Stretching basically includes all those exercises that aim to stretch and lengthen a muscle or a series of muscles, whether static or dynamic. Stretching out with stretching gives your body better mobility and gives you a feeling of lightness.
In addition, stretching is a cure-all for all ages and, whether you practice a sport or not, stretching is an excellent remedy for stress and fatigue and allows you to recharge your batteries.
Stretching: what it is
Stretching is an English word that means elongation (from the verb “to stretch”).
It is a set of muscle stretching techniques used in the preparatory phase, or in the final one, in many sports disciplines.
The goal of stretching is to improve joint mobility , i.e. the ability to move a joint, to its maximum extent, without pain.
In addition, dynamic stretch improves dynamic flexibility and is very useful as a warm-up phase .
It is useful in the cooling phase to reduce the feeling of fatigue .
It consists of exercises inspired by yoga to stretch a muscle due to an external action (gravity, body weight, elastic, etc.).
In addition, these exercises can be performed as a stand -alone workout or as a post workout especially for sports that require explosive strength (jumps, 100m, etc.), because static stretching could worsen performance if performed before training.
So, the exercises are based on maintaining the position (between 15 and 30 seconds ) looking for relaxation with breathing. However, the movements in no case must be abrupt in order not to obtain the opposite effect, that is to create a tension in the muscle (with the risk of contracture or muscle tearing).
The muscle tension must be slow and progressive. It is important to stop when the maximum tension has been reached .
During static stretching, the antagonist muscles are stressed in reverse. For example: When you stretch the hamstrings, the quadriceps are shortened.
Those who decide to dedicate themselves to stretching probably aim to achieve physical well-being , considering this method capable of reducing pain.
Indeed, it brings many benefits to the musculoskeletal system. In fact, it involves not only the muscles but also the tendons, bones and joints, contributing for example to greater joint lubrication.
So if done correctly, stretching can help reduce cartilage wear and tear and the chances of suffering from osteoarthritis .
But the most immediate and sought-after effect is linked to the possibility of obtaining a reduction in tension and stress , in fact favoring relaxation. Furthermore, it is also of great importance in the rehabilitation field to regain the range of movements and to compensate for muscle stiffness caused, for example, by incorrect postures .
It can be practiced at all ages even if you do not do other sports but simply to regain a certain harmony of the body.
In addition to relaxing, stretching prevents and improves :
- Elasticity of muscles and tendons.
Stretching: how to keep your joints young
Muscles are made up of a collection of several thousand muscle fibers that are found in a membrane called a fascia. However, partly because of age, partly because of the wrong postures that our body assumes and the weights it carries every day, but also and above all due to stress, the body slowly loses its elasticity .
It is precisely this membrane that loses its elasticity! Since the same muscle attaches to different joints, shortening creates joint constriction and causes premature joint deterioration.
Not only does it limit you in your movements, but it also tends to change your posture and causes you a lot of discomfort . So, in the long run, if you don’t keep moving, your body will become stiff and you will feel more and more restricted in your movements.
Know that it is much more difficult to regain lost elasticity than to preserve what you have.
So get into the habit of practicing stretching and teach your kids to do the same every day so that when they grow up they will feel the need to do it and won’t get lazy.
In fact, stretching has precisely this advantage : the more you practice it, the more you feel the need to practice it.
Stretching: when and how much to do it
You can practice stretching at any time of the day : if you have muscle pain as soon as you wake up or you want to loosen up after spending many hours at the computer, nothing is simpler than stretching yourself like a cat to immediately regain your well-being, because a stretched muscle is much more reactive, that is, it contracts and stretches more easily .
Elastic people do not have muscle pain because they preserve the “youthfulness” of the joints by slowing down calcification.
For this reason, even if you don’t do sports, do stretching as a preventive action and you will reach 100 years with flexible muscles and joints, because the muscle always has the ability to stretch and regain its original elasticity.
Stretching: recommendations for doing it correctly
The practice of stretching requires calm, the movements must be slow. In fact, they are very simple exercises that require great concentration. Then, try to visualize the area you want to stretch and feel the muscle stretch.
Breathing must be slow and controlled . Blocking it could increase muscle tension. If a position prevents you from breathing, it means that it is performed incorrectly . .
Therefore, it is important to concentrate on the breath : inhale and exhale deeply until you feel, after 2 or 3 breathing cycles, the muscle that stretches, then, exhaling, try to stretch more.
Stretching before and after any activity is important : it means stretching trying to maintain the position to stretch the muscle without traumatizing it.
The principle of stretching must always be respected : stretch the muscle until you feel a pleasant sensation, never painful, and hold the position for 15/30 seconds while breathing deeply.
Dynamic stretching: some examples
1 – Dynamic walking
Perform a dynamic back and forth walk combining the movement of the legs with the movement of the arms.
Bring your arms up and then, folding your arms, bring your hands to your shoulders.
Duration : 2 minutes.
2 – Alternating knee ups
Starting standing, legs open to the width of the pelvis.
Lift your right knee and bring it to your left hand while keeping your torso straight. He returns to the starting position and perform the same movement on the other side.
Duration : alternates for 30 seconds.
3 – Impulses
Starting standing, legs slightly open.
Throw your leg forward as if you were going to kick a ball without moving your torso, belly in and shoulders straight.
Return to the starting position and repeat the movement. You don’t have to lift your leg off the ground too much. If you have problems with your balance, place your hand on a chair or wall.
Duration: Perform the movement for 30 seconds with one leg, then switch legs and repeat for 30 seconds.
Complete stretching: Giovanna Lecis’s lesson
Giovanna Lecis, Melarossa’s fitness expert, explains how to stretch and relax your muscles with a 5-minute program.
Infographic: 10 exercises to do every day
They are very simple exercises to stretch your body. Often some muscles are forgotten, such as the psoas and hamstring muscles, while it is essential to stretch them to avoid pain and trauma.
These exercises are suitable for a moderately trained and quite elastic body.
If you have knee problems, avoid doing the quadriceps stretch.
Stretching after running
Stretching after running is important because it allows the leg muscles to continue pumping blood to the heart.
1 – Elongation of the hamstring muscles
Stand up, legs crossed, lean forward by rolling your back. The knees, on the descent, must be slightly bent. Feel your hamstrings and back muscles stretch. If you are elastic enough, try straightening your legs . Maintain the position, focusing on your breathing and seeking relaxation as much as possible.
Important : do not try to touch the ankles but to bring the belly to the thighs. To help you, you can grab your calves with your hands.
To be repeated 3 times .
2 – Hamstring muscles
Start standing, legs parallel and feet slightly spread with the weight of the body in the center, in front of a table. She brings her torso forward until her hands are resting. The arms and legs must remain straight and the back straight.
Maintain the position without forcing and pushing the buttocks outwards and the arms in opposition on the opposite side.
Focus on your breathing. To be repeated 3 times .
3 – Adductor stretching
Shift your body weight onto your right leg by bending it and straighten your left leg until you feel the adductor pull. The torso must remain straight.
Maintain the position focusing on your breathing. Change your leg. To be repeated 3 times per leg.
4 – Pyramidal muscle stretching
Lying on your back, arms along your body, legs bent with feet flat on the ground and hip-width apart.
Place your right ankle on your left knee, then grab the leg on the ground below the knee with both hands. He brings his left leg close to his chest, maintaining the position for 15/30 seconds. Focus on your breathing.
To be repeated 3 times per leg .
5 – Quadriceps and psoas stretching
Lean against a chair or against the wall to keep your balance. Bend your right leg back, grab your ankle with your right hand and try to bring your heel as far as possible towards your buttocks.
Maintain the position with your back straight and your stomach in. Bring your knee up without moving your pelvis, always with your back straight.
Repeat the exercise with the left leg. To be done 3 times per leg .
Important : Use your abs to hold the position so as not to strain the back muscles. Keep your knees parallel.
Stretching every morning to stretch your muscles
To stay fit all day, do these simple stretching exercises as soon as you wake up.
If you have stressful rhythms of life, often suffer from back pain and do not have the time or desire to go to the gym , stretching is very important.
Stretching and stretching your muscles increases the flow of oxygen and consequently the pain subsides. In fact, stretching is a form of exercise to improve elasticity and gain flexibility and muscle control.
Here is a simple program to gently wake up the muscles , with 5 exercises to do in the morning in bed.
Stretching to do every morning
Stretching in bed is all about stretching and holding the position . Then, for 15 seconds , try to stretch your muscles as much as you can. Stop before you feel pain.
Release your muscles for 20 seconds.
Repeat each exercise 4 times and above all try to be constant.
1 – As soon as I wake up
Start with this simple exercise that will energize you throughout the day. Stretch as far as possible, stretch your arms and legs, and release.
Repeat the exercise several times. Inhale as you stretch and exhale as you loosen the position.
2 – Stretch your legs and back
Arms outstretched, legs bent and feet resting on the bed.
Let your legs fall to one side while exhaling, as the exhalation helps relaxation, as you turn your head to the opposite side.
Return to the starting position by inhaling and repeat the movement on the other side. The exercise must be performed at least 3 times on each side.
3 – Stretching for the back
Great exercise to relax the lower back muscles .
Starting on your knees, bring your buttocks towards your heels. She inhales and, exhaling, stretches her back keeping her arms straight. Bring your chest to the bed and stretch your hands forward as far as you can.
Hold the position for 15 seconds.
Repeat 3 times.
4 – Stretch your arms and back
Sitting cross-legged, inhale by stretching your arms upward.
Exhale as you bring your arms and chest towards the bed.
Extend your arms bringing them as far away from your body as possible, trying to keep your back straight.
5 – Legs stretching
Standing in front of the bed, legs spread, rest your hands on the bed.
Don’t stay too close to the bed and spread your legs wide. Lower your chest towards the bed while keeping your arms straight and your back straight.
As you move your chest forward, lengthen your spine and extend one leg back and then the other for a few seconds, until you feel the hamstring muscle pulling.
This exercise is ideal for those who assume the wrong positions during the night.