Thursday, March 5, 2009

Top 5 Everyday Must-do Stretches

According to Doctors, "The goal of stretching is to lengthen a muscle and move the corresponding joints through the full range of motion, thereby allowing both the contractile (muscle and tendon) and the noncontractile (ligament and joint capsule) structures to lengthen."

Stretching exercises:

•relieve muscle tension

•keep muscles flexible, which can help your posture and balance

•lengthen muscles and increase range of motion, which helps lengthen your stride

•help prevent muscle and joint injuries by elongating and relaxing muscles

•flush lactic acid out of your muscles.

Do a walk or slow jog for 5-10 minutes, and then stretch.

Stretch 1

Neck, Scalene and Upper Trapezius

This stretch helps to re-align the cervical spine and is good for posture. It improves breathing and alleviates neck pain. Office workers constantly on computers can do this stretch five or six times a day, and people who carry bags over one shoulder should also do it regularly.

•Place a hand on the side of your head and breathe in. The hand is used only as a guide and does not drive the motion.

•Active the opposing scalene muscles by flexing the neck to the side until you reach your barrier. Once your barrier has been reached, gently pull and hold for two seconds while breathing out, then return to neutral (the starting position). Repeat 10 times.

•There are three scalene muscles that move the neck in slightly different directions. Scalene are used in breathing but also stabilize the neck.

Stretch 2

Pectoralis Minor (chest)

This stretch will help pull your shoulders back into their rightful spot, reduce rounding of your shoulders and improve your breathing.

Your lungs get compressed if your shoulders are rounded; you can’t breathe in properly because your ribcage is also compressed. This stretch will help bring your center of gravity back into alignment.

•Breathe in and place your hands in a position like you’re under arrest.

•Pull your shoulder back and breathe out, extending the elbows and contracting the muscles in the back (rhomboids, middle trapezius). When you reach the end point, lift your shoulders at a 45-degree angle to target the pictoralis minor. Hold for two seconds and release back to neutral. Repeat 10 times.

Stretch 3

Posterior Deltoid and shoulder capsule

This stretch is more focused on the shoulder capsule, the most mobile part of the body. A lot of people have adhesions – sticky and gluey tissues in the shoulder capsule – which restrict mobility. People who slouch, as well as tennis players, cricket bowlers and baseball pitchers, will benefit greatly from this stretch.

•Sitting down, take a deep breath. Don’t lean forward. Keep your back straight and tighten your stomach.

•Breathe out, raise one arm above your head to maximum range, pointing your fingers upwards, and bring the other arm backwards to the maximum point as a counterbalance. The anterior deltoid is the prime mover here. Hold for two seconds. Repeat 10 times on each side.

•The long head of the triceps also gets a stretch, as do the posterior deltoid and the gleno-humoral (ball and socket) joints. This is a great warm-up for the connective tissue around the joint, which is being supplied with lots of blood and nutrients.

Stretch 4

Erector Spinae (back extensors)

The objective here is to lengthen the spine, which helps to extend your back, giving you more of an upright stance.

This is one of the most important postural muscles; it keeps your back straight. Most people are weak and tight in this area, and people who sit at desks all day are particularly vulnerable. This stretch helps correct slouching.

•Sitting up, hold the upper abs (rectus abdominus). Breathe in and lengthen through your spine. Relax your neck and shoulders.

•Contract your abdominals, which releases and relaxes the erector spinae muscle group. Lean forward with a straight back and grab hold of your ankles. Pull through to your barrier, hold for two seconds, then release back to neutral. Repeat 10 times.

•This stretch also works into the sacro-spinalis attachments in the lower lumbar region of the lower back.

It lengthens through all three muscles (spinalis, longissimus, illio-costalis) on each side of the erector spinae muscles. This muscle group keeps you erect; if it’s weak, you slump forward and buckle.

Stretch 5

Upper Quadriceps (thigh)

This should be an integral part of any daily stretching routine because it works what could be the most used muscle in the body.

This is what’s called the proximal attachment of the rectus-femorus, the second most important postural muscle, after the hip flexors.

This stretch will improve knee extension and improve your gait. It’s also integral to increasing speed, strength and power. It’s essential to have strong but flexible quads, which give you a solid base and are important in stabilizing your knees.

•Sitting in a neutral position, breathe in and lift your heel into your bottom. Keep your back straight and your stomach tight.

•Extend the hips using the hamstring and the gluteals (buttock muscles), which are driving the movement; the hand is merely a guide. When you reach your barrier, use your hand to pull through the barrier to the point of light irritation. Hold for two seconds and release back to start. Repeat 10 times.

•The upper quad is generally the tightest part of the thigh. You should feel the stretch at the Alls (anterior inferior iliac spine) attachment of the rectus femoris.

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