Sunday, April 19, 2009

Daily Stretches For Health & Strength

I've always done a lot of stretching. I started at a young age with my father when he went to the gym and later when I took gymnastics lessons, and in Tae Kwon Do and competitive swimming. I am well aware that the current trend is PNF and "dynamic" stretching - those are great but, despite what some marketeers will tell you, slow static, relaxed stretching is NOT dead. Watch just about any individual gymnast or martial artist warm up and you will see PNF, ballistic, AND traditional stretching methods in the span of 10 or even 5 minutes - you'd be hard pressed to find more powerful athletes and somehow a steady dose of slow stretching hasn't destroyed their strength.

As with anything, stretching should be introduced progressively. "Intensity" and "volume" are difficult to gauge so it's best to be conservative until your body has had time to acclimate to increased range of motion. Although the following stretches can be done at varying speeds and amplitudes, I would suggest starting slow and static, gradually increasing frequency and duration before experimenting with ballistic and dynamic variations.

Pavel says that, stretching, you are trying to "find space" and it's a great way to phrase it. As you stretch, you are finding space within a, heretofore, restricted range of motion.

The following stretches are my "go to" stretches - they have been my "go to" stretches for years. Although I don't do all of them every day, I find time to do most whenever I am in front of a television, or waiting for my wife to finish shopping, or have a spare moment. Stretching does not have to be a full-blown 30 minute yoga session - it can be as short as an elevator ride or a longer than expected phone call.


Dislocates, or partial dislocates, can be done with a broomstick, dowel, rope, or towel. Taking too narrow a grip too quickly is asking for elbow strain.

*Lying Shoulder Girdle Stretches*

Two-armed and one-armed variations stress different angles and ranges of motion. Changing the hand position will shift stress of the shoulder girdle to target the scapulae and anterior shoulder girdle.

*Doorway Shoulder Stretch*

This stretch doesn't have to be done in a doorway - it can be done against a wall, in a power rack, or a goal post. The whole forearm should be solidly braced and the body turned to lightly stretch the shoulder and pectoral region.

*Lat/Tricep Stretch*

Elevating the scapula while performing the stretch will shift stress from the tricep to the lat, infraspinatus, and teres minor.

*Good Morning Stretch*

Avoid excessive lower back flexion. Slightly bending the knees (as in a good morning or romanian deadlift) will shift stress from the hamstring insertion at the knee to the hamstring muscle bellies and origins at the hip.

*Seated Hamstring Stretches*

As with the good morning stretch, care should be taken not to excessively flex the lumbar.

*IT Band & Glute Stretches*

I see people struggle with this one all the time - most of the time it becomes just another hamstring stretch rather than hitting the IT band as intended. The key with this stretch is to kick the hip out slightly in the direction of the rear positioned leg. Notice in the pics below my hips move to the left as the upper body moves to the right.


Gently leaning side to side while on all fours will hit the glutes. I don't remember how I "discovered" this one, but it is one of the simplest, yet most effective stretches I have found for the area.

*Quad & Hip Flexor Stretches*

This is another stretch I see performed incorrectly all the time. Done incorrectly, it places stress squarely on the knee joint. Initiated from the hip, it will stretch the hip flexor and quad muscles.


detox said...

So much easy accessible info out there, so I do appreciate your comment. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of great poses that stretch the shoulders. It’s one of the best benefits I get from yoga. I found Leeann Carey has an awesome free yoga video on shoulder stretches that I thought your readers might like: