And now, for the final part of my Stretching Madness tutorials. I mentioned in Part One there’s one thing that you’re probably not doing during your stretching, which can make all the difference in the world. And that was timing your breathing. In Part Two I talked about the benefits of monitoring your breathing.
Fitness Fridays: Stretching Madness Part 3
Inhale & Exhale
So how can you use this during your stretching? Well if you’re doing those restorative stretches, always INHALE nice and deep down into your belly right BEFORE you move into a stretch. Then EXHALE and move slowly INTO the stretch. Hold the stretch for a couple seconds, then inhale again as you move out of the stretch slowly. Depending on how tight you feel in a specific area, you may want to do 3-5 repetitions like this until you start to feel the area loosen up a bit. This is more effective than hurling yourself into a painful, over-reaching stretch.
Go Ahead…Impress Your Friends
Here’s a cool little trick you can do to instantly improve your range of motion during a hip flexor stretch. Get into the hip flexor stretch position where you’re down on one knee. Hands on your hips, lean into it and check your range of motion (remember to breathe). Now, without moving your head, shift your eyes up and keep them there. Check the range of motion again by leaning forward into the stretch. Did you get deeper this time? Did it feel a lot easier too? That’s because you just used a neurological reflex that’s built into your nervous system to inhibit those hip flexor muscles.
Go ahead, impress your friends at the gym next time by showing them that one.
In summation, I’ll leave you with four principles of flexibility that will greatly improve your stretching program. I’ve borrowed these from Ann and Chris Frederick’s (Stretch to Win Institute) “Ten Principles for Stretching Success.” Pick up their book Stretch to Win for the complete list.
Principles of Stretching
1. Time your breathing: Inhale before you move into a stretch. Exhale as you move into a stretch.
2. Sync to activity: Move fast, but controlled, if you’re warming up. Slow it down for post workout or restorative.
3. Never stretch to the point of pain: A mistake people always make. Ann and Chris Frederick talk about “pain without gain” when it comes to stretching. If it hurts, you’re going too far. Trust me.
4. Stretch in multiple planes of motion: We move in multiple planes of motion every day. Your stretching should reflect real life. Play around with the angles and spend more time where you need it.
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