Fitness

Top 10 Total Body Stretches

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My back is slowly getting better. Praise Jesus. Anyway, I give a lot of the credit to going to the chiropractor 3 times a week, but I’ve also been stretching every day. Up until this week, I wasn’t really able to lift anything without pain, so it’s been nice to get back to it. I think stretching has made a huge difference, already. My new motto is, “Don’t neglect the stretch!”

I’ve also been making my clients stretch more. They seem to enjoy it. It’s definitely not easy. Especially foam rolling, that shizz hurts. It’s SO important though, and SO overlooked. One of my clients told me that she looks forward to the foam rolling because it’s one of the easier, less painful things I make her do. LOL.

There should be several steps to your workout when you walk into the gym. First off, a warm up is crucial. If you’re just in for cardio, start out slow and slowly increase your speed/incline/resistance. If you’re planning on strength training, it’s just as important. When your muscles are “cold”, they’re more prone to injury. I ask my clients to perform a minimum of 10 minutes for their warm up. You can do anything; treadmill, elliptical, rower, jump rope, etc.

After your warm up, it is recommended that you foam roll and stretch the muscles that you’re going to work. After my workout, I usually do a 5 to 10 minute cool down on the elliptical followed by a total body foam roll and stretch.

What is foam rolling? Foam rolling, or self myofascial release (SMR) is the process of applying light to moderate pressure on points of pain, or knots, in the muscles. This sustained pressure, for 30 seconds, will slowly release points of tension in the muscles. It can be painful the first few times, usually because there are quite a few knots built up if you don’t do it regularly. STAY TUNED for a future post about that.

After foam rolling, you can begin to stretch. You can just focus on the muscles you worked that day, but I like to stretch total body every day. This brings us to the point of this post! I want to share with you my top 10 total body stretches. Note: Make sure to consult your doctor before stretching, especially if you have pre-existing injuries. Stretching an injured muscle is not a good idea. If you feel pain at any point, discontinue the stretch. Okay, here we go!

#1 Standing Quad- We’ll start out simple. If you don’t have good balance make sure to stand with one hand on a chair or table to stabilize yourself. Extend your hip and flex your knee so that you can grab your ankle behind you. Take a deep breath. Exhale as you pull your foot upward, slowly, until you feel a stretch in your quadricep (front of your thigh). Hold each side for 30 seconds.

#2 Standing Calf- Now we’ll move on to one of my personal favorites! Stand about a foot away, facing a wall. Place both of your palms against the wall and kick one leg back, driving your back heel into the floor. Take a deep breath. Exhale as you lunge your hips forward until you feel a stretch all the way up your back leg’s calf. Don’t forget to drive your heel into the ground. Hold for 30 seconds.

   

#3 Standing Pec- You’ll  need to stand in a doorway for this one. Inhale as you place one palm and elbow on the wall or door frame. Exhale as you slowly turn toward the opposite side driving your shoulder forward. You should feel a stretch in the front of your shoulder all the way into your pec. Hold for 30 seconds each side.

#4 Standing Shoulder ‘Dislocate’- This is the only stretch that will require a ‘tool’. It is the single BEST exercise that you can do for improving shoulder range of motion. You can use a broom, towel, or anything that you can get a grip on that’s at least 3 feet long. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, take a wide, overhand grip on the object. Keeping your elbows extended, slowly flex your shoulders until your arms are stretched straight above your head. While your arms are straight above you, inhale. Slowly push as far as you can beyond that until you reach your end range of motion while you exhale. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 6 times for 30 seconds total.

#5 Supine Piriformis- It’s time to lay down! You’re welcome. If you have a tight piriformis, you’ll often feel low back pain. This stretch is a great reliever of sciatic pain. WINNER. Okay, so lay on your back, bend your knees and plant both feet on the floor. Lift one foot up and rest it on top of the opposite knee. Inhale. Reach one hand in between your legs and one hand to the side of the leg still on the ground and slowly pull your leg towards your chest as you exhale. You should feel a stretch in the outside of your opposite hip. Hold each side for 30 seconds. PLEASE, excuse my face. The sun was very, VERY bright.

#6 Seated Single Leg Hamstring- Sit up with one leg stretched straight out in front of you while you bring the sole of the other foot to rest on the inside of your thigh. Focus on flexing the toes of your outstretched leg toward you. Keep that leg straight as you slowly lean forward, reaching for your toe. If you can’t reach your toe, grab a band or towel and place it around your foot, with one end of the towel in each hand. You can use the leverage to pull your toes towards you. Keep your back nice and straight. Keep breathing and every few seconds on the exhale, try to reach a little bit farther for 30 seconds. You should feel a stretch down the back of your leg, in you hamstring. Repeat on other side.

#7 Sole to Sole (Butterfly)- This stretch will work your adductors or ‘inner thighs’. Sit up straight and pull both of your feet inward until the soles of your feet touch. Grab your ankles, while maintaining good posture and slowly press your knees into the floor. Pull your shoulders back, take a deep breath and when you exhale, try to press all the way into your end range of motion. Chances are, your knees will not touch the floor at first and that’s ok. Just go as low as you can.

#8 Hip Flexor- Another one of my favorites! Most people have tight hip flexors from sitting too long. Come up into the lunge position so that you’re on one knee. The other foot should be in front of you, planted firmly on the floor so that your knee is at a 90 degree angle. Take a deep breath. Make sure you continue to keep your weight in your heel as you drive your hips forward slightly. Exhale while you do this. You should feel a pull in the front of your hip of the leg that’s extended. Slowly put that side’s arm straight up in the air, and lean slightly in the opposite direction. This will accentuate the stretch. While on this leg, we will progress into the next stretch, the pigeon, before performing hip flexor stretch on the other side.

#9 Pigeon- This one will stretch your psoas muscle which is one of the prime movers for hip flexion or ‘bending at the waist’. To go from the hip flexor stretch directly into pigeon pose, place both your hands on the ground in front of you (runner’s stance). Bring your front leg all the way to the ground, from your knee to your foot, keeping your back leg extended. Your hip should be resting on your foot. Lean forward onto your elbows while exhaling, keeping your hips level. (You should now be resting on your leg.) Hold that position for 30 seconds. Now you can go back to hip flexor stretch on the other side.

#10 Cat Cow into Child’s Pose- To stretch your back and core, go to your hands and knees. Keep a neutral head position. Exhale as you flex your spine (“Cat”- pull your chest and belly button in towards each other). Hold for 5 seconds, and as you inhale, extend your spine (“Cow”- Chest up, away from belly button or “arched back”). Hold for 5 seconds, repeat 6 times. Remember to control your breathing. From Cat Cow, finish with Child’s pose. Keeping your hips flexed, sink your butt all the way back to rest on your calves. Your arms should be stretched out in front of you. Press your palms into the floor and crawl your fingers as far forward as you can. Hold for 30 seconds.

There you have it! A few things to remember… Always focus on your breathing. A lot of my clients start holding their breath. I’m constantly reminding them to keep breathing while they stretch. Breathing during stretching is incredibly important because it will increase the intensity of the stretch. Second, as I stated before, if you feel any pain, discontinue the stretch and consult your doctor. NEVER stretch an injured muscle. It’s normal to feel a pulling, tight somewhat uncomfortable sensation, but stretching should never cause sharp pain. It will take time to loosen up. You will need to stay consistent. Try to stretch daily. This whole regimen, including a 5 to 10 minute warm up should take around 20 minutes to complete.

Try it out! I want to know what your favorite stretches were! Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time…

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I’m a 26 year old NASM certified personal trainer with a corrective exercise specialization! My love for fitness and nutrition blossomed several years ago. It has changed my life. Now it’s my mission to help and encourage all of you through my blog as well! Feel free to contact me!

3 Comments

  1. Linda

    March 25, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    Love these stretches. Thank you for adding the pictures!

    • Chinups_and_Cupcakes

      March 26, 2017 at 1:25 pm

      Glad you like them! My pleasure!

  2. Kathy

    August 1, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    LOVE LOVE LOVE the stretches! Your posts are awesome!

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