Full Body Flexibility
Stretching is one of the most underrated components of fitness, yet such an essential part of it. Finding the smart approach to actually improving flexibility, strength while also preventing injury (and being able to enjoy your class), can be challenging to say the least!
Beginners especially often find themselves signing up for yoga classes, in an effort to learn proper stretching technique. However yoga isn’t for everyone, and there are plenty of holistic alternatives to improving your flexibility.
At Whistler Fitness Vacations, Sports Stretch is one of my favorite classes to teach. This class blends the best elements of yoga, pilates, martial arts and sports conditioning into a beginner adapted flow class.
We move through the sequences to uplifting music, and it’s especially liberating for women who have always felt like they were ‘too fat to reach their toes’.
Strengthening your muscles through proper stretching technique will support your body (no matter what your weight) and maximize your entire range of motion.
Proper Stretching Technique
Static stretching is when you hold the stretch for 30 seconds and up to 3 minutes in a stationary position. For years, athletic coaches and fitness experts believed that proper stretching technique involved static movements before activity. Yet in recent years, studies have smashed this theory, and there is conclusive research that static stretching before your workout might actually increase your risk of injury (instead of reduce it, as was thought).
Yet this kind of stretching feels amazing, and similar to yin yoga, it elongates the muscle that you are stretching as you are putting physical stress on it (in a good way). The important thing is to warm up your muscles before static stretching. Do this with a brisk walk or gentle jog.
How To Stretch Your Legs
Hamstrings: The best way to begin stretching is with the hamstrings (back of legs), as they’re the larger muscles. Find a bicycle stand or picnic table and put your foot on the top, with toes pointing upwards. With hips facing forwards and a straight back, take a deep breath and bend down towards your toes, without bouncing. Hold this stretch for up to two minutes on each side, and then move to the quadriceps (front of the legs).
Quadriceps: Best quad stretch is bending at the knee and holding onto ankle, while standing on one leg. Hold on to something if you need help balancing. After the quad stretch, dig one heel into the ground while toes are pushed upwards against something, like the edge of the bike rack. With straight legs, lean forwards and hold each side for two minutes.
If you’ve watched track races, you will have seen the athletes jumping around at the start line, moving their legs and arms through various ranges of motion. This is called dynamic stretching and it’s a way to actively contract the muscle against the one that you’re stretching. For example, in a passive stretch of your calf muscles the heel will be pushed down into a held position.
Yet in a dynamic stretch, you’ll bring it up and down to move it in the opposite way. This movement should be smooth and functional – never forced.
Dynamic warm-ups are all about being dynamic and energetic, movements that assimilate the workout ahead. Things like hops, skips, rotational moves and high knee exercises will get your muscles ready.
Your muscles are like elastic bands. Keep them in shape so that you can properly prepare for a great workout that is safe and enjoyable!
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