Stretching is a ‘must,’ especially if you sit throughout the whole day, ‘run your battles’ during the weekend or exercise every day. Stretching carries blood to your muscles and your joints reach their full functional capacity. This improves your body posture and athletic performance as well. Moreover, stretching cuts off your risk of injuries and pain strokes.
However, there is a particular question that bothers each of us. Are we targeting the right group of muscles? Even better, are you doing that yoga technique properly?
Here is some useful information on the topic, and having this in mind will help you choose the exercises that work your body at optimal level. If you start feeling anything different than the regular pain that indicates you are doing things right, consider changing the technique you are using to activate particular group of muscles in order to avoid any serious injury.
You should feel these stretches right inside your target muscle. However, if you feel any additional pressure on your joints, you may be pushing your organism too hard. Stretching is more efficient when accompanied with proper breathing, so make sure you focus on your breathing next time and perform natural movements that do not burden your skeletal system.
Focusing on the time you spend during stretching is wrong in several aspects. Try focusing on the way your muscles relax and return to their original, relaxed length. Usually this takes 5-30 seconds. If you feel like your stretching exercise does not work at all, switch to another technique and try once again.
We give you some amazing illustrations by Vicky Timon, a yoga expert, and James Kilgallon. Vicky Timon wrote the ‘Encyclopedia of Pilates Exercises’ and James created Mazio’s Body Maintenance Program. Each of these if followed by a handy expert opinion.
By doing this exercise you stimulate your rectus abdominus and External Obliques. This stretch is better carried by rather fit and flexible individuals. Sit on your heels and set your hands behind you while pushing the hips both up and forward. Do not apply hard pressure onto the lumbar spine. Avoid dropping your head back if you are dealing with neck issues.
2.Wide forward fold
This stretch works your adductors. It does wonders to the adductors and hamstrings. All you are required to do is wide open your hips. Bend your knees and keep your spine straight. Once your muscles start releasing, set your legs straight, round out the back and reach slightly towards your feet. Release your calf muscles by pulling easily the bottom of the balls of both your feet. Beginners may not succeed to reach their feet, so using a belt or a towel is quite appropriate. You can also do this stretch when lying on your back. In this case you should push your legs upwards a wall.
It is another stretch for your adductors. Stretching your groins may apply additional pressure on your knees, so consider doing it on a soft surface like a yoga mattress. Rest both your hands and knees, then widen your knees until your groin muscles stretch enough. Pushing your hips back and forward actively provides for a slightly differing stretch.
4.Wide Side Lunge Pose
Here is another great way to activate your adductors. Start off by setting your feet forward and rather widened, while keeping your legs super straight. Use your hands to walk toward your right foot. Bend your right knee and turn your left toes upwards toward the ceiling, while holding a sedentary position onto your right hip. Keep your right foot flat on the mattress.
Focus on your adductors in a rather different way. Sit down and hold the soles of your feet together. Sit straight on the sit bones. Use your hands to apply pressure on both your knees. For a more efficient stretching, keep your feet close to your body. Consider setting your feet far from your hips. Start rounding your upper body slowly. This will loosen your back muscles.
6.Forearm extensor stretch
This is an excellent technique for your forearm extensor. It involves packing your shoulders and back down, and rotating each of your shoulders towards outside. This will help you stretch your forearm muscles in a right way. Once you get into this position, apply some pressure on the other hand to set off the stretching. Reach the tips of your fingers together into a tea cup shape. It sure is a nice development of the stretch.
7.Lateral Side Flexion of the Neck
It is the best stretch for your sternocleidomastoid ‘SCM.’ Stretch your neck as far as you can and bend your ear towards your shoulder. Make sure you do not collapse the cervical spine. Sit on a chair and hold onto the bottom of its seat to develop this stretch any further. This will bring a consistent tension down your arm and neck, and you will be able to focus on your upper traps.
8.Neck Rotation Stretch
Work your sternocleidomastoid ‘SCM’ in a different way. Rotate your neck slowly and keep your chin high. This is necessary as it isolates your SCM. If you are into a harder stretching, apply some pressure using the hand that is opponent to the direction you rotate your neck.
9.Neck Extension Stretch
It is a slightly different method of activating your sternocleidomastoid ‘SCM.’ Put your hands on the hips while keeping your spine long. Tilt your head back, and make sure you do not collapse the cervical spine.
10.Lateral Side Flexion of the Neck with Hand Assistance
This is a great way to stretch your sternocleidomastoid ‘SCM’ and upper trapezius. It is similar to point 7 in this article. Stretch your neck as much as you can and drop your ear towards your shoulder. Remember, you should not collapse your cervical spine. For an advanced stretching, use a chair to sit on and hold tight to the bottom of the seat. This brings a consistent tension down your arm and neck, and you will be more able to involve your upper traps.
11.Half Kneeling Quad/Hip Flexor Stretch
If you are looking for an efficient method to stretch your psoas and quadriceps, this is the ideal way to do so. Hold your body into a half kneeling posture. Bring your right hip forward. This will provide a nice stretching in the front of the hip. Then, you should take the back foot and press your back glute. This increases the stretching in your hip flexors.
12.Forearm Extensor Stretch
This refers to: Forearm Extensor. Pack your shoulder down and back, then externally rotate the shoulder for the optimal position to stretch the forearm muscle. In this position put pressure to your opposing hand to begin the stretch. You can boost this stretch by touching the tips of your fingers together in a tea cup shape
13.Lateral Shoulder Stretch
It is great for your side deltoid. Keep your arms across the body, while applying the pressure onto your arm. In this way the stretch affects your shoulder.
14.Standing Assisted Neck Flexion Stretch
Focus on your trapezius muscle. Stand still on the ground and keep your feet together. Prolong your spine and start sitting the hips back and round the upper part of your back, while reaching your chest with your chin at the same instance.
15.Lateral Stretch With Spinal Traction
Work on your latissimus dorsi. You need a bar for this one. Take a firm grip on the bar and lift your feet slowly. You should feel the stretching in your chest and lats. If you manage to list your feet off the ground totally, you are likely to notice a traction in the lumbar spine. This stretch is not recommended for those who have injured their shoulder recently or have had an impingement of the shoulder.
16.Lateral Stretch at the Wall
Get your latissimus dorsi working. Set your hands on the corner of a wall of your choice. Keep your spine prolonged, while pushing your hips to the side slowly. This stretch is not recommended for those who have issues with their lower back.
It is a stretch for your latissimus dorsi. Remain down on the ground and keep both your hands and feet on the ground. Start bringing your hips back until your forehead reaches the floor. For an optimal stretching, keep your knees wider. Set your upper back as if it was an arch, and rotate your shoulders externally. This will help you stretch your lats and chest muscles.
18.Standing Calf Stretch
An amazing way to activate your soleus and gastrocnemus. For an easier performance, do the stretch on a rack. Edges of stair steps work great as well. Rotate the ankles inwards and outwards to stretch your calf muscles efficiently.
This one will stretch your psoas and hamstring. It is an advanced stretching technique, so it may not be quite appropriate for beginners. Do it with a caution, especially if you are dealing with hip issues. Hold your body in the posture of kneeling lunge. Use a chair for more benefits. It can be sort of a support while your hip flexors and hamstrings relax.
20.Seated Forward Fold/Seated Toe Touch
Target your hamstrings and calfs. Sit on your seat bones and bend the knees if necessary. The strength of your legs increases as you become more flexible. Keep your spine as straight as you can, and this applies especially to those who deal with back problems. You can perform the stretching while lying and set your feet upward a wall.
21.Single Leg Forward Bend
It is a nice stretch for your hamstrings. Set your feet one in front of the other, while holding your back straight. Reach your hips with your hands and bend from your hips.
Deep squats work best on your glutes. This technique affects every part of your body. If you are experiencing issues with your knees, or if you cannot set the heels on the floor, do the squat before you proceed. Stand still and keep your feet apart, approximately your shoulder width. Lower into a deep squat slowly. Once you reach this position, set your arms inside your legs and apply a slight pressure onto the inside of the knees. While sitting into your hips and heels. You can also do this stretching technique while lying, and in this case set your feet onto a wall.
23.Seated Half King Pigeon Pose
It is amazing for your glutes. Sit on the flour and bring your leg towards your chest, while rotating the hip outward. Make sure your spine is straight. You should feel the stretching in your glute.
24.Standing Calf Stretch at the Wall
It is time for your soleus and gastrocnemus only. Start off with a lunge position, and turn out the back of your foot. Carry the back of your heel to the floor. This will help you stretch your calf muscles.
25.Lateral Flexion at the Wall
Work on your external obliques. Prolong your spine and push your hips outwards gradually. This stretch is not recommended for those who are dealing with lower back issues.
Stretch your glutes and external obliques. It is the best stretching technique for those who deal with sciatica pain. Lie down on your back and carry one leg across your body. Rotate your gaze and upper body in the opposite directions. One of the most important aspects of this method is to open your rib cage, sacroliac joint and hip area using your breath. This will not apply additional pressure onto your lower back. If you cannot perform this stretch, stack your knees onto each other. This posture will bring more stretch in your upper spine when your knees are set higher. By setting your knees low, you stretch your lumbar spine.
27.Lateral Flexion with a Dowel
It is a nice stretch for your external obliques and latissimus dorsi. Prolong your spine, and slowly push your hips outwards. Rotate your shoulders outwards at the same time. This stretching technique is not recommended for those who are dealing with lower back issues.
Stimulate your external obliques. Stand with your legs wide apart. Set one foot towards the front, and keep your back foot at 90 degrees. Set your hand on the front leg or on the ground. Sit back into the front hip and make sure you keep your back straight. Do a circular motion away from the front leg, and seal your look on the hand that rises high in the air.
29.Chest Stretch at the Wall
Use your pectorals this time. If you are a beginner, face a wall and keep your thumb up. Rotate away from your support (read: wall), as this will stretch your chest muscle. You should feel the stretching inside the muscle, but never stretch too hard, because you may experience a slight pain in your shoulder joint.
30.Assisted Chest Stretch
Get your chest and latissimus dorsi going. Lie down on the ground and face your palms up. You need a partner for this technique. Have your partner set in a deep squat and ask him or her to hold your hands. You should feel the stretching in your chest and lats. The stretching may bring a certain traction to your spine. This method is not recommended for those who have shoulder impingement.
31.Seated half Pigeon Variation
It is great for your anterior tibialis. Sit on the floor and keep your feet in front of you. Set one hand behind you, and rotate the hip outwards while keeping one foot above the knee. Lean forwards and initiate the method by hinging at your hips to apply the stretch on your hip.
32.Supine Shoulder External Rotation Stretch
This stretch involves your subscapularis. Lie flat on your back. Set your arm outwards and keep your elbow at 90 degrees. Start bringing the back of your hand to the floor. If you fail to bring the hand to the ground, your rotator cuff and the muscles that are held responsible for your internal rotation are tight.
33.Down Dog Variation at the Wall
It is an excellent way to stimulate your pectorals and latissimus dorsi. Hold a standing position away from a wall. You should stand away enough so when you touch the wall you body is set in a parallel line with the ground. Get moving and pivot your hips while keeping your spine straight. Once you get in this posture, lean your chest forward and create a slight arch in the upper part of your back. You should stretch your lats and chest muscles. In cases of tight hamstrings, bend your knees.
34.Assisted Chest Stretch Variation
Work on your pectorals. Lie down on the ground and set your face down. Get your hands facing down as well. Have your partner pulling your hands back. A deep stretch shall affect your chest muscles. This stretching method is not recommended for those who are dealing with shoulder impingement.
Share this information with your closest friends and family, and help them get a great stretch! The video below contains a detailed explanation of each stretch.