Stretching is an essential of any fitness/exercise programme. The more flexible you are/become the less prone to muscular injury.
Whether you are an Olympic athlete, a soldier or starting out with exercise, stretching is essential to keep muscles flexible. This both helps prevent injury while also making sure you can get the most out of training.
First, some basic principles: getting the stretch right is far more important than the number of stretches so concentrate on form. For each stretch hold it for between 15-30 seconds. This releases the muscle while at the same time not over-stretching.
Three stretches to get us started
To this end here are a set of stretches to get practising with. We’ll start with the legs this week:
1. To stretch your calf muscles place your left foot facing forward and your right leg back, toes pointing forward. Lean forward bending your left knee and keeping your right leg straight with the heel on the ground. Hold this for 15 to 30 seconds. You should feel the back of your right leg tighten during the stretch. Repeat for the right leg forward and left back.
2. To stretch your hamstring, the big muscle at the back of your thigh, lay down on your back. Place your left foot flat on the ground so that your left leg is bent at the knee, about 45 degrees. Take your right leg and lift it up as straight as you can above your body. To help with the stretch cup your hands behind your right thigh and gently pull. Hold this for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat for the left leg with the right foot on the ground.
3. To stretch the quadricep, the front of your thigh, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your left knee slightly and raise your right foot up behind you catching it with your right or left hand. Balancing on your left leg gently pull your right foot towards your bottom. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat balancing on your right leg and stretching your left leg quadriceps.
The stretches should not be painful though you should feel the muscles tighten.
To aid balancing bend the knee of the leg you are balancing on and concentrate your focus on a point close to you. You can also pinch your ear gently to aid the balance.
Try to practise this set of stretches each day so that you build up your flexibility.
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