From Hamstrings to Shoulders
There is a way to incorporate more stretching throughout your day — not just as a warm up and cool down to your exercise routine.
Kara Flexman, exercise physiologist at Northwestern Medicine Executive Health and Northwestern Medical Group, shares how the static stretching routine below (demonstrated by Clare Barry, exercise physiologist at Northwestern Medicine Executive Health and Northwestern Medical Group) can help boost your flexibility when done throughout the day or after a workout.
Static stretching — also known as traditional stretching — lengthens a muscle until there is a stretch sensation or to the point of where resistance is reached. It includes holding the muscle in a lengthened position for a specific period of time (typically from 10 to 60 seconds).
“It is best to perform these types of stretches when the muscles are warm and/or after exercise to minimize risk of injury,” says Flexman.
“The best way to stay mobile and limber is to keep moving,” says Flexman. “Alternate from sitting to standing at your desk, take frequent walking breaks, and stretch at least once throughout the day.”
To maximize the benefit from these stretches, practice the routine below every day.
“If you try these stretches and you still feel like your flexibility has not improved, become more mindful of how often you are moving throughout the day,” says Flexman.
Take a stretching strap, towel or scarf, and wrap it around the ball of the foot (under your toes) of your right leg. Keep your left leg extended on the floor. With a slight bend in your right knee, flex your right foot and slowly bring your right leg toward your torso until you feel a stretch in the back of your right leg and calf muscle. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
From the hamstring stretch, place your left arm extended on the ground to the left of your torso. Slowly bring your right leg out to the right side, keeping your left hip on the floor. You should feel this stretch on the inside of your leg. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
From the adductor stretch, take the stretching strap in your left hand and extend your right arm on the ground to the right of your torso. Bring your right leg across your body to the left, keeping both shoulders on the floor until you feel a stretch on the outside of your right leg. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
Hip flexor/quad stretch
Place your left foot on the ground and bend your left knee over your left ankle. Bring your right knee to the floor and lift your right foot onto an elevated surface, such as a chair, bench or couch. Keeping your back straight, lean forward until you feel a stretch in the quadriceps and hip flexor. Hold this for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
Start in a kneeling position and bring your knees wide and feet together. Sit your hips toward your feet and reach your arms forward on the floor. Feel the stretch in your hips, shoulders and back. Hold this for 30 seconds. Keep your hips in the same position as you walk your hands to the right side until you feel a stretch on your left side. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Sit up tall and allow your shoulders to relax. Bring your right ear to your right shoulder until you feel a stretch in your neck. You can assist the stretch by placing your right hand on your head. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Bring your right arm across your upper torso. Bring your left arm under your right arm to help you bring your right arm closer to your body until you feel a stretch across your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.