We all know we should stretch every day…but do we know why? Stretching is essential for everybody! For those who are active, moderately active, or barely active at all.

What Does Stretching Really Do?

When you are working out, running, strength training, doing pilates, or playing sports, your muscles are working and contracting. This stress being put on your muscles causes them to break down, then rebuild (especially when strength training). This is what causes muscle soreness. When our muscles have this stress loaded on, they can become “knotted up” to put it simply.

I explain it to my clients as a bundle of rubber bands that have been cut and are straight, not in a circle. When you hold a bundle of these rubber bands together picture them aligned, moving, extending/contracting just like a muscle would. Now picture the rubber bands becoming shortened, tighter, and knotted in the middle after much use. In order to prevent this and keep the mobility of the muscle (rubber bands) we must keep them flexible and lengthened (stretched).

This can also happen to people who are immobile and do not use their muscles.

When Should I Stretch?

This is a common question I get and YES, it does matter when you stretch! Our muscles, just like the rubber band explanation above, are sensitive to hot and cold. Let’s say you put that bundle of rubber bands in the freezer and let them sit, then try to stretch them after taking them out. Not very elastic, huh? Now put those bands in the microwave and see what happens. Our muscles tighten up not only in the cold, but also after just waking up from not using them for 8 hours.

You never want to static stretch immediately when waking up or before working out. You will, however, want to perform dynamic stretches.

Dynamic VS. Static

Dynamic stretching: stretching a muscle group through movement. Mobility. This is a perfect way to warm up and get your body ready for a killer workout. Dymanic stretches could be:

1.  Plank should taps

2.  Hip circles

3.  Chaturangas

4.  T stretches

5.  Squats (without weight)

6.  Leg swings

7.  Shoulder rotations

8.  Cat/Cow

Static stretching: stretching a muscle group without moving. Holding. This has been shown through studies that it could damage your muscle prior to lifting or training. Static stretching should be performed AFTER a workout.

Benefits of stretching:

·     Improved mobility

·     Improved range of motion

·     Improved circulation

·     Muscle growth increases

·     Prevents injury

·     Can prevent longer term degenerations like arthritis and back pain

Here are my top 10 stretches to hit every muscle group and keep yourself feeling amazing.

1.  Seated Hamstring Stretch

2.  Half Pigeon Stretch

3.  Horizon Lunge Stretch

4.  Seated Spinal Stretch

5.  Cat Cow Stretch

6.  Frog’s Stretch

7.  T Stretch

8.  Hip Flexor Stretch

9.  Standing Calf Stretch

10. Standing Quad Stretch