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Seven Essentials for Stretching

Updated on June 14, 2015

Stretching our muscles should be a daily routine. Sadly too many of us ignore our bodies until our bodies are hurting and then it becomes either therapy or a drudgery. Stretching should be no different than our daily personal hygiene. Our muscles are critical to our very existence and those seeking independent living can attest to the importance of the 600 and more muscles that operate our body.

The Many Benefits of Stretching

Stretching not only improves appearance, lengthens muscles, and gives that lean, toned look on stage, but it also improves fitness and health. It is the ultimate for preventing injuries.

bodybuilding.com

The best way to learn to stretch is with a personal trainer who can customize your fitness program and the stretches your body needs. Time and money are obstacles that sadly prevent us from learning from a fitness professional. To get you on the right road on your stretches, here are seven essential that you must be aware of for your personal stretching program.

Seven Tips for Stretching

Colorful poster Seven tips for stretching with black background and a purple faced smart phone
Colorful poster Seven tips for stretching with black background and a purple faced smart phone | Source

How Long to Stretch

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM 2006) recommends holding a stretch from 15 to 30 seconds.

When to Stretch - 2 Rules

Nothing about stretching is difficult. Fundamental to good health is stretching. When to stretch is perhaps the easiest question to answer, and it should comes as no surprise, we need to stretch daily - before and after your daily exercise routine.

  1. Daily
  2. Before and After Exercise

So the logical question that must be asked is simply this: Why no prescription for stretching in the medical environment? Good question. I believe our medical community is missing a critical component for wellness. Every hospital patient should be doing stretching exercises. Even patients who are bedridden can stretch. Ankle twists are not just childlike fun, they are easy and critical for walking. To leave these important muscles out is neglectful.

We brush our teeth daily and yet our muscles can languish? Oh, I am being sarcastic now - please forgive me but this point bothers me when I visit medical centers. I feel for the patients' well being. I know the importance of stretching but most importantly, I can feel and see the results of daily stretching.

Exercise Poster - Run Lift Stretch

Run Lift Stretch motivational poster in run black and aqua print
Run Lift Stretch motivational poster in run black and aqua print | Source

Stretch to Stay Safe Funny Poster - Keep Fit to Stay Safe

Motivational Stretching Poster that showcases a worker stretching with work boots and blue jeans and a hard hat with the words "Keep Fit To Stay Safe"
Motivational Stretching Poster that showcases a worker stretching with work boots and blue jeans and a hard hat with the words "Keep Fit To Stay Safe" | Source

Workplace Safety But No Posters for Hospital Wellness

Don't you find it amazing, we have been fighting obesity worldwide, have identified health care costs are a national problem here in the United States and yet there are no daily stretches for hospital patients.

As of this writing, I cannot find guidance on simply stretching posters for bedridden patients. And yet, we know we need these muscles for work, so why wouldn't we take the time to prepare the patients' muscles for eventual release into the real world where they will need to care for themselves?

Where are the posters to encourage simply ankle twists and other non-resistance exercises for patients?

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Unless Injured or Rehabilitating - Stretch with Resistance

Our muscles want to be activated. Just as humans love attention and love to be heard, your muscles will thank you with daily stretches that really stretch not just move. Use your body, your hand, a wall or a friend and add some light resistance to your stretching routine.

Caution: As with all exercise programs, do consult your physician especially if you have inactive or if you have been challenged with a disease or injury.

"Don't stretch with exuberance, save exuberance for your own Great Gatsby love story. Stretch simply with resistance where you feel your muscles activated. Never stretch to the point of pain."

Easy Exercise

Snatching a Wisp of Air

"The point here is "snatching a wisp of air" should be left to save a fragment or a memory such as proclaimed so elegantly by F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby, Stretching should have nothing to do with air (unless you are bedridden). Stretching needs resistance. Use your hand, use a wall, use gravity, use a friend, hire a personal trainer but stretch with resistance."

Easy Exercise

How to Stretch - With Resistance

In the world acclaimed love story written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, in the book that was successfully made into a movie (what three times?), The Great Gatsby, the man who deceived Daisy into believing he was from the same economic stratosphere, who went on to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world, fell in love with Daisy and during one of the many poignant points in the book stated: "He stretched out his hand desperately as if to snatch only a wisp of air, to save a fragment." For you see the love story was remarkable and it made for a great movie but the writing was also superb.

The point here is "snatching a wisp of air" should be left to save a fragment or a memory, Stretching should have nothing to do with air (unless you are bedridden). Stretching needs resistance. Use your hand, use a wall, use gravity, use a friend, hire a personal trainer but stretch with resistance.

Don't stretch with exuberance, save exuberance for your own Great Gatsby love story. Stretch simply with resistance where you feel your muscles activated. Never stretch to the point of pain.

Types of Streching

"Just as there are different types of flexibility, there are also different types of stretching. Stretches are either dynamic (meaning they involve motion) or static (meaning they involve no motion). Dynamic stretches affect dynamic flexibility and static stretches affect static flexibility (and dynamic flexibility to some degree).

The different types of stretching are:

  1. ballistic stretching
  2. dynamic stretching
  3. active stretching
  4. passive (or relaxed) stretching
  5. static stretching
  6. isometric stretching
  7. PNF stretching"


source: Types of Stretching

Dynamic and Static Stretching

"Dynamic stretching is usually done at the beginning of an exercise program after a proper warmup, while static stretching is usually performed after exercising. Dynamic stretches closely mimic movements made during exercise, so they're usually used to prepare for athletic events. Static stretches are used to improve flexibility and cool your body down after you exercise, and are therefore done when the body is standing still."

source: Dynamic Stretching Versus Static Stretching


What is Stretching?

OK, this is the hard part. For you see stretching can be many different things. The "How" and the "When" are the simple parts. The what is stretching depends entirely upon your needs. If you are injured the purpose of stretching will be dramatically different from athletic stretching for a sport. The type of sport will change your stretching needs. A gymnast needs different stretches from a runner, from a football player and even golfers need different stretches.

Start simply with your stretching program. Join a group fitness class and the instructor will provide to you the basics. Incorporate these basics into your daily routine. You will find different stretches will affect you differently dependent upon your fitness level. That is just one of the many marvelous miracles of daily stretching. You will feel your body differently. Your perception of your body will change. You will feel your muscles speak to you.

Stretching for Stress Relief

Just as stretching should be designed specifically for your sport and your individual needs, stretching for stress relief is completely different and often will concentrate upon different muscle groups.

One of my favorite stretches is simply a stress reliever, the neck roll. One of my participants in my class, openly advised me she had no stress and wondered why I had us doing this stretch. Imagine no stress! Oh, I live in a different world don't I?


Types of Stretches - A Science Unto Its Own

The science of stretching is fascinating but is beyond the scope of this article. What is important to know is that there are many different types of stretches and not all stretches are helpful and some stretches may actually be harmful. The take away here is to consult a professional for your stretching program. This is always true but if you have had an injury, it is especially critical for you to consult with your physician.

Not All Stretches Were Created Equally - Take Care

"PNF and isometric stretching are not recommended for children. So all stretches are not created equal. This sends an important message, that stretching is a prescription that is best done with an end goal in mind for the specific person." Easy Exercise

PNF Stretching

PNF Stretching is "proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation" is said to be the most efficient type of stretching to increase flexibility. It is best done with a partner. It is a combination of passive and isometric stretching.

Interestingly, PNF and isometric stretching are not recommended for children. So all stretches are not created equal. This sends an important message, that stretching is a prescription that is best done with an end goal in mind for the specific person.

"Passive stretching is usually performed with a partner who applies a sustained stretch to a relaxed joint. It requires close communication between client and trainer, along with a slow application of the stretch in order to prevent a forceful manipulation of the body segment and possible injury. The client is not actively involved in the stretch."

source: IdeaFit

Len Kravitz, PhD

Energizing Red Exercise Poster Focusing Upon Stretching

Colorful stretching poster with 11 different stretches highlighted in vibrant and energizing red
Colorful stretching poster with 11 different stretches highlighted in vibrant and energizing red | Source

"It is important for every sport to stretch your hamstring."

Scooby Werkstatt

"You can get away without stretching any muscle in your body with the exception of the hamstring."

Scooby Werkstatt

Scooby goes on to state that it is important to stretch the hamstring in order to prevent back pain.

Hamstring Stretches - Preventing Back Pain

The Importance of Stretching Your Hamstring

Here we have talked about the importance of daily stretching but we haven't cover the one muscle group that we must stretch for sports and the one muscle group that we must stretch in order to prevent back pain. Scooby Werkstatt states, "It is important for every sport to stretch your hamstring." He also goes on to say very concisely and directly: "You can get away without stretching any muscle in your body with the exception of the hamstring."


Hamstring Stretch Video To Prevent Back Pain by Scooby Werkstatt

If you have ever had back pain (and who among us hasn't?), you must watch this insightful video about stretching our hamstrings. Scooby Werkstatt very concisely shows you the correct way to stretch for the beginner and then he gives a bonus of the advanced hamstring stretch. Scooby doesn't stop there, he then showcases the stretches that are wrong and explains why these stretches are wrong.

If you watch the video, you will learn:

  • Beginner's hamstring stretch.
  • Advanced hamstring stretch.

Horrible Ways to Stretch - Learn the Wrong Way - To Avoid:

  • Grab toes
  • Standing hamstring stretch - bouncing hamstring - recipe for injury
  • Worst hamstring stretch

Tips: Feel the stretch, hold for 30 seconds.

Check Your Knowledge on Stretching - Take Our Quiz

If you watched the video by Scooby Weskstate closely, you will have gained invaluable pointers. Take this quiz and see if you were able to capture his words of wisdom on stretching.

Check Your Knowledge on Scooby's Video on Stetching


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Stretching Techniques

Stretching Techniques

In this vido, Dave Scott, Active.com triathlon expert and six-time Ironman World Champion, guides us through stretching techniques for more a more effective workout.

"Seek a Comfortable Stretch Not a Painful Stretch."

Dave Scott, Six-time Ironman World Champion

If you watch this video Dave will guide you through six different stretches and most importantly Dave will tell you what muscles you are stretching.


Stretching Techniques Demonstrated with Six Stretches

1. Lying Leg Cross Over - Feel the Tension on the Glute

2. Hip Flexor Stretch - Great for Runners

3. Perfect Periformis Hip Glute Stretch

4. Partner Hamstring Stretch

5. Partner Quad Stretch

6. Partner Shoulder Back Lat Pec Stretch


Motivational Posters for Stretching Exercise

Motivational Exercise Poster black and white
Motivational Exercise Poster black and white | Source
Motivational Exercise Poster black and white
Motivational Exercise Poster black and white | Source

Take Our Poll on Daily Stretching

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Seven Stretching Tips

1. Always warm up before stretching

2. Breath deeply

3. Never stretch to the point of pain

(Unless injured, incorporate stretches with resistance)

4. Always use proper posture

5. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds

6. Stretch daily

7. Never bounce


Seven Stretching Tips Recap

Stretching is similar to exercise, we have not been taught to stretch daily. When I was growing up and yes, I too learned all the "wrong" stretches from the 1970s and also I didn't learn the importance of the hamstring on our back, let alone the importance of stretching daily. We brush our teeth daily, we text daily, we watch television daily but we should really make a point of stretching daily.

The important point is not just to motivate you to stretching daily, but stretching in a manner that counts. Cheating in stretching can actually harm us not help. To avoid injury we must not roll our back - always maintain proper posture. Also bending our knee serves as a waste of valuable time. Learn how to stretch in order to use your time well and you will not only feel better but also avoid injury.

Take the time today to take on a new daily habit but most importantly, learn the proper techniques to: 1.) avoid wasting your time and 2.) avoid injury.

Share Your Stretching Experience

Please share with us what stretching means to you. Do you believe stretching should be encouraged in hospitals? In the workplace? Or just at home?

© 2014 Kelly A Burnett

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    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 2 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Stretching is useful, I always feel better afterwards.

    • Easy Exercise profile image
      Author

      Kelly A Burnett 2 years ago from United States

      I completely agree. My grandmother would stretch, do sand bag exercises every morning and she lived to a healthy 97. I don't care about the number of years per se but feeling good is critical to me.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      The best article I have ever read on stretching. Excellent tips on using proper technique and what not to do. I do stretch every morning and I am going to alter my routine to incorporate some of these tips and techniques. Wonderful job, great video's. Voted up, shared, etc...

    • profile image

      truparad0x 2 years ago

      Great article. I believe stretching regularly will alleviate most problems older people have. That and balanced resistance training. I will note that people shouldn't stretch immediately before resistance training. Your muscles have decreased strength for 30 minutes after stretching, limiting how much weight you can lift.

    • Easy Exercise profile image
      Author

      Kelly A Burnett 2 years ago from United States

      bdegiulio,

      You are one of my most admired writers. I am thrilled to read your accolades. This means allot to me. Stretching is something that is simply forgotten and it is so critical.

      I sincerely pray that hospitals change their practices to includes stretching in the daily routines of their staff and their patients. It is a small thing but a small change in their operations could have a big impact upon the health of their patients and staff members.

      Again, your appreciation and words of encouragement mean allot to me - thank you so much for stopping by and sharing.

    • Easy Exercise profile image
      Author

      Kelly A Burnett 2 years ago from United States

      truparad0x,

      You bring up an important point, for those seeking strength training and body building the timing of the stretching is critical in the exercise prescription. I hope those following in those fitness routines have an experienced professional guiding them.

      My target audience is the beginner who needs to understand how important their muscles are to their functional and mental needs.

      My view is extreme, I feel it is almost criminal to prescribe medicine for depression without a prescription for exercise. I feel the hospitals are missing a platinum opportunity with their staff and their clients by not offering a daily stretching program and/or prescription for their patients.

      The world needs physicians who are dedicated to surgery, medicine and to our muscles. Stretching is paramount to our muscles.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      These are such well stated tips. I have learned the importance of stretching over the years not because I am so smart. But because my body was smart and told me when I had neglected to do it.

      I am going to print this so I can continue to be reminded of the importance of these tips.

      Angels are on the way to you this morning ps Pinned and shared

    • Easy Exercise profile image
      Author

      Kelly A Burnett 2 years ago from United States

      Pstraubie48,

      Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing. It really means allot to me.

      You are very wise to listen to your body. Isn't the human body remarkable especially if we listen to it and respond when it complains of neglect?

      My grandmother would perform her therapy exercises from Mayo Clinic every single morning. Back in the day - decades ago, she had sand weights. I remember her sharing that with me but I was too young to understand the "feeling" given by the muscles.

      A special thank for sending angels and pinning and sharing this - this means allot to me. I started here on HubPages just for exercise and it took me years to finally write on fitness. I am glad I finally started but it is comments like yours that keep me motivated. Thank you very much and God bless you and your family.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It should be a daily routine, and I admit that I get complacent with this. At my age, I can't afford to be complacent. Thanks for the gentle kick in the behind.

    • Easy Exercise profile image
      Author

      Kelly A Burnett 2 years ago from United States

      BillyBuc,

      Oh, I hear you - I too am of an age where I cannot afford inconsistency or complacency. I need a weekly resolution not an annual resolution to do better and stick to my exercise routine.

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 2 years ago from The City of Generals

      Hi Kelly. Very helpful article. I do exercise, but time, as always, is a big deal. :=)I like that keep-fit-to-stay-safe image you put, that's for me! lol! Typically, I make sure I stretch daily 10-20 mins first thing, also as a personal quiet time any time during the day, to break from work, etc.

      You've taught me a lot. Thanks for all the suggestions. Perhaps I needed the power "FUN" to keep me going. Thanks again Kelly. So nice of you dropped by my hub. You led me to you!

      Hugs and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

    • Easy Exercise profile image
      Author

      Kelly A Burnett 2 years ago from United States

      Tonipet,

      I am very proud of you! 10-20 minutes every day and first thing! Smart lady! Stretching is something my Grandmother did but she never told us until the very end of her life. Amazing for a woman who "taught" us this was not on her mantras but was on her daily agenda for decades.

      Glad you found the hub helpful.

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 2 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      I have always wanted to do the splits. Even as a child, though I was rather stiff. Currently, if I stretch a lot, I can get to 4 inches from the ground. Do you have any suggestions regarding making that final 4 inches? How much stretching would I have to do?

    • Easy Exercise profile image
      Author

      Kelly A Burnett 2 years ago from United States

      Say Yes To Life,

      I would recommend daily stretches. The final 4 inches sadly may not be for you - the item you must seek is to be the very best that you can be. The splits are not for everyone, flat abs are not for everyone, model thin is not healthy for the majority of human population. The main item is to be as strong and flexible as you can. Eat well, avoid sugars, stretch daily and get your cardio every day!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Excellent article and from what I understand from your profile and hubs that you are an expert in this field.

      I do feel very relaxed after stretching daily and it reduces pain and cramps also, if any. Very well written and helpful hub.

      Voted up!

    • Easy Exercise profile image
      Author

      Kelly A Burnett 2 years ago from United States

      Chitrangada Sharan,

      I have studied exercise because I am passionate about health. My Mother was crippled by RA and I feel, actually I now know, her illness could have been greatly reduced if she had a prescription for exercise.

      It is sad that the medical community is paid to write prescriptions for pills and there is little partnership with the exercise professionals. I pray the next generation is smarter than us.

    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando 2 years ago from Andalusia

      Hi, say yes to life,

      You may be able to attain 3 inches if you put a bolster to sit on while relaxing further down into the splits.

      Alternatively, try high kicks lying flat on your back, possibly with ankle weights on, to lengthen the hamstrings further.

      All at your own risk of course.

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 2 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      Thanks for the tips!

    • Easy Exercise profile image
      Author

      Kelly A Burnett 2 years ago from United States

      Hi Sue,

      Oh, I like the idea of kicks while lying my back - great exercise suggestion! Thank you! I will share with my fitness clients!

    • Easy Exercise profile image
      Author

      Kelly A Burnett 2 years ago from United States

      Hi Say Yes to Life,

      BTW - What a fantastic moniker! You are most welcome. I am sincerely jealous, as I write this we have a blizzard! Aloha!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      I learned much from this article. I like to stretch, but was not even aware of the different types of stretching; nor was aware of how to do it properly. Thank you and voted up!

    • Easy Exercise profile image
      Author

      Kelly A Burnett 2 years ago from United States

      MsDora,

      You are most welcome! So glad I was able to contribute.

      Stretching is a science, I don't feel fitness professional nor medical professionals recognize the full potential especially as we age.

      I am astounded that hospitals do not prescribe a daily stretching routine for each patient. The gulf between medical professionals and fitness professionals is a gulf I pray we eliminate soon and bring both professions together for effective and efficient health solutions.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 2 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I am a slacker with stretching my muscles, yet I work them out every day! I remember to stretch when my body tells me..."Yo, stretch me!" Excellent tips and advice.

    • Easy Exercise profile image
      Author

      Kelly A Burnett 2 years ago from United States

      Sunshine625,

      Oh, my goodness, I need to craft a poster to quote you - love that saying "Yo, stretch me!". You are priceless, simply priceless! Thank you so much!

      Off to run two miles today in our Midwestern spring sunshine that reminds me of your joy and your moniker!

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