Stretching is a crucial part of a full workout that people ignore for one reason or the other. Although stretching is not as exciting as the other types of exercises, you need to include stretching exercise to your workout routine in order to say you’ve done an all-rounded workout session. With that said, in this article, we shall highlight different stretching exercise for beginners, benefits of stretching and other essentials related to flexibility exercises.
Basics Of Stretching Exercise For Beginners
Stretching comes with a myriad of benefits, and that is why more people are encouraged to engage in this activity. It is highly recommended to do your stretching in a peaceful distraction-free environment (3). The fewer distractions there are around you, the more likely you are to reach your full stretching potential. Stretching, despite having so many benefits, is actually done by very few people. Even regular gym-goers and people who are pro-fitness ignore this essential exercise. It is an important part of working out that people skip.
Stretching exercise make a difference in how your muscles respond to other exercises. Most exercises that people engage in, especially strength-training exercises, result in the contracting and shortening of muscles in a process referred to as adaptive shortening (7). When you stretch a muscle, you prevent all this from happening. Stretching a muscle will help lengthen it, prevent tightness, and increase the muscle’s recovery time after working out.
When you engage in stretching exercise, you end up making your muscles more pliable, allowing them to withstand more strain (7). This thus enables you to make your workout sessions more effective.
When you do a lot of exercises that contract your muscles but never stretch, your muscles are likely to end up imbalanced (6). Such an imbalance increases your risk of injury because some muscles and joints will have to overcompensate for those that are too tight or too weak. This will likely lead to strains and discomfort.
When your muscles are loose and less restricted, you are able to move through your full range of motion (6). Being able to move your muscles through their full range of motion will help you kill it in the gym and, most importantly, go about your daily activities without suffering through constant aches and pains.
Types Of Stretches
Before we highlight different basic stretches for beginners, let’s take a look at the different types of stretches first.
This type of stretching involves the use of repetitive movements. They help improve the range of motion by working the muscles and joints that are going to be involved in the workout you are about to do or the sport you are about to take part in (4). This is actually a recommended way of preparing your body for a workout session, and thus one is advised to perform this particular type of stretching before a workout session. Dynamic stretches help increase circulation without really making the muscles too loose. Just like tight muscles can increase the risk of one sustaining an injury, muscles that are too loose can also do the same.
That is not all. Dynamic stretches help to prepare your nervous system by exercising the neural pathways associated with the skill. This makes this type of stretching the most recommended before a workout session, and you should look to add it to your pre-workout routine.
Active Isolated Stretching
You perform active isolated stretching when you stretch a specific muscle until you feel tension, and then hold that position for one to two seconds (4). When doing this particular type of stretching, you usually use your hands or a rope to get the muscles to its stretching point. Due to the fact that you don’t force the muscle to stay contracted, the muscle ends up staying relaxed. Active isolated stretching offers a risk of overstretching especially if you are using a rope, and thus you should be careful when performing this particular type of stretching.
Ballistic stretches use repeated bouncing movements to stretch the targeted muscle groups (4). Although the bouncing aspect of this particular type of stretching may cause an increased risk of getting injured, when done properly; this is doing them from a low-velocity to a high-velocity, and doing static stretches before, it helps reduce the likelihood of an injury occurring. This particular type of stretches is also referred to as bouncing stretches.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation Stretching
PNF stretching is usually done with the help of a partner or a gym instructor. You’re supposed to contract a muscle, release that muscle, and then stretch it (4). PNF stretching is very effective, but only if done properly. You should attempt PNF under an expert’s supervision as it can be very dangerous if done carelessly or in haste.
This type of stretching involves stretching a muscle to the end of its range of motion (4). Once you get to the end of the muscle’s range of motion, you are supposed to hold that position for about 30 seconds. Static stretches are essential when it comes to increasing the length of a muscle by organizing the muscle fibres in the direction of the stretching force and by relieving tension. It is advisable to do static stretches at the end of a workout session as they work wonders for speedy muscle recovery and increase one’s range of motion. It is not advisable to do this particular type of stretching before a workout. The reason for this is the fact that they are not very helpful when it comes to boosting your performance during dynamic movements.
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Stretching Exercise For Beginners
When you are new to any particular exercise, you should ease yourself into the exercise. You don’t want to do so much that you end up harming yourself and you also don’t want to do so little that you don’t enjoy the benefits of the exercise. Here are examples of flexibility exercises beginners can engage in.
Seated Head-Toward-Knee Stretch
This particular stretch mainly focuses on the hamstrings and helps relieve tension in the back.
How to do it (2):
- Start by sitting with the right leg stretched out in front of you, and the left leg bent, relaxed and facing away from your body.
- Then lengthen your spine and slightly rotate your torso towards the stretched leg.
- Carefully fold forward and hold that position.
- Repeat the same steps on the other side.
Seated Side Stretch
This is yet another stretching exercise that can help with your flexibility.
How to do it (1):
- First, seat down and clasp your hand straight over your head. Make sure your palms are facing the sky.
- Then stretch up and stretch over to the right. This will make you feel a stretch down on your left side.
- Hold that position for 15 to 30 seconds and switch sides.
- Repeat this stretch one to three times.
This stretching exercise is super effective when it comes to stretching your arm muscles.
How to do it (1):
- First, take your right arm straight across your chest and then curl your left hand around your right elbow.
- Gently pull on the right arm to deepen the stretch in the shoulders.
- If you are not feeling the stretch, you can try dropping the shoulder down.
- Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds and then switch sides.
Standing Quad Stretch
This particular stretching exercise for beginners focuses mainly on your quads.
How to do it (6):
- First, start by standing with your feet together.
- Then bend your left knee and use your left hand to pull your left leg foot towards your butt. You should make sure to keep your knees together while doing all this.
- If you’re having trouble with balance, you can press one hand against the wall.
- The next step is to squeeze your glutes.
- Hold that position for 30 seconds to 2 minutes and then repeat on the other leg.
Lying Quad Stretch
How to do it (6):
- First, lie down on one side.
- While keeping the leg at the bottom straight, bend the knee of the leg on top so that your foot is by your butt.
- Hold your top foot with your hand while pulling it towards your butt.
- Make sure you keep your hips stable so that you are not rocking your back as you pull your leg.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds to two minutes.
- Switch sides and then repeat with the other leg.
This particular stretch helps stretch your full body and can help prepare for exercises like planks and push-ups.
How to do it (5):
- You start in the high plank position. Make sure your hands and under your shoulders and your feet are slightly wider than your hips.
- Then push your hips up so that you can make a shape that resembles a mountain with your body, with your tailbone at the peak.
- Keep your palms flat on the floor with your fingers spread wide and press into your forefinger and thumb to protect your wrists.
- Then you can either choose to straighten your legs or to keep a soft bend in your knees.
- Then drop your heels down towards your yoga mat.
- Keep your ears in line with your biceps to prevent straining your neck.
- Hold this position for 5 to 10 breaths.
This particular exercise stretches your back, your core, your hips, your neck, and your chest. It is one of the most touted stretching exercise for beginners by yoga instructors and fitness trainers.
How to do it (5):
- Start on all your fours with your back flat. Make sure your hands are under your shoulders, and your knees are below your hips.
- While exhaling, round your back towards the ceiling, tucking your tailbone and bringing your chin to your chest.
- While inhaling, arch your back downwards, dropping your stomach and lifting your chest, chin and tailbone.
- Alternate between the two poses, flowing with the pace of your breath. Do 5 to 10 breaths.
The Bottom Line
Those are examples of stretching exercise for beginners. Just like any other type of exercise, you need to maintain the right form to prevent injuring yourself when performing flexibility exercises. Stretches are not supposed to be painful. If you feel pain, that’s your body telling you you’ve gone too far. If you have any medical condition, you should consult an expert before adding any various flexibility exercises to your workout program.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 8 Relaxing Total Body Stretches (2020, verywellfit.com)
- Flexibility Exercises for Beginners (2017, acefitness.org)
- Starting a Stretch Routine for Beginners (n.d., fitday.com)
- Stretching (2018, healthline.com)
- Stretching for Beginners: 15 of the Best Exercises (2020, openfit.com)
- The 21 Best Stretching Exercises for Better Flexibility (2018, self.com)
- The Beginner’s Guide to Mobility & Stretching (2019, menshealth.com)