Individual muscles are made from connecting fibers; when you stretch, the fibers stretch and elongate until they reach maximum flex, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At that point, surrounding connective tissues begin to stretch as well. During the stretch, any previously misaligned fibers can realign themselves. This realignment can help scarred muscle tissues return to health. Although stretching exercises can temporarily help lengthen your muscle, you won’t decrease overall muscle “bulk” from stretching. After the stretch, your muscle will return to its original length.
Stretching Leg Muscles
Stretch your quadriceps and hamstrings with lunges. Begin with your feet together and then step back with the left foot. Keep your right knee at a 90-degree angle directly over your right ankle. You’ll feel an intense stretch through the right quad and a gentle stretch through the left hamstrings. Hold for five seconds, and then switch legs. Get a deep hamstring stretch by sitting on the ground with both legs extended in a V shape. Turn your torso toward your right leg, sit up straight with your arms extended, and then slowly lower down toward your right knee. Switch to stretch the other side.
Stretching Your Back
Stretch your back by kneeling on all fours with your palms placed directly beneath your shoulders and your knees directly beneath your hips. Inhale, lifting your sternum and tailbone while allowing your abdomen to drop lower. This will stretch your low back. On an exhale, tuck your chin into your chest, tuck your tailbone and round through your back, arching toward the ceiling. You will feel a strong stretch through the middle and upper sections of your back. Move between both movements to fully stretch your back muscles, holding each position for three to five breaths.
Shoulders and Hips
Lengthen your shoulders and hips with a seated, rotated stretch. Sit straight on the floor with both legs extended. Then, draw the right knee up toward the ceiling and step your right foot over your left thigh, placing it to the outside of your left hip. Place your left hand behind your back, and then extend your right arm toward the ceiling, slowly twisting your torso to face toward the left. Bring your right arm down along the inside of your right thigh, using your right elbow to gently press against the inside of your right knee. You’ll feel a stretch along your right shoulder and hip. Hold for at least five breaths, and then turn to stretch the other side.
Stretching Your Arms
Get a deep, lengthening triceps stretch by extending your right arm overhead. Bend in the elbow, allowing your right palm to reach down the middle of your back. Bring your left arm behind you, bending in your elbow to reach for your right hand with your left hand. Stand tall and breathe evenly, holding for five counts. Switch arms. Stretch your pectoral muscles by standing in a doorway, pressing your right hand into the door frame. Step forward slightly and then hold. Switch to stretch the other side.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Physiology of Stretching
- MSN Healthy Living: Stretching Misconceptions
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Flexibility Exercises for Young Athletes
- Yoga Journal: Lower Back
- University of Pittsburgh: 5 Exercises to Stretch Your X
- New York Road Runners: Arm Stretches
- Morris Osteopathic Centre: Arms and Chest