These are special times, when we are all spending more time in our homes doing things in small spaces that we usually do in not only larger spaces, but different locations: schooling, parenting, working and working out. Being at home more than usual results in us sitting so much more than in our normal lives, so the body gets stiffer, and working out gets a little more difficult.
These six stretches can be done anywhere and will help keep your body limber. They are a great warmup before your workout, and can be used as a cool down after, to release tension.
When doing the stretches, pay attention to these small guidelines:
Do the stretches dynamically coming in and out of the stretch in a smooth way. Don’t hold the stretch.
Exhale as you go into the stretch, inhale when you come out.
Start shallow and gradually increase the range of motion.
Before your workout, start with a slow tempo then increase it so your body gets warm. Do the opposite after your workout to unload your body from the tension built, ending with a slow tempo.
Perform 8 to 10 reps.
If you feel any discomfort during any stretch, go shallower. If you still feel discomfort, stop the stretch and move to the next one. After doing all of them, go back to the one that was bothering you to see if the discomfort improved or disappeared altogether.
Distal Hamstring Stretch.
This is a great stretch to address the tightness in the area behind the knee, both for the lower hamstrings and the upper calf that suffers so much from too much sitting.
Start by lying on your back on a yoga mat with the passive leg bent and the foot flat on the floor. Use a yoga strap, a belt or a resistance band to loop it around the ball of the foot on the active leg. The starting position should be at a 90-degree angle of the knee. Grab each end of the strap with each hand. As you exhale, kick your foot up to the ceiling and then bring the leg to the starting position while you inhale. Make sure the knee stays place and don’t let it move up and down. You should feel the stretch anywhere from behind the knee to the back of the thigh.
Glute Maximus Stretch. (Vertical fibers).
We sit on our buttocks, which puts a lot of pressure on the glutes and upper hamstrings. This stretch helps relieve that tension.
Keep the strap looped around your foot with the same starting position, with the knee at a 90-degree angle. The key is to keep that angle at all times during the stretch. Grab each end of the strap with each hand. As you exhale bring the knee to the same side shoulder (keeping the 90-degree angle) pulling with your arms and come back to the starting position with an inhale breath.
This is not only a great stretch for the back but also a great muscle activation for the trunk which will help to prepare for any kind of unilateral movement in your workout.
Sit straight on a chair and scooch forward so your back is not in contact with the back rest. With your spine straight and your shoulders in a neutral position (not stooped) rotate to one side. Don’t use your hands for this stretch, the more you use the muscles of your core to turn the more you allow the muscles in the opposite side of the back to relax.
Extending the spine helps to open the chest and the upper abdominal muscles, parts of the body that are usually compressed due to inactivity. This stretch also increases lung capacity which is great before any workout.
Sit straight on a chair and scooch forward as before. Interlock your fingers behind your head (not your neck) with your elbows forward, when you exhale open your elbows as you lift your chin up and your chest up to the ceiling, think about reaching up with your sternum. Come out of the stretch slowly as you exhale.
Deltoid stretch (Middle Fibers)
This is an amazing stretch than not only opens the shoulder but helps the shoulder blade to glide properly over the ribs, very useful before performing any exercise with the arms.
Start with your arm straight, parallel to the floor in front of you with your opposite forearm behind the elbow crease. When you exhale bring the elbow of your straight arm to the top of the opposite shoulder and come back as you inhale.
Doing this stretch sitting gives you a better isolation of the muscles you are working with, but it can also be done standing.
The movements of the head and the eyes control the movements of the rest of the spine, so stretching the neck is key for a successful workout.
Scooch forward on a chair with your spine straight and your shoulders in a neutral position. When you exhale turn to one side and when you inhale come back to the middle, repeat same side multiple times and then proceed to the other side. For this stretch is very important that you try to look backwards, since the spine follows the movement of the eyes.
These stretches will not only enhance your workouts and your recovery but will also give you a greater sense of wellbeing - something we can all benefit from these days. Have fun with them!