“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”Pablo Picasso
Stretching Takes Practice
Stretching. Takes. Practice. Dedicated, intense practice.
Not unlike anything we have already talked about.
But the usual mindset when it comes to stretching is,
“I’m not good at it, I’m not going to do it.”
The only way to get good at stretching is to do it. A lot of it. Consistently.
The purpose of stretching is to help lengthen and strengthen ligaments, tendons, and muscles. The more elastic these soft tissues are the more control, flexibility, and range of motion you will be able to use.
The shorter and tighter these tissues become from not stretching them, the more likely you will be positioned for injury, such as sprains and joint pain.
One of the most common issues is tight hamstrings. Which can happen from sitting all day in a chair. When hamstrings are too tight for too long, they start to pull on the lower back muscles, causing lower back pain. And when you don’t have the range of motion in your hamstrings, the tendency is to use more of your lower back to do simple things, like pick up a price of paper from the floor.
Do you know of someone who pulled a muscle by picking up something light in weight?
It ‘could’ have been caused from the long overdue need to stretch out the legs.
There are two types of stretching.
Dynamic: Is when you move through your range of motion concentrating on lengthening the tissues but also helps you to improve your ability to move efficiently. This type of stretching is not ‘held’ in the typical sense. It requires you to engage more of your body than one tissue group.
Static: Is when you reach for the end of range of a certain position and hold to help lengthen the tissue group. Static is now popular to use after a workout is complete, when your tissues are warm from using them. If you take a piece of gum out of a wrapper and try to stretch it, most likely the gum will break. But once that same piece of gum has been chewed for a little while, it becomes warm and lubricated. Stretch it then, and you can get one end half way to the other side of the room.
I know that gum example is overkill. But you get the point.
When is the right time to stretch?
It doesn’t have to take any great deal of time. But what it should be is frequent and consistent.
Wake up in the morning and stretch tall, do a couple side bends before reaching for your toes.
After sitting at your desk for an hour stand up, put one heel on your chair and hinge forward to touch your toes to stretch your hamstrings.
Before Bed, check out this video of the routine I do every night.
Stretches Before Bed
In this video I show you how I stretch every night before bed. I have been going through this routine for over a year and it has made quite the difference.
There was one night I forgot to do it and I woke up the next morning feeling like a 90 year old man.
I usually stretch out using the counter in my bathroom, because I multitask by stretching and applying lotion at the same time. But the edge of the bed or a chair works amazingly too! The edge of the bed is my next go-to.
- I start by putting one heel in the counter and reaching for my toes, keeping my hips square, my shoulders down and back and my neck long. After a few seconds there I bend the knee and lean into the counter, keeping the same form in my upper body. Then go back into a straight leg. I do the same on the other side.
- I stretch my upper back by reaching one arm across my body and then the other.
- Then I stand tall, feet together and reach for the ceiling before hinging at the hips and reaching for my toes, keeping a small bend in my knees at first. Hanging out in this position to stretch out my lower back. Then I lift my upper body up half way to a flat back position and straighten out my spine, keeping my neck long and my shoulders and elbows reaching for my hips. Then I reach for my toes again, this time keeping my knees as straight as possible and my core engaged.
- When I slowly roll back to a standing position I again reach for the ceiling followed by a side bend or two each direction, trying to stay as tall as I possibly can.
- After I come back to standing tall I then bring my elbows down and back, keeping my neck long and shoulder pinned down. I reach for the ceiling again before bringing my elbows back down. This move is great for the shoulders and if you do it right you will feel the slight warmth it brings to your shoulder muscles.
- Now I relax and I am ready for bed.
Warm Up & General Stretching
I also have a good warm up and general stretching video. You can use it before a workout or go through the sequence multiple times on an active recovery day.
This is one of my favorite flows. It hits your entire body and feels so good after it’s done. If I do nothing but this flow in a day I always feel accomplished.
- Start Standing tall, reach for the ceiling, then for your toes.
- Walk out to a plank, bring your chest towards the floor and go into an up-dog position, before flipping it around to down dog. Come back into a plank, keeping your core engaged, walk your hands to your feet and stand up.
- Repeat 3 times or more if that feels good.
- On the plank after the third (or last) down dog bring one foot forward into a low lunge, stretch and hold here for a few moments then intensify the stretch by bringing that inside elbow down to the inside of your foot. Then come back up and twist, reaching that hand to the ceiling. On the way back down push your hips back and straighten out that front leg, keeping those toes pointed at your face to stretch out your hamstring.
- Come back to the low lunge, before raising your upper body and opening up to a warrior 2. With your arms out long, reach forward up and back with the front hand and stretch out the side of your body. Hold here for a moment or two then come back into a low lunge before pushing back into a down dog.
- Repeat that sequence on the other side.
- After your warrior 2, low lunge, and down dog after, bring the opposite foot back up into a low lunge, this time dropping that back knee to rest on the floor. Bring your upper body up and raise your hands over your head to reach for the ceiling, pushing your hips forward to open up the hip flexor. Come into a down dog.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Once back into the down dog bring one foot forward into a pigeon, making sure to keep your toes active, pointing the back toes and flexing the font. Lay forward stretch out to one side and then the other. Come back into down dog.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Walk your feet to your hands trying to keep your legs straight and core engaged.
- Slowly stand and reach for the ceiling, trying to stand as tall as possible.
- Grab one wrist and bend to the opposite side. Then to the same on the other.
- Come back to the center. Standing as tall as possible and keeping your neck long, bring your elbows down and back to open up the chest and activate the shoulders. Reach for the ceiling again, keeping your shoulder blades down. Do this a few times.
- Lower your arms back down to your sides and you are ready to continue on or repeat the sequence again.
Click here to download a PDF of the written instructions. This way you can print it and lay it on the floor in front of you to read along as you perform this sequence.
And if you have or want to invest in some resistance bands check out this video.
Resistance Band Stretches
If you have access to resistance bands, you should try these stretches. The resistance bands help to get to your full range of motion and you get to relax into the stretch at the same time. Not trying to force your way into any position.
Upper Body Resistance Band Stretches
Start by wrapping a resistance band around a higher point and sturdy object. I am using the top on my squat rack.
Overhead Lat Stretch
- Wrap your wrist around the other end, while facing the anchor point – back up until there is no more slack, hinge at the hips, keep your core tight, hand out long, and melt into the stretch.
- Keep your arm long, your should blade down, and your bicep by the ear. Only go as far into the stretch as it feels good. This will help open up your shoulder, stretch your back muscle (lat), and a bit of your chest muscle too.
- Hold for as long as it feels good. Then Switch to the other side.
Overhead Tricep Stretch
- This time put your elbow in the loop of the band facing away from the anchor point.
- Keeping your bicep by the ear and your elbow bent with your hand slightly grabbing the band, take a step forward with one leg and lunge into the tricep stretch. Keep your core tight and don’t over arch your back.
- You should feel this stretch again in you shoulder, chest, lat, and tricep.
- Hold for as long as it feels good.
- Switch to do the other side.
Resistance Band Chest Opener Stretch
- Grab the band with your hand.
- Keep your hand in line with your shoulder and take a step forward and slowly allow your hand to be pulled backward by the band.
- This one will stretch out your chest and the front of your shoulder.
- Hold for as long as it feels good. This one is intense.
- Repeat with the other arm.
Lower Body Resistance Band Stretches
Resistance Band Seated Calf and Hamstring Stretch
- Start sitting on the floor and wrapping a resistance band around the ball of your foot.
- Keeping your leg long and straight pull on the band while leaning forward to intensify the stretch.
- Hold here as long as it feels good before switching sides.
Resistance Band Laying Calf and Hamstring Stretch
- Lay on your back and wrap the band around your foot.
- Straighten out your leg up towards the ceiling and pull the band in toward your shoulder of the working side.
- Then cross your leg over your body to stretch out your IT band down the outside of that leg. Keep you leg straight and pull that band up the side of your body toward your face.
- Slowly release and bring that foot back up to the center before opening up to the other side.
- Keep your shoulders pinned to the floor as you open up your leg to the same side to stretch out your groin muscles.
- Bring the foot back up to the center and stretch here one more time before sitting sides.
Stretching In Conclusion
Stretching is so good for your body. Keeping you agile and to help prevent strains and sprains.
Stretch anytime of day. Even multiple times a day.
You only get good at stretching if you do the stretching.
Work on stretching frequently and consistently for best results. It takes time and patients.
Use resistance bands when possible to get a good deep stretch!