Stretching after exercise is very important, not only to prevent muscle soreness the next day, but to also allow the muscles to realign and not remain overly tight following exertion. However, you should also use stretches even without doing any physical activity. Due to everyday activities; be it standing, sitting for long periods or lifting things regularly, your body will develop areas of tension. This is simply the body’s clever way of supporting itself; when in the same position time after time, certain muscles come into play, adapting and becoming shorter and tighter. Your muscles will stay this way unless they are attended to with some simple stretches. Further help can be sought through classes like yoga, which is fantastic for lengthening muscles, improving flexibility and posture.
To prevent a build up of tension and its visible effects e.g. hunched shoulders, rounded back, neck jutting forwards, short stride length in gait, it is useful to try and integrate some movements that are key to realigning the body towards optimal posture as well as greater comfort. These movements can, in turn, help prevent injury. With one set of muscles dominating a movement where there should be an equal balance, this can cause other muscles to strain to compensate and lead to a pull, strain or even a tear.
If you are sitting for long periods of time your hip flexors are prone to becoming tight. This tension can alter your posture and affect your gait, which in turn may lead to pain or injury.
Here is a stretch pattern to remedy this area:
Lunge forwards with your left foot in front, allowing both knees to form a right angle and reach up as high as you can with your right arm while keeping your shoulder blades down your back. Then step back to a neutral standing position. Repeat this 15-20 times, or until you feel looser in the hip flexor area. Then change sides.
NOTE: To increase the stretch sensation, add a rotation in your torso either towards or away from the front leg. Take care however, as it can have quite a dramatic effect.
Another common complaint, in sportsmen particularly, is tight hamstrings. Instead of the usual static hold you may already know, we will add some movement to allow maximum benefit. Step your right foot backwards leaving the left foot to rock onto the heel, then take your hips back while reaching your arms forwards (towards your toes or out ahead of you). Now step back up to a standing position and repeat. Imagine someone is pulling your hips backwards and your hands forwards to get the best stretch!
This dynamic form of stretching is far more beneficial in the long term than the static type; the muscles are naturally stretched in two or three planes of motion to trigger contraction back towards a position of least effort/tension — we call it centre: you currently know it as neutral.
To support this increased flexibility you should work on your core strength to allow the spine to align well in accordance with the surrounding muscles. Core stability is important to everyone, active or not; it can help to prevent back pain and to have greater control over your stomach muscles, achieving a slimmer and more toned appearance. As well as abdominals exercises, make sure you work your back and do some twisting movements to encompass all planes of motion that the body goes through.
Through doing these exercises, you should feel a lot less restricted in the lower body and perhaps your upper body as well. Practice daily for maximum results; it may improve your posture, when static or walking, as well as alleviating any niggling pain you have had. These are some of the benefits of dynamic stretching. I hope you enjoy using them!
If you have any questions then please do get in touch.