A Leaner, More Limber You

by Melissa Koerner | November 21st, 2012 | Fitness Expert

There’s a big misconception that stretching is only for people who workout or people who are athletes.  And many people who do workout, don’t see the benefits of stretching.

If you think that stretching is a waste of your time, I encourage you to keep reading, because EVERONE benefits from stretching, whether you’re sitting at home or an office all day or you’re an athlete!

Why You Need to Stretch

While you don’t need to have the flexibility of an advanced yoga instructor, you do need some degree of flexibility to prevent injury from both recreational and day-to-day activities.

If your muscles are tight, and you want to participate in a sport or leisurely activity, or maybe you simply want to be able to bend over and tie your shoes without pain, improving your flexibility will help reduce your risk of getting injured.

When you sit for extended periods of time without stretching and moving your body, over time your flexibility decreases, which leads to muscle imbalances and poor posture.  And before you know it, squatting down to pick up a bag of groceries is a challenge!

When your muscles become imbalanced (some muscles become short and tight, and others become long and weak due to misuse), you may develop poor posture.  Poor posture leads to weight being unevenly distributed on your joints, which puts tremendous stress on your muscles and tendons, thereby setting the stage for injury and pain.

It is very important to address muscles imbalances BEFORE your engage in an exercise program.  When you exercise on top of pre-existing muscle imbalances the imbalances only get worse, and you risk getting seriously hurt.

It’s like attempting to build a beautiful home on a crooked and unstable foundation; you don’t focus on putting up siding, shutters, and a roof until you’ve built a strong foundation.  As you’re building a healthy, strong body, from the inside out, you must first build a foundation by balancing your body.

Below are my top five favorite stretches.  These stretches with will help you increase your flexibility and improve your range of motion and reduce your risk of injury inside AND outside of the gym!

Be sure to stretch only the muscles that feel tight.  If you perform the stretch and you don’t feel tightness that muscle doesn’t need to be stretched so don’t include it in your stretch routine.

Here is a description of each stretch:

Scratch Stretch

  • Stand upright holding a towel behind you
  • Inhale, then exhale as use your left hand to pull down until you feel a stretch in right triceps
  • Hold 20-30 seconds
  • Inhale as you pull upward with your right arm, feeling a stretch in your left arm
  • Repeat on the other side

Kneeling Lunge

  • Take a kneeling lunge stance with left leg out front
  • Place right palm behind shoulder blade
  • Lean body forward from your hips and gently lean your body toward your left
  • Hold 20-30 seconds
  • Repeat on opposite side

Stability Ball Quad Stretch

  • Kneel in front of ball with one foot/ankle positioned on the ball and hands on the floor
  • Slowly bring body upward
  • You may hold onto a stable object for support
  • Draw in belly button and keep body tall as you lean back into the stretch
  • Hold 20-30 seconds
  • Repeat on other side

Stability Ball Chest Stretch

  • Place your arm on the ball (for the first stretch shown, you forearm and the second stretch, your shoulder with arm bent about 90 degrees)
  • Drop your upper body toward the floor
  • Inhale while pressing your arm into ball for 5 seconds
  • Exhale and press arm into ball for deeper stretch
  • Repeat on other side
  • Repeat for a total of 5-10 times on each side

Stability Ball Abdominal Stretch

  • Sit on ball and slowly walk your body over ball until lying over ball
  • Reach arms over head
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds
  • Repeat on other side
  • Note: If you experience dizziness while looking up, this may not be an appropriate stretch for you.

To a leaner, more limber you!

Melissa Koerner 

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All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.