The Best Stretches for Every Body Part
The importance of stretching as part of a well-balanced fitness program cannot be denied. However, the reality is when we find ourselves pressed for time, the focus on flexibility seems to often fall by the wayside.
Making a beeline for the parking lot before including a few targeted stretches in your routine means you may be missing out on one of the most beneficial and enjoyable aspects of your workout. When it comes to the relationship1 between stretching and injury prevention, regular flexibility training is associated with enhanced fitness performance, improved daily function, and has even been shown to elevate mental well-being when combined with mindful breathing techniques.
Motivation can also be found in knowing that stretching speaks to our strong desire to age actively and enjoy a greater quality of life into our later years. Fluidity throughout joint range of motion translates into less stiffness, reduced chronic pain, increased energy levels, improved posture, and even significant improvements in balance.
If you’re feeling convinced that it may be advantageous to revisit the flexibility portion of your workout routine, here are a few practical suggestions for taking action:
After your workout
You always want to stretch muscles that are warm or just exercised. A warm muscle will be more pliable and will be less likely to get strained.
Work from top to bottom
Chances are your heart rate will still be slightly elevated after your workout. Because of this you will want to start by doing standing stretches to ensure your head remains above your heart. Taking deep breaths as you hold each position will help your heart rate return to normal.
It is important to stretch on both the right and left sides as well as front and back. For example, if you stretch your right hamstring, you will need to work your left hamstring as well. Then you should do both quadriceps.
Add mindful breathing to elevate the wellness benefits
Bringing breath awareness to your stretching enhances the flexibility benefits and also promotes deeper relaxation and improved well-being. Use slow, rhythmic breathing and count 3-5 breaths for each position as a way of keeping time. Mindful breathing will enhance any one of the Curves essential stretches.
Here’s what it looks like:
- Seated twist: Sit in a chair or on the floor cross-legged. Put one hand on your knee and the other hand behind your body. Inhale and lengthen through your spine, then exhale slowly to rotate and look over your back shoulder. Repeat and deepen for 2 more breaths, then switch sides.
- Low back stretch: Lie on the floor with your knees into your chest and arms wrapped around the back of your thighs. Inhale as you prepare, then exhale and draw your knees in closer. Relax and repeat 2 more times.
While stretching may add a few extra minutes to your workout routine, considering the benefits will enhance multiple aspects of your overall well-being, it’s safe to say it will be well worth your time.