Ever wondered how a ballet dancer seems to look so long and lean? Or why your yoga instructor seems to flow from one pose to another with grace and ease? The answer could be as simple as stretching! There are two main types of stretches, static and dynamic.
Static is the type you probably think of when you think 'stretch' and involves a fixed movement, or a stretch that you hold. These types of stretches are usually done at the end of a workout. Dynamic stretches refer to ones where we move through a range of movement and are usually done at the start of a workout during the warm-up, as they help to increase blood supply to the muscles and joints to prepare them for work.
Here are five simple static stretches and five simple dynamic stretches to help you create long lean muscles.
1. Pigeon stretch (Glutes)
- Start in a high plank position on your hands and toes.
- Slide your right knee towards your right hand and push your right foot slightly toward your left hand.
- Slowly lower yourself towards the ground, keeping your left leg long.
- If you want a deeper stretch, push your right foot further out towards your left hand. Repeat on the other side.
2. Cobra stretch (Lower back, chest, stomach)
- Lying on the floor on your stomach, place your hands directly under your shoulders and lay the top of your feet on the ground.
- Brace your core and squeeze your glutes.
- Push your hands into the ground lifting your chest up and out, pulling your shoulders back and down.
- Relax and repeat.
3. Wall chest stretch (Chest)
- Stand facing a wall and raise your right arm up to shoulder height with your elbow bent at 90 degrees, so that you can rest your elbow and hand on the wall.
- Slowly rotate your torso away from the wall keeping your elbows and hand in contact with it.
- Stop when you feel a stretch, and hold for 30 seconds.
- Relax and repeat on the other side.
4. Straight arm lat stretch. (Back, shoulders, arms)
- Grab hold of a rail, bar or ledge, preferably about chest height.
- Make sure your palms are facing down and your thumbs are facing one another.
- Push your hips back, as you do your knees may bend slightly - this is totally fine.
- As your hips push further back, let your head go in between your arms, facing the ground and push your chest towards the floor.
- Be sure to maintain a neutral spine throughout.
- Hold for 30 seconds then repeat three times.
5. Lying hamstring stretch (Hamstrings, hips)
- - Lying on your back with legs straight, raise your right leg towards the ceiling, keeping your left leg flat on the ground.
- - Reach behind your right leg and taking hold of your hamstring/calf/ankle (depending on flexibility), gently pull your leg towards your chest until you feel a stretch.
- - Be sure to keep your back as flat as possible.
- - If you find it uncomfortable to grab your raised leg, try using a towel. Grab both ends in your hands and loop the middle around your foot/ankle and draw it in slowly keeping your back flat on the ground.
- - Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side three times.
1. Hand walks (Shoulders, core, hamstrings)
- Start by standing up straight with your feet at hip width apart.
- Slowly lower your hand towards the floor until you can get them flat on the floor. *If you are too inflexible to get your hands on the ground, bend your knees slightly until you can.
- Walk your hands away from your feet until you are parallel with the floor in a high plank position; hands under shoulders, core engaged, glutes tight.
- Walk your FEET forward slowly until they have caught up with your hands. *Hands and feet stay in contact with the ground at all times except when walking.
- Repeat six times.
2. Scorpion stretch (Lower back, hips)
- Lie on your stomach with your arms outstretched and your palms flat on the floor.
- Kick your right foot over towards your left arm, then return to start position.
- Kick your left foot over towards your right arm then return to start.
- Repeat this in a slow and controlled manner for 10 x each side.
3. Arm swings (Chest and shoulders)
- Stand up tall and swing your arms back and forth across your body keeping your arms at shoulder height throughout.
- Keep your core switched on.
- Repeat for 30-60 seconds.
4. Open the gate (Hips, hamstrings, groin)
- Walking forwards, lift your knee high then turn it outside towards your hip before lowering it down the ground.
- Keep your upper body relaxed during this movement, but your core tight.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Do both sides 10 times.
5. Lunge with rotatio (Glutes, hips)
- Step forward into a lunge position with your arms extended in front of your body being careful your knee does NOT extend past your toes.
- Rotate your arms and trunk towards the front leg, keeping your spine upright.
- Step back to start position and repeat on the other side.
- Repeat times each side.