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To stretch or not to stretch???

Posted May 10 2010 12:00am
We are constantly told to stretch, either that or I'm constantly nagging my clients to stretch! But is it necessary?

Benefits of stretchingMost aerobic and strength training programs inherently cause your muscles to contract and flex. That's why regular stretching is a powerful part of any exercise program. Consider this
- Stretching increases flexibility. Flexible muscles can improve your daily performance. Tasks such as lifting packages, bending to tie your shoes or hurrying to catch a bus become easier and less tiring.

- Stretching improves range of motion of your joints. Good range of motion keeps you in better balance, which will help keep you mobile and less prone to falls — and the related injuries — especially as you age.

- Stretching improves circulation. Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles. Improved circulation can speed recovery after muscle injuries.

- Stretching can relieve stress. Stretching relaxes the tense muscles that often accompany stress.

Some studies indicate that stretching helps prevent athletic injuries as well. However, this finding remains controversial. Other studies don't support stretching as a way to prevent injury. I am however, still in "camp stretch". From my many years of experience in dealing with a large number of people with flexibility issues that lead to bigger injuries, I think everyone should take 5-10mins every day to stretch.

The following are some really beneficial stretches. Considering the average Australian sits at desk for almost 38 hours a week, if not more, these will help with lengthening the muscles that are shorten through excessive sitting or just poor posture.

Hip Flexor Stretch:- Start Position

Kneel with your right knee on the ground and your left knee up (see diagram).
Pelvic Neutral
Anchor your scapulas.
Chin gently tucked and neck lengthening upwards.
If you need to, steady yourself by resting one hand against the wall or on a chair back. Navel to spine and breathe in.
(Breathing out): clench your right buttock & lean forward while keeping torso and pelvis upright.
(Breathing in): maintain navel to spine and at the same time, return to the start position.
Try 30 secs on each leg

Arm Openings:- Start Position
Lie on your side with your head on a pillow, and knees and hips at about 45 degrees from straight.
Place a tennis ball between your knees, and stack each joint directly over the other, (ankles, knees, hips and shoulders). Don't let your waist sink to the ground.
Arm Openings:- Action
Breathe in and lengthen through the spine.
Zip and hollow strongly, and breathe out.
Apply the scapular anchor, and (breathing in), lift the upper arm up and over behind your back. Do not force it. Follow your hand with your eyes. Concentrate on keeping the pelvis and lower legs absolutely still.
Breathe out as you bring the arm back around to its start position.

Psoas Stretch:- Start Position
From the Relaxation Position, bring your left leg up and clasp it at the knee.
Pelvic neutral! Anchor the Scapulas!
Psoas Stretch:- Action
Breathe in, then zip and hollow.
While breathing out, slowly stretch your right leg out along the floor.
Breathe in, and maintain zip and hollow.
While breathing out, bring your right leg back to the start position.
Repeat twice each side.

Hamstring stretchLie down on your back
Bring your right leg up, and place a loop of rope or a theraband as shown in the diagram. (Note the position of the arms).
Hamstring Stretch- Action
Breathe in wide and full.
Zip and hollow, maintain pelvic neutral.
Breathe out and at the same time, slowly straighten the leg into the air.
Now breathe normally. Hold for 20 seconds. Maintain pelvic neutral.
Repeat 3 times each leg.
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