The American College of Sports Medicine recommends stretching each major muscle group at least twice a week for 60 seconds after every exercise session.
Here are the five stretches that you must perform for better results:
1. Hamstring stretch: Hamstring is a muscle at the back of your thigh. You should feel this stretch at the back of your thigh and behind your knee. The recommended repetitions are two to three for four to five days a week.
- Lie on the floor with both the legs bent.
- Now lift one leg off of the floor and bring your knee toward your chest.
- Clasp your hands just below your knee so that they lie behind your thigh.
- Now straighten your leg and then move it gently toward your head, until you feel a stretch. (You may also loop a towel around your thigh for a stretch. Grasp the ends of the towel and pull your leg toward you.)
- Hold this position for 30-60 seconds.
- Repeat with the opposite leg.
2. Standing hip flexor stretch:
- Stand in a staggered stance with your right leg forward.
- Rotate your hips forward and to the right.
- Bend slightly at the knees, making sure the knees are not strained.
- Slowly continue to push your hips forward until you feel a good stretch.
- Hold for 30 seconds and then switch legs and repeat the steps.
3. Standing quad stretch: Stand behind a chair with your legs about shoulder-width apart. Place one hand on the chair for balance. On the opposite side, lift your right foot behind you and grab it with your right hand, keeping your bent knee pointing straight to the floor. Avoid bending forward. Pull gently on the leg until you can sense the thigh stretch. Hold this position for 10-30 seconds. Switch and repeat it on your left leg to your right. You can take a pillow and prop your knee up on it so to avoid excessive pressure on your knee.
4. Glute bridge: This stretches your hip flexor muscles. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Place your feet flat on the floor and keep your arms at your side with your palms down. Lift the hips off the ground until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line. Gently tighten your belly muscles to flatten your back and prevent overstretching. Then tighten your glute (butt) muscles as you push your hips up toward the ceiling. Hold the bridged position for a couple of seconds before easing back down.
5. Side lunge stretch: Keep your upper body straight and legs apart. Then shift your weight in a slow lunge to the side over a bent knee (not forward, as in a typical lunge). You should feel a tension along the inner thigh of the opposite leg. Push your weight to the bent-knee side but not at the knee joint. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds on each side.
When to do the stretches
Stretch your muscles any time during the day. It is not necessary to stretch before or after your regular exercise session. However, it is simply important that you stretch sometimes. Specifically, stretch when you wake up, before going to bed, or during breaks at work. Stretching or flexing your muscles should be a part of your routine.
If you stretch the muscle after you wake up in the morning, it will relieve any tension or pain caused during sleep the night before. It also helps increase your blood flow and prepare your body for your entire day ahead. This process relaxes every muscle if you stretch before going to bed and helps prevent you from waking up with more pain.
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Should I stretch before and after the exercise?
It is not necessary to stretch before exercising. A small jog or walking a few paces is enough. There is conflicting evidence to show its benefits in preventing an injury, curbing muscle soreness after workout, or improving your performance.
Some studies have reported that static stretches before a workout may weaken your performance such as sprint speed. It is just because holding the stretch tires out your muscles.
Before exercise, warm up your body by doing stretches at a lower intensity, similar to your workout. A good warm-up before your activity such as running could be a brisk walk, walking lunges, leg swings, high steps, or butt kicks. It is all about starting slowly and gradually ramping up the intensity of movement.
However, it is a great time to stretch after your workout. Your muscles become more flexible after exercise, and blood flow is also raised in the muscles and joints; static stretches (holding on a stretch for some time) may benefit you.
After running on a treadmill or after a weight-lifting workout, walk around a little to cool down the muscles. Then start some stretching. It is a nice way to end your daily workout session.
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How long should I stretch daily
Always aim for 5-10 minutes of daily dynamic stretching before your gym activity. Do another 5-10 minutes of static or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching after your workout session.