General Stretches for Flexibility – Suitable for Everyone, from beginners to professional sportsmen/women and Teens
Why do I need to Stretch?
Sitting in front of a desk 5 – 6 days a week, running after the kids and daily home chores, light and heavy physical labor – all in their own way can wreak havoc on your body.
This is even more especially so because the majority of us do not have and are not particularly careful or knowledgeable about our posture.
Taking time to do some basic stretches to suit your particular needs will not only help increase your flexibility, they will also reduce tension and stress whilst allowing you to do your tasks more efficiently, with more safety against injury and discomfort.
The stretch should be done until you feel a slight pulling of the muscle, but not pain. As you hold the stretch the muscle will begin to relax. Then as you feel the tension easing, you can increase the stretch again until you feel the same slight pulling. Hold this position until you feel no further increase.
1 - Muscle Groups: Shoulders, Arms & Upper Back.
Interlace the fingers and slowly raise the arms above your head. Once you have reached the maximum then stretch the hands upwards as high as possible. Maintain a tall posture at all times and relax the whole body except for the muscles being stretched. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds. Don’t arch the lower back. Try to keep the abdominal muscles tucked in. It is also possible to do the stretch whilst walking slowly, which often helps to relax the body & take strain off the lower back.
2 - Muscle Groups: Chest, Shoulders & Arms
Interlace your fingers behind you back. Slowly turn your elbows inwards whilst lifting your arms. Don’t lean forward or you will lose the stretch. Keep the back relaxed and straight. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds. Try to keep the abdominal muscles tucked in. It is also possible to do the stretch whilst walking slowly, which often helps to relax the body & take strain off the lower back.
3 - Muscle Groups: Shoulder & Triceps.
Lift the left elbow and drop the left hand behind your back. Take hold of the left elbow with the right hand and slowly pull the elbow in a backwards and upwards direction. Hold the stretch or 20 seconds and repeat on the other side. Try to keep the abdominal muscles tucked in. It is also possible to do the stretch whilst walking slowly, which often helps to relax the body & take strain off the lower back. Repeat on the other side.
4 - Muscle Groups: Chest, Shoulders & Upper Back.
Extend the arms out to the sides at shoulder height. Bend the elbows slightly so that the elbows are not locked. Pull the shoulder blades back and whilst holding this position, slowly move the hands and wrists backwards & forwards for 20 seconds.
5 - Muscle Groups: Upper & lower back, hips & rib cage
Sit with your left leg straight & bend your right leg across & over the left knee. Extend your left arm across the right knee & place the right arm behind your body.
Inhale & whilst keeping the left knee in that position turn the upper body and head to the right & behind you, during which you should exhale. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds without breathing deeply, and repeat on the other side.
6 - Muscle Groups: Hips & groin.
Bring the soles of your feet together, place your elbows on the inside of your knees & lightly grasp both ankles. To increase the stretch, press down lightly with the elbows against the knees and lean slightly forward keeping the back straight. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds.
7 - Muscle Groups: Hamstrings & behind the knees
Sit down with your upper body upright & your legs extended in front of you. Place your hands on the side of your hips & with the hands facing backwards. Pull your toes towards you & then slowly lean forward with the upper body, back straight, whilst applying downward pressure on the hands. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds.
8 - Muscle Groups: Thighs (Quadriceps) & Knees
Bend the right knee and hold on to the ankle with your right hand. The left knee remains bent. Do not arch the back, but rather lean slightly forward from the waist. To increase the stretch, move the knee and foot slightly backwards. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and then repeat with the left leg.
9 - Muscle Groups: : Lower Back & Hamstring Stretch
Whilst completely relaxed, feet about shoulder width apart, bend the knees and slowly curl down with the shoulders and upper body. Place your hands on your knees to help steady and control the movement.
Once bent over, your hands will now leave the knees and extend towards your toes. If you cannot touch your toes even with bent knees, don’t worry. Keep the knees bent as much as is required and comfortable. You should feel the stretch behind the knees and in the hamstrings. Beginners may not feel the hamstring stretch until they become more flexible. This is not a problem. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds having exhaled all your breath whilst taking only short breaths through the mouth while in the maximum extended (bent over) position. Head is also relaxed.
Slowly uncurl to an upright position keeping the knees bent throughout the movement. On the way up repeat the hands on the knees for stability and help to keep any strain off the lower spine.
10 - Muscle Groups: Calves
This illustration demonstrates the end position of the stretch. To start, move the left leg forward keeping the feet shoulder width apart for balance. Bend the left knee, with the upper body slightly forward, back straight and the front knee never moves beyond the toes. In the illustration the right leg remains in the starting position and is the leg which is being stretched. The further forward you move the left leg, the greater the stretch on the right leg. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and repeat on the other leg.