Stretching is probably one of the top three most popular exercise types and there are several reasons why: it enhances muscle flexibility, expands your range of motion, improves your posture and prepares you for the rest of the exercises that will follow. Plus, it is a great stress-beater and an alternative light exercise form in case you don’t want to engage yourself with anything too heavy or risky. American College of Sports Medicine and other research bodies also confirm that stretching, at least twice a week, is generally a good idea and staple exercise to add in your exercise routine.
Types of stretching exercises
Most stretching exercises typically fall under two categories: static and dynamic exercises. The first category involves holding the stretch in a fixed position for some time e.g 30-second per session and is typically employed after exercise. Dynamic stretches, on the other hand, are active stretches done in partial or full body motion without any holding of the position for a few seconds. This type is usually done pre-workout to prepare the muscles for further movement.
Stretching exercises can also be categorised based on the tool used to perform them. In this regard, we have three main categories: ballistic (stretching exercises involving a ball), rope stretching exercises, and not-tool stretching exercises.
If you don’t have much experience with stretching exercises, we suggest the following 3 stretching exercises for starters:
Triceps stretch. A great exercise for stretching the neck, upper arms, arms, and upper back. To make it, kneel or stand tall with your feet around 3 inches spaced apart from each other and reaching your right hand to touch the upper central region of your back. Grasp your right elbow with your left hand placed behind your head in a 90° angle and hold for thirty seconds. Gently release your hands and switch to the other hand.
Knee to chest stretch. A simple exercise for stretching legs and upper abdomen muscles. To do this, lie flat on your back with both legs stretched to a parallel position. Pull the right knee towards your chest while keeping the left leg straight and your back touching the floor. Keep this position for 30 seconds to a minute. Repeat the same steps with the other leg.
High Kicks. A great dynamic workout for stretching and preparing your leg muscles for a mild or intense workout. To perform this, stand tall in a completely straight position with your shoulders back and start kicking and stretching each of your legs interchangeably forward (approx. 90 degrees) as fast as you can. You can also place your hands forward and parallel to your legs while switching leg positions.
Even though stretching exercises are generally safe for most, there are some exercises and especially dynamic exercises that may be risky and damaging for people recovering from muscle or bone injuries. If you are not sure about a particular exercise, inform your physician or trainer about your injury or problem and ask their permission to perform it.