of circular motions to open up joints such as the scapula. All of the warm up stretches can also be performed after a workout during the cool down period.
Here are just a couple of stretches that can be used before a workout routine, before a heavy workday, or interspersed throughout a sedentary workday.
1. Toe touches: These are performed easily enough by standing with the feet about shoulder width apart then slowly bending forward at the waist while exhaling until the fingertips touch the toes.
Generally, the knees need to be slightly bent to avoid straining the hamstring, or the delicate ligaments located at the backs of the knees.
Performing the toe touch will loosen the lower back, hamstrings, and calves.
2. Quad stretches: These are done standing with the feet about shoulder width apart and can be aided by holding onto a counter, or any flat surface, for balance. Once you feel secure in your balance, slowly bend one leg at the knee by bringing the heel of that foot towards the buttock of the same leg while exhaling. Hold the foot gently with the hand of the same side of the leg.
For example: Hold a sturdy surface with the left hand, bring the right heel to the right buttock, then gently grasp the right foot with the right hand for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat this maneuver for each side two to three times.
Quad stretches will loosen the many muscles of the front of the thighs, and warm up the knees.
3. Lunges: Lunges are performed by standing with the feet about shoulder width apart. Step one foot forward two to three feet from the other foot. You may adjust this distance for your skill level, and leg length. Once both feet are firmly planted, bend at the knee of the forward stretched leg creating a 90 degree angle between the bent leg and your hip. Exhale as you bend.
Alternate sides by either walking forward in this fashion, or by returning to the starting position, and then step with the other foot. Both legs need to be stretched equally.
Lunges will help to open the muscles surrounding the groin, loosen the hamstrings, calves, and warm up the knees.
4. Standing triceps stretch: While this stretch can be performed just as easily from a sitting position, standing will help the body's blood to flow more naturally thus preparing all the muscles for a workout. Once you are balanced with the feet about shoulder width apart, bring one arm out to the side until it is parallel with the ground.
Next, bring the arm across the body so that the bicep is touching the chest, or as close as comfortably possible. Place the other wrist just behind the elbow of the lateral arm and apply a very slight pressure to bring the arm closer to the chest.
Repeat this for both sides for about 20 to 30 seconds, and repeat two to three times.
Triceps stretches will loosen many of the muscles used in pushing with the arms including the three strands of the triceps, the backs of the shoulder, and open the scapula.
5. Standing shoulder stretch: This slightly more complicated stretch is a variation of the triceps stretch in that the beginning of the action is quite similar, and can also be done while sitting.
Begin with the feet shoulder width apart. Raise the arm out to your side until parallel to the ground. Next bend at the elbow so the fingertips are pointing at the ground. Then, gently roll the shoulder towards the ground placing the outside of your forearm gently against your back. Finally, use the opposing arm to softly grip the bent elbow, and pull the arm towards the center of the back. Exhale as you pull.
All of these are pretty basic stretches, which most anyone in any kind of shape can perform. While it is important to check with your physician before attempting any of these basic stretches, people of moderate to average health can always benefit from adding a few limbering exercises to their routine.