Being flexible is vital for athletes in sports as well as anyone else who focuses on fitness. If your body is tight then you can’t perform at optimal levels and leave yourself vulnerable to injury. If you compete in an iron discipline like powerlifting, bodybuilding, or strongman, then you need to stretch so the fascia, which is the skin around muscle fibers, can open up and allow you to send more blood to the muscle. There’s no getting around it. You need to be stretching on a regular basis.
This concept should be familiar to anyone that had a basic PE class. Most coaches took their students through a very basic set of stretches before they began whatever activity was on the agenda for that day. These five stretches are basic but if you haven’t focused on flexibility and agility then it will be a good start for now. Do these same five stretches every day after a brief walk or warm up period. Make sure you never try to stretch a muscle before warming up. It won’t be as effective and can lead to injury. Perform each stretch twice for 20-30 seconds with 10 seconds in between each. You can also do this routine after training as a cool-down method if you like.
Calf Stretch – Place your feet on a step with your heels hanging off of it. Make sure you can maintain balance or support yourself by holding rails. Lower your heels as far as you can without coming off the step. Hold on to a rail or banister for balance. You should feel a stretch in your heels, calves, and up to your knees.
Touch the Toes – This is a simple one but it isn’t done as much as it should be. Keep your legs straight. Reach down to your toes or as far as you can. You should feel a stretch in the back of the legs up to the glutes. Maintain this stretch and continue to breathe while doing so.
Quad Stretch – Stand at a doorway and hold on to one side of it with your right hand. Pick up your left foot behind you like you’re attempting to kick yourself. Grab your left foot with your left hand. Pull and hold your foot until you feel a stretch in the front of your thighs. If you can’t reach your foot in this manner, place it on a bench or seat behind you and slowly squat down with the other leg until you feel that stretch. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Chest and Biceps Stretch – Stand in a doorway or rack and hold onto the back of it with your hands and arms straight. Push your chest forward until you feel a stretch in the chest and shoulder area. If you make a fist with your hands and hold them in the doorway you’ll feel a stretch in the biceps as well. Don’t try to stretch too hard or too far. You should just feel a mild discomfort, not pain.
Back and Arms Stretch – Grab a pullup bar with both hands. Allow your weight to hang from it. Let your shoulders come forward for an extra stretch in the shoulder area. If you don’t feel comfortable from a pullup area, sit in a pulldown station and grab the handle with resistance on it that will allow you to feel this same stretch. Make sure you do this with both an overhand and underhand grip.
Once you get more comfortable with these, start looking for more advanced stretches you can do so you can maintain and even improve the health and function of your muscles.