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What You Need to Know About: Stretching


Stretching and flexibility may not be the first words you think of when you think of a workout, but it is just as important as your regular exercises. It’s part of a proper workout routine and has overall benefits. If you feel tightness try a few simple stretches to help loosen your muscles before your gym session and after to help your muscles relax after working them strenuously. Don’t put yourself at risk of injury and pain if all it takes is a little stretching every day or before each workout. These stretches are not only beneficial for your workouts but also in your day to day life. Stretching can be used as downtime for yourself, to calm your mind before your workout or to wind down after your heavy gym session.
Here are some of the most common questions we receive regarding stretching.

What You Need to Know About: Stretching

Question: Top 3 Stretches to Improve Flexibility

First, we need to break down stretching and our philosophy.

The purpose of stretching is to make the muscle and surrounding fascia more supple and increase in length. The most important part of any exercise program is compliance. This is particularly true for stretching exercises. When you stretch you get an immediate increase in tissue length. This is due to the elastic properties of the tissue and improved stretch tolerance. However, the term elastic implies, this change will not last long. When you repeatedly stretch the muscle and its fascia; you get a ‘plastic’ change in the tissue – a lasting change. To achieve this you must stretch daily. Missing several days will put you back to square one. Almost everyone has the ability to do the splits, but not many of your muscles are trained to handle the stress. Compliance will improve your tolerance to stress. To improve we have found that stretching each muscle for 30 seconds daily will get you results. Of course, you can stretch longer, but at least do 30 seconds. You should feel a stretch sensation, not pain. As with any exercise, if it causes ‘pain’ – stop.

Hamstring Stretch

  • Lie on your back.
  • Bring one knee toward your chest and grasp behind your thigh with both
    hands.
  • Keep the other knee bent.
  • While holding the knee to your chest, straighten your knee until you feel a stretch on the back of your thigh.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
Butterfly Stretch

  • Start by lying flat on the floor with the bottoms of your feet together and knees bent out. One common error is sitting with a rounded spine, we prefer to lie on your back relaxed.
  • Hold your ankles or feet and slowly and slowly move your legs towards the ground
  • If this is too much, then just start with keeping your knees closer to the ceiling.
  • Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds.
Standing Iliopsoas Stretch

  • Put one foot up on a table or other high object (depending on your height – no higher than the
    knee).
  • Point the foot that is on the floor in a pigeon-toed position.
  • In this position, do a pelvic tilt or “tuck under.”
  • You may feel a stretch in the front of your tight.
  • If you don’t, lean forward, leading with your hip and keep your chest in the same position.
  • You will feel a stretch on the front of your thigh, and in the groin area. Hold onto an object with your hand to stay balanced.

Question: What are the best exercises to build flexibility?

To build flexibility, we must first pinpoint which area of the body you want to work on. If it’s your hip flexors, then you need to understand the anatomy of the hip flexors and that some cross one joint and some cross two. If you are looking to improve ankle flexibility, once again, it is key to understand ankle anatomy, as some of the muscles cross more than one joint.

Calf Stretch

Gastrocnemius Stretch
  • Stand with one leg behind the other facing a wall.
  • Use a towel to support the arch of the foot
  • that is behind you. Bend your front knee while keeping your back knee straight.
  • Lean forward, using the wall for balance, until you feel a stretch in the calf or the back leg.
Soleus Stretch
  • Same ideas as above only you are standing directly over the foot you are stretching.
  • Just bend your knee and allow your ankle to flex until you feel a stretch in the calf, closer to your heel.
  • Use a towel to support your arch.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

  • Kneel on one knee with your other leg forward with your foot flat on the ground.
  • Use a table or chair to your side for balance and a pillow under your knee if padding is necessary.
  • Line up your body over the knee that you are kneeling on.
  • In this position do a pelvic tilt or ‘tuck under’ and you will feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. Common mistakes are arching your low back or leaning forward which negates the stretch.

Dynamic mobility or even dynamic exercises can increase flexibility.

The sliding lateral lunge is one example to increase this range of motion through an active exercise.

Sliding Lateral Lunge

  • On a hardwood surface, place a towel under one foot.
  • Slide the foot with the towel to your side, away from your body, as you break from the hips and the knees to sit down.
  • Keep the spine straight as you come up, then return up.

Question: How to increase flexibility?

  • The best way to increase flexibility is to stretch regularly. Incorporate simple stretches in your daily workout routine (dynamic mobility before and static stretching after working out). When stretching always remember to breathe through your holding position.

Question: What’s a good stretching routine for beginners?

  • A routine should be based on what you want to work on. As shown above, there are various types of stretches that are beneficial to different parts of the body. There are more stretches than just the ones shown above. Find out what works best for you and what your body needs. Some stretches may not be beneficial to you if you have a back injury or other issues.  Start off with simple stretches like the butterfly stretch, knees to chest, etc. If you’re just starting out don’t hold the stretches for longer than 30 seconds. Work your way up towards the minute mark. Remember to not overstretch.

One key point, don’t only use static stretching! Incorporate:

  • Self-myofascial releases (SMR)
  • Dynamic stretching
  • Dynamic exercises
  • Static stretches

If you aren’t sure what this is, consider applying for a free personal training trial session and get the tips we use at COR!

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Question: How long should I hold my stretches for increased flexibility?

  • This answer varies depending on who you ask. We suggest a minimum of 30 seconds to hold a stretch to about two minutes. Prolonged holding of a stretch could increase risk injury especially if you are about to partake in an activity right after. Long stretches can also cause soreness, which can deter a beginner stretcher. Know that stretching should be uncomfortable, not painful. If you feel pain, please stop and don’t risk injury.

Question: Why do I lose flexibility after exercising?

  • Exercise causes microtearing of the muscles. This tearing allows the muscles to rebuild and become stronger. During this phase, a person is often sore. Soreness can limit stretch tolerance, as the muscle is more sensitive. Therefore, the reduction in stretching is from a reduction in stretch tolerance from increased muscle sensitivity after a workout.

Question: How to gain muscle without losing flexibility?

  • Continue to work on flexibility while building muscle! Ensure you have all the types of flexibility exercises in your routine to maintain flexibility as you are increasing muscle.
  • Once again:
    • Self-myofascial releases (SMR)
    • Dynamic stretching
    • Dynamic exercises
    • Static stretches

Question: What are the benefits of stretching?

  • Stretching increases blood flow to the muscles
  • It can help you become more flexible
  • Reduce stress
  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Decrease heart rate
  • Decrease sympathetic nervous system activity

Conclusion on What You Need to Know About: Stretching

If you are just starting out on your stretching and flexibility journey, do it right, with a trainer by your side. Have someone who will push you to your limits without risking any injuries. Someone who has the skills, knowledge, and experience to prepare you for what you want to achieve. Whether that be running a marathon, losing weight, gaining muscle, we are here to help you achieve your athletic goals. Get you someone who knows about the body more than you do, when you’re sick you go to a doctor so you shouldn’t take your health and fitness any less serious than having the flu. See one of our coaches to find out which stretches and exercises work best for you.

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