Yep, that is my attempt at what some call the downward dog, and others the stiff legged bear… Yep, I’m not the most flexible guy on the planet, but I am getting much much better every single year.
We’ve all heard it :
« You should stretch after you’ve exercised. »
« Because you won’t feel sore afterwards. »
Well… Things were usually slightly more elaborate than that.
« You won’t get AS sore »
« You’ll keep your muscles long »
« You’ll get those knots out »
« You’ll feel better »
« It drains your muscles from toxins. »
“It flushes lactic acid out”…
So here is my take on this one : Stretching is far more important than you think it is. There is more to stretching than simply getting more flexible.
Stretching your muscles is as important for long term health as exercising in most cases. And depending on who you are and what you do for a living…. Sometimes more.
Simply put, stretching is the means by which you conserve your range of motion. Meaning how much you can move your bones around. If you look at small children, putting their own foot in their mouth seems like an easy thing. Lying on the floor with their legs in a W position, squatting down to their heels and playing with their toys for tens of minutes sitting on the floor seems totally normal.
Try it now. When is the last time you’ve comfortably sat for a long time on the floor?
Yep, thought so.
This is not just due to not stretching, a large part of our loss of flexibility is just that. We’ve lost the ability to flex. Spending 8 hours a day sitting at a desk, and 8 hours sleeping… And the remaining 8 hours time is usually spent sitting in front of the TV, or sitting to eat, sitting for drinks, or sitting in a car… You caught my drift. We are sitting all over ourselves.
So this article is not a step by step program on where to stretch what, even if I will give you the stretches I do every day just as prevention. I just want to explain there are many differents ways to keep you mobile.
Here is the idea. Exercise can be considered as contracting and relaxing muscles. If your muscles cannot contract and relax in the full extent of their range, then the exercise is partially executed. Flexibility and mobility are major components of the quality of work you put into your session, which then defines the quality of your muscle itself. Become a quality person, stretch often, stretch smart.
So Stretching is when your muscle is relaxed at extreme ranges of motion, mobility is your capacity to contract muscles at end ranges of motion. And these two aspects work together.
In this article I will only cover static stretching as it is the easiest to execute and the least likely to bring any injury, which is the worst possible outcome. Anything you do here, take your time, and progressively go a step further. This website is not the called the Slow Method for nothing.
When to stretch:
How to stretch :
If you haven’t exercised in a while, or you spend your days sitting down, or you just have a few aches and pains all over, here is a 10 min sequence of movements I want you to perform daily to start getting your flexibility back to normal. Each stretch should be performed for 30s.
You can make the whole sequence 5mins by stretching 15s per movement. “Don’t have the time” cannot be an excuse here. You won’t even sweat. But they will help, I promise it.
The Sequence :
- Calf (1min – 30s per calf)
- Thigh (1min – 30s per thigh)
- Arm (1min – 30s per arm)
- Jefferson curl (3 times) (1min – 20s per curl – 10s down/ 10s up)
Hamstring (1min – 30s per hamstring)
Triangles (1min – 30s per side)
Oblique twists (1min – 30s per side)
- Gluts (1min – 30s per side)
The Calf stretch :
Put your hands against a wall, foot behind you flat on the floor point straight to the wall, leg stretched and hold the position.
Thigh stretch :
Grab your right foot with your right hand and pull your heel as close as you can towards your butt cheek. You can hold balance yourself against a wall with your left hand. Then switch leg.
Arm stretch :
Stand facing the wall, toes touching it. Place your left hand, palm against the wall, at an upward 45 degree angle, arm straight. Once in position turn your whole body slowly to the right. Then switch arms.
Jefferson Curl (small back muscles):
Feet shoulder width, hand on your thighs, start by tucking your chin in and sliding your hand along your legs toward your feet, keeping your legs straight. Once you can’t go any lower, reverse the movement and roll back up. Do this three times. Do this very slowly and don’t force it.
Hamstring stretch :
Feet shoulder width, take a step forward. Lock your knees, keep your legs straight and lean down on the front leg. You should feel a strong stretch going from your front knee along the back of your leg right up to your butt.
Trikonasana or Triangle (lower back and adductor muscles ) :
Feet spread about 3 to 4 feet apart, open your right foot so it is perpendicular to the left. Facing forward hands shoulder height, arms straight, lean down right and try and place your right hand on the floor next to the outside of your right foot. Take your time going down and especially going back up.
You should feel a strong stretch on the left side of your lower back and on the inside of your right leg.
Oblique twist :
On your back, knees tucked up against you, hands spread apart with your palms facing down, let both your knees slowly fall down to the floor on the right and hold the position. Using your right hand push on the floor to try and get your shoulders flat on the ground.
You should feel a stretch on your lower back, your stomach and maybe the top of your hip.
If you feel your shoulders and pectoral muscles are tight on this exercise you need to focus on the arm stretch more. Switch sides.
Butt stretch :
On your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, put your right ankle on top of your left knee. place your hands under your left thigh and pull as fas as your can towards you (your right arm should be between your legs). You should feel a strong stretch on your left thigh. Switch sides.
Your stretching routine is done.
“But I don’t have time to do all that”. Yes me neither, so I just stretch in 15 to 30s intervals during the day. I get very tight hips, calfs and hamstrings. And I lose flexibility at a very fast rate if I am not careful which will impede my progression in my lifts.
My go to stretches are therefore the calf stretch, the butt stretch, the hamstring stretch and the Jefferson curl. When i’m waiting for a bus, for a client, in transport, waiting for my coffee to boil, instead of going on social media I take 15 to 30 seconds to do one of these stretches.
You should feel a difference after a week. If not, you either need a deep massage, or a physiotherapist to work on your issues.
I also recommend Becoming A Supple Leopard by Kelly Start which is a great book on unlocking issues yourself.