Simple Stretching for Wellness (in 5-10 Minutes)!

Simple Stretching for Wellness (in 5-10 Minutes)!

Yes, it’s really that simple, timely, and effective!

Do you spend most of your day like this?

Especially if you spend most of your day sitting, I encourage you to dedicate some time to taking a break from sitting to stretch some muscles that have shortened and feel tight. Commonly tight muscles include the upper and lower back, hamstrings, front of the shoulders and chest, hip flexors, and calves.

How do you know which muscles to stretch and what to do? I have you covered!

(Please note: While these stretches are appropriate for the general population, it is advised to consult with your physician with any concerns before beginning any type of exercise program and listen to your own body to avoid pain and/or injury. If you experience any pain, stop immediately.)

The stretches illustrated and described below that are on one side of the body should be repeated on the other side of the body to promote proper muscle balance.

An appropriate stance for proper form and alignment for the stretches below (unless otherwise indicated) is standing with the feet about shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, neutral neck and spine, gazing forward.

It is generally advised to hold each static (still, non-moving) stretch for 3-5 slow breaths, or 15-30 seconds.

It is also generally advised to stretch to the end of range of motion without inducing pain. Visualize range of motion gently increasing and the muscles letting go a bit more with each breath.

Neck

With shoulders down and away from the ears, arms at the sides of the body, gently move one ear towards one shoulder (same side). Feel the stretch in the side of the neck (opposite) and upper back (trapezius).
With shoulders down and away from the ears, arms at the sides of the body, gently tilt head forward (looking down towards the ground). Feel the stretch in the back of the neck and upper back (trapezius).

Shoulders

Dynamic (moving) shoulders — Roll the shoulders up towards the ears as you inhale
Dynamic shoulders — Press the shoulders down and away from the ears as you exhale

Wrists & Hands

With one arm reaching out in front of the body, mostly straight, palm facing away from you and fingertips down towards the floor, press down on the fingertips with the opposite hand. Feel the stretch in the wrist flexor muscles.
Wrist flexor stretch (side angle)
With one arm reaching out in front of the body, mostly straight, palm facing towards you and fingertips down towards the floor, press down on the fingertips with the opposite hand. Feel the stretch in the wrist extensor muscles.
Wrist extensor stretch (side angle)
Dynamic wrist circles — Circle fingertips towards each other and away from each other a few times
Dynamic wrist circles — Another way to think of this is facing the palms towards you as your fingertips face one another, then facing the palms away from you as you bring the fingertips apart from one another

*Not pictured*
Thumb circles (clockwise and counter clockwise)

Upper Back &
Back of Shoulders

Round the back, pulling the shoulder blades apart, and extend the arms out in front of you, interlocking the fingers, palms facing towards you, dropping the chin towards the chest
Upper back stretch (side angle) — Feel the stretch in the muscles between the shoulder blades and in the back of the shoulders (mid-trapezius, rhomboids, posterior deltoids)

Chest & Front of Shoulders

Bring the fingertips to gently touch the back of the head and gently draw the elbows back, shoulders down away from the ears

Core

With hand on one thigh for support, raise the other arm overhead and lean towards the opposite side of the body

Quadriceps (Quads)/Front of Thighs

Reach behind you to grab your foot with the same side hand and gently pull the foot towards the glute (booty cheek), keeping knees in alignment. This will be a bit of a balance challenge without touching a wall, chair, or something sturdy for stability (which is always an option).
Quad stretch (side angle) — It sometimes helps me to balance by picking out a spot on the ground to stare at. Option: Pull the foot slightly away from the glute to feel a bit more intense of a stretch in the hip flexor (located at front of the hip).

Hamstrings/Back of Thighs

Same arm, same leg — Hinging at the hips, with a flat back and heel into the ground, reach for (or touch) your toes (feel free to grab onto something sturdy/stable with the opposite hand, or place the opposite hand on your hip or thigh for support)

Hips

Dynamic stretch for the hips —  Lift leg to waist height in front of the body while bending at the knee.
Dynamic hips — Open leg up to the side, then place foot on the ground and switch legs/sides of the body. Alternate movements (once on the left, once on the right).
Static stretch for hips — Lift and place outside of ankle on opposite thigh (above the knee), enabling the hip to turn out (externally rotate) and flex. Feel the stretch in the glute. This is another balance challenge; grab onto something sturdy/stable as needed.
Static stretch for hips (side angle)

Calves (Back of Lower Legs)

Step back with one leg and press the heel into the ground. With the back leg mostly straight and the front leg bent slightly at the knee, lean forward slightly and feel the lengthening of the back calf muscle.

If you would prefer to follow a guided stretching routine, check out my video below! It includes most of the stretches illustrated and described above. 🙂

To add to my descriptions and illustrations above, I came across this Web MD resource of hand and finger exercises to share. Specifically, I recommend considering #1-#3, #6, and #8-#10, particularly for those who work with their hands a lot (e.g. crocheters and knitters, those typing on a computer).

Additionally, for those who want to focus more on opening up their tight hips, check out this resource from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list/library, as there are so many effective stretches out there to choose from that address all sorts of muscle groups of the body. But I hope this gives you some ideas and education surrounding how to stretch properly and is at least a starting point for you in your journey of considering and implementing your own stretching routine, based on your individual interests, needs, and goals.

Cross-training and implementing healthy habits for a balanced, active lifestyle are so important. Check out my Strengthening Exercises for Weak Muscles from Prolonged Sitting blog post to nicely compliment the content in this blog post.

Finally, if you want to work with me personally to help you reach your health, fitness, and wellness goals, I offer online personal training services as well as virtual bootcamp program sessions individually and in small groups. (My next Tabata Bootcamp™ Virtual Bootcamp program session starts in January 2019 and registration is open now!)

Feel free to reach out to me anytime with questions or comments at workinitwithelena@gmail.com.

Cheers!
Elena 🙂

My sources: I’ve relied upon my education and experience within the fitness industry to put together this blog post. I hold certifications through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the Athletics & Fitness Association of America (AFAA), which are both accredited by the National Commission of Certified Agencies (NCCA). You can learn more about me as a fitness professional here!

I created this blog post as an additional resource that relates to my conversation with Brittany of the BHooked podcast, as she invited me on her show as a featured guest for her 90th episode to talk about Setting Up an Ergonomic and Healthy Lifestyle. I recommend listening to that podcast episode for even more information on workstation ergonomics, stretching and strengthening targeted muscles, and healthy living!

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