A study conducted at the University of British Columbia found that stretching makes men less prone to injuries than women. It's an essential way to loosen up the muscles before and after a workout. Whether you're running, cycling or power-lifting, you can bet that stretching will maximize your performance. There are static stretches which are great for everyday routines, dynamic stretches which charge up your body before a workout and active stretching which incorporates resistance bands to lengthen and strengthen your muscles.
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Quadriceps and Hamstrings
The quadriceps and the hamstring muscles in your thigh are two major muscle groups that you can stretch daily. To stretch the hamstrings, on the back of the thigh, simply sit on the floor with your legs straight and spread apart. Lean your upper body down toward your leg, reaching your arms toward your toes. Hold the stretch for roughly 20 seconds and alternate sides. To work the quadriceps on the outer thigh, transition to lying on one side and brace your weight with an extended arm. Pull the top leg backwards, behind your body and hold this position. Roll over to the opposite side, and pull back on the foot. The deeper you pull the foot behind your body, the more intense the stretch on your thigh.
ITB Stretch for Runners
The iliotibial band is the long ligament that travels from the hip to the knee along the outside of the thigh. Often called the ITB, or IT band, this ligament is crucial for the performance of runners and sports athletes. You can perform the ITB hip stretch from a seated position. Bend both legs at the knee and cross one leg over the other. Wrap your opposite arm around the crossing leg and pull it close to your chest. You can deepen the stretch on your hip by rolling onto your back and pulling the extended leg toward your chest also.
Stretches for the Back and Hips
The muscles of the hip and lower back are essential for day-to-day core movements. Performing a dynamic stretch, or warm-up, can help increase circulation and help prevent injuries associated with the lower back. Alternating toe touches stretch the lower back and prepare you for more rigorous exercises. Stand with your legs spread slightly wider than shoulder width. Hold your arms straight out to your sides at 180 degrees. Now, bend at the waist and touch your right hand to your left foot. Straighten the back and alternate with the left hand touching the right foot.
Arms and Shoulders
To bring more flexibility to your arms and shoulders, try some dynamic arm rotations. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and place your arms out to your sides at 180 degrees. Now, swing the arms in a forward circular motion. After about 30 seconds, change the rotation and swing the arms backwards. Also, swing the arms in front of the body, alternating from the left to the right side. Keep your arms fully extended at the elbow and allow your arms to swing naturally. This action loosens up the rotator cuff, which is the collection of tendon and bone where the upper arm meets the shoulder.