Do you want to become more flexible? Would you like to acquire and maintain better range of motion as you age?
Research has shown the benefits of static stretching for improving and maintaining range of motion as we age.
What is static stretching? Static stretching involves getting into position that puts stretch on a muscle to its near end point and holding there for up to 30 seconds. We do a lot of this during a Yoga practice!
Stretching isn't just about becoming more flexible...
Stretching helps us maintain a healthy neuromuscular system and healthy connective tissue. Your neuromuscular system involves your nervous system and muscles working together to allow, control and direct movement.
Stretching Benefits Include:
Walking & Moving More Efficiently
So... how long should you stretch for, how often should you stretch, how far should you go into a stretch and when should you stretch?
HOW LONG & HOW OFTEN:
For any given muscle group that you are seeking to improve or maintain range of motion in, enter the position of stretch and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat this for a total of 3 sets, 5x a week so that the total stretch time per week for each muscle group is 5 minutes per week. The consistency and frequencyof the stretching throughout the week is key. After about 3 weeks you may start to notice that your tolerance for stretch has increased along with your range of motion.
HOW FAR TO GO INTO A STRETCH:
Move slowly into the stretch to a place where you can breathe and hold the position with control. Go to where you are able to experience, focus, connect and feel the stretch and the muscles involved. Range of motion varies from day to day depending on numerous internal and external factors like stress, sleep, temperature in the room etc. Work with where you are at each day rather than trying to get to where you were the day or days before.
HOW MUCH EFFORT SHOULD YOU USE?
Perform static stretching at low intensity in an effort that does not feel painful or strained at about 30-40% of your maximum effort. Move into a place where you can still breathe, feel and sense your body.
WHEN TO STRETCH:
Static stretching is best performed when you are warm. Try doing some light calisthenics to warm your body up and then stretch OR stretch after exercise like after taking a brisk walk, cycle or run or after resistance/strength training etc.
Here are a few examples of static stretches (with descriptions underneath) that can be performed with the stretch recipe of 3 sets of 30 second holds:
Perform each stretch for 3 sets of 30 second holds. If the stretch has two sides, make sure to apply the same sets and holds on the second side.
1. Criss Cross Stretch: Cross one leg in front of the other and fold any amount over the legs. Ground through the feet. Use the chair as needed for support. Repeat on the other side.
2. Wide Leg Straddle: Take the feet wide apart and tilt the sitting bones toward the ceiling as you place the forearms down onto the seat of the chair. Lengthen the spine.
3. Chair Figure 4: Place the right ankle over the left thigh. Hinge forward from the hips. Repeat on the other side.
4. Hamstring Stretch: Place your right leg up onto the chair seat. Tilt the sitting bones back away from you as you flex the foot. Lengthen the spine. Repeat on the other side.
5. Standing Quad Stretch: Pull your left heel to your seat using the left hand. Lengthen the tailbone and think about lifting up through the front of the hips. Try to get the thighbones in line with each other. Repeat on the other side.
6. Chair Pigeon: Place the left leg up on the chair and extend the right leg back behind you on the floor. Think about reaching the sitting bones away from you. Lengthen the spine. Repeat on the other side.
7. High Lunge Side Bend: Use a chair for balance as you bend the right leg with the left leg extended back behind you in a lunge stance. Reach the left arm up and side bend to the right. Repeat on the other side.
8. Modified Downward Dog: Place hands on the back of a chair. Walk back and stretch out the arms with the spine parallel to the ground. Keep the pelvis stacked on top of the feet.
Learn more about stretching & flexibility in this podcast with Dr. Andrew Huberman HERE.