While many people acknowledge the benefits of vigorous exercise, fewer may understand that stretching is just as important. Bob Anderson, author of “Stretching,” says stretching reduces the muscle tightness and tension that exercise creates. Done correctly, which means striving for muscle relaxation not overstretching to reach a flexibility goal, stretching benefits both the body and the mind. It keeps your muscles pliable and promotes mental and emotional relaxation.
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Benefits of Stretching
Stretching improves the flexibility and range of motion of your muscles. The consensus, after many years of debate, is that dynamic stretches -- which mimic the exercise to be performed, or could be a low intensity set or sets of the exercise itself -- are best before your workouts; while static stretching is best after workout or after warm-up. Using the elliptical on a regular basis for extended periods could lead to overuse injuries. Stretching can decrease your risk of injury by keeping your hip, leg, calf and buttock muscles pliable and loose instead of shortened and tense.
The hip flexor muscles at the top of the thigh and the ligaments surrounding the hip joint get a significant workout on the elliptical. Vivian Grisogono, author of “Sports Injuries,” recommends stretching those muscles by placing one leg behind you and one leg bent forward at the knee, keeping your knee in line with, not forward from, your foot. Raise your back leg from your toes and feel the stretch in your calves and up through your hips. Hold for 12 seconds.
Hip and Gluteus Stretches
The gluteus medius and gluteus minimus are located behind your hip and are involved in hip and thigh movement. Stretch these muscles after each session on the elliptical to avoid overuse injuries. For the first exercise, lie on your back and bend one knee up to your chest with your hands. Draw the leg across your body toward the opposite shoulder. Hold for 12 seconds and release. Next, lie on your back, lift one leg with your thigh perpendicular to the floor and knee bent. Bring your second leg across your raised thigh, clasping your hands either behind your raised thigh or on top of your raised leg to increase the stretch. Hold for 12 seconds.
Arm and Shoulder Stretches
Your arms and shoulders become involved when you use the arm pulls on the elliptical. Stretch these muscles and also your calf and thigh muscles with the downward-facing dog. Begin in a kneeling position and bend forward slowly, placing your palms flat on the floor. Raise your hips, repositioning your hands directly under your shoulders and your feet to allow your legs to extend fully. Pull in your stomach and keep your back straight as you push your hips backward and upward, keeping your head aligned between your arms, face down. Push your heels toward the floor and feel a stretch. Your body will be in an inverted “V” position. Hold for 12 seconds.