Back To Basics | Fundamentals of Stretching

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This week, we’re going to take it back to the fundamentals.  After a while we tend to forget what we learned in the beginning.  Our form gets sloppy and our workouts ineffective.  Therefore, I like to take a week every once in a while to step back and hold a refresher of sorts to make sure we don’t forget the fundamentals of bodyweight training.  Plus, there are always newer folks just joining the community who need to learn the basics before moving the the more advanced bodyweight exercises.

So, to start this week off on a limber note, we will cover the fundamentals of stretching.  As we all know, proper stretching is key to injury prevention and also helps prevent muscle soreness after strenuous workouts.

There are nine positions in the fundamental stretching routine to be mastered.
They are:

– Movement:  Lie on your back and pull your knees into your chest with your hands placed at the bottom of your knees.  Try to place your face between your knees.  Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat twice.
– Important:  Move fluidly and stop the stretch if you experience pain.
– Purpose:  This position stretches the entire length of the spinal column and all the attached muscles.

Lying Twist
– Movement:  Lie on your back with your knees and hips both at 90 degrees.  With your knees together, twist your torso so your knees are to one side of your body and your shoulders are still flat on the floor.  Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat twice for each side.
– Important:  Make sure to keep your shoulders firmly on the floor.  If you can’t touch your knee to the floor, don’t worry.
– Purpose: Stretch the lower back and glutes.

Butterfly Stretch
– Movement:  Sit with your legs out in front of you.  Rotate your toes outward (laterally), bringing your heels together.  Slide your heels toward your crotch, bending your knees so your legs look like wings.  Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat twice.
– Important: Do not force your knees toward the floor.  Let gravity and the weight of your legs do the work.
– Purpose:  Stretches the hip adductors.

Cobra Position
– Movement:  Lie on your stomach with your hands next to your shoulders (as in the bottom position of a push up).  Lift your head and arch your back, keeping your pelvis on the floor.  Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat 2 times.
– Important:  Do not shrug your shoulders toward your ears.  Keep your head inline with your spine.
– Purpose:  Stretch the Abdominal muscles

Posterior Forearm Stretch
– Movement:  With your arm extended in front of you, point your fingertips toward the floor.  Gently grasp the back of your extended hand with your free hand.  Apply gentle and steady pressure to the back of your hand until you feel the muscles in your extended forearm stretching.  Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, then repeat twice for each arm (3 reps total).
– Important:  Be gentle.  Do not hyper-extend your wrist.
– Purpose:  Gently stretch the muscles in the back of your forearm.

Anterior Forearm Stretch
– Movement:  In the same basic position as the posterior forearm stretch, flex your wrist so your fingertips are pointing upward.  With your free hand gently flex the wrist of the extended hand toward the body.  Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat for 3 times per arm.
– Important:  Again, be gentle and do not hyper extend your wrist.
– Purpose:  Stretch the front of your forearm.

Shoulder Stretch
– Movement:  Place the palm of your left hand on your right shoulder.  Grasp your left elbow with your right hand and pull it toward your body.  Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat for 3 reps each side.
– Important:  Don’t tighten up your shoulder blade.  Allow it to move freely.
– Purpose:  Stretch the shoulders and upper back.

Triceps Stretch
– Movement:  Place your right palm between your shoulder blades with your right elbow next to your ear.  Grasp your right elbow with your left hand and pull it gently toward and behind  your head until you feel a stretch in your tricep.  Repeat up to 3 times per side, holding for 10 to 30 seconds.
– Important:  Do not push your head forward with your elbow.  Bring it behind your head.
– Purpose:  Stretches the triceps, posterior shoulder and upper back.

Chest Opener
– Movement:  Place both hands behind your buttocks and interlace your fingers.  Contract your arm and upper back muscles to bring your shoulders rearward and stretch your chest muscles.  Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat for 3 reps.
– Important:  Try to keep your spine inline.  Do not arch your lower back.
– Purpose:  Stretch the muscles of the rib cage, anterior shoulders and biceps.

Use these simple stretches before your workouts to loosen up and help prevent injuries.  You can do them any time, to relieve minor muscle soreness from exertion.  On Wednesday, we’ll take a look at some basic exercises for building functional strength.



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