I want to spend some time on the biggest bang for your fitness effort. Most people know about eating right and keeping at a proper weight. You often hear about the importance of doing regular exercise which usually includes cardio and weight bearing lifting.
Little is spoken and less written about stretching. The best thing before I continue is the length of time required to reap these terrific benefits. In two to five minutes you can begin to improve flexibility and relieve tension in tight muscles.
The first thing to do before you stretch is to warm up for a few minutes. The easiest way to warm up is walking. If you don’t have a treadmill or elliptical you can hit the streets or walk around the yard for a few minutes.
I’ll give a few of my favorite stretches but first some simple rules to follow. You should hold every stretch for at least 15 seconds. The muscle only begins to let go after it is gently pulled in a controlled manner. This also means no bouncing. Yes what we saw in the Olympics from the Russian Gymnasts is called ballistic stretching and it’s not for us.
My favorite stretch is what I call the “good morning”. Lie on your back and bend your legs to one side. Put your hands over your head and bend to the other side. Do this for 15-30 seconds and repeat to the other side. This helps relax the lower back and shoulders.
Another feel good stretch is to bend over and pull the door frame with one hand at about waist level. Keep the knees bent and keep your back flat from your shoulders to your butt. This gives a good pull from the wing muscles of the upper back all the way down to the lower back.
I took a seminar from Paul Check a world renowned fitness authority. He taught us that the two major causes of back pain were poor posture and tight hamstrings. This one is not a feel good stretch but a good way to stretch your hamstrings. Lie on your back, keep one leg bent so your back remains flat. Raise the other leg up and try to straighten it out. It’s OK if the leg stays a little bent. Pull the leg gently towards your stomach. I find this hurts the neck of people who aren’t that flexible, so here is an easier method. Put a towel around your leg so you can pull the towel with both hands with your leg in the middle. Keep your head flat on the floor and pull very slowly until the hamstrings start to give. You will be surprised how much the leg starts to move after a few seconds.
Do these stretches every day for best results. If you forget a few days it’s OK. The more the better so find a time that works. For more stretches and tips visit our website at body-mastery.net.