As you may have read the first part of Stretching exercises, I am now going to go ahead with Stretching exercises– 2, which primarily targets mid and lower body. We use our entire mid and lower body to bend, twist, reach up, run, walk, jog, squat, and lunge in our day to day activities. It is so important to keep all the muscles in prime condition in order to keep injuries at bay.
Basically our mid-body, that is back, waist and abdomen, does so much work without us knowing about it. It supports literally anything we do; sit, stand, get up from a couch, sit all the way on the ground, picking up something from ground level, playing sports, etc. If you have a well-stretched and flexible mid-riff, it makes all the jobs easier. So let’s start with back stretch. I love to do a yoga pose for stretching my back muscles. For this, sit all the way down on your knees, keeping both knees together as much as possible. Your butt should be touching your heels, if possible extend your feet, so that your toe-nails touch the ground surface. If you cannot sit on your knees, fold your legs and sit in a normal position. If you cannot sit and fold your legs, then simply stand with your legs shoulder-length apart. Now slowly bring your arms up and straighten your elbows as much as possible, do not lock elbows though. Your palms should be facing each other and should be shoulder-length apart. This should be the starting point. Now bend down from your back and try to touch the floor. If you cannot reach all the way, don’t worry; just go as deep as possible. Feel the stretch, especially at the round of the back and hold it for a count of 10. Then come back to the starting point. That would be one repetition. Do it for about 5-10 times till you feel your back muscles relaxing.
Next we do the stretch of the waist muscles. Stand straight with legs little farther than shoulder-length. Slowly bring your arms up and straighten your elbows as much as possible, do not lock elbows though. Your palms should be facing each other and should be shoulder-length apart. This should be the starting point. Now slowly and gradually bend on either side, feeling the stretch of the waist muscles. Stop when you cannot bend anymore, or risk that your upper body will come forward than your lower body. Ideally arms should be straight and the bend should be close to 2.30 if seen on a clock. Slowly come back up to starting position and do the same on other side. That would be one repetition. Do it for about 5-10 times, depending on your fitness level.
Since stretching of the abdomen muscles require rounding of the back, which can put undue stress on the lower back, I do simple plank exercise to tone my abdomen. I will cover that in detail when I mention Strength-training for core.
This was quite a surprising discovery to me, that Gluteal muscles or glutes, yes the ones that lay in our “ass” plays such an important role if used properly. Try this to prove yourself. Pick a heavy object like “8-10 lb Flour bag” or “a bag of fruits” from the ground. You’ll most probably experience that your back muscles will be sore and the small rounding of your back will hurt for sometime. Now try this- lift the same object, using your glutes muscles. Squeeze your ass and now make your upper body come up, without using your back muscles…..and “Voila!”….your back muscles will hardly feel sore anymore….and you will wonder why didn’t I use them before???? Do the same while lifting a baby from the ground, and even advise a new mother to do the same, she will probably thank you for this particular exercise and will never try to lift while using back as her primary muscles. Ok Ok, if you still don’t believe me, try this- walk normally….and then walk using your glute muscles, to do this, simply imagine someone is pushing your ass….automatically your back will straighten and you will find walking so much easier; you’ll hardly strain your back this way!
Ok, so now back to lower body muscles, the best way to stretch the hamstrings (back of upper legs), calves ( back of lower legs) and glutes is to sit down, straighten your legs and spread them wide till you are comfortable. Bend any one knee and bring that leg’s foot to touch the other leg’s thigh. Now straighten your back and bring your arms up and straighten your elbows as much as possible, do not lock elbows though. Your palms should be facing each other and should be shoulder-length apart. This should be the starting point. Slowly bend over the extended leg and feel the stretch in hamstrings. When it starts hurting; stop. If you can go all the way down, please do so, but gradually. Straighten your foot and stretch your calf muscle till your foot bends slightly inwards. You should feel the stretch all the way from glutes’, to hamstrings and to calves. Hold for a count of 5 to 10 and then slowly come back up to starting position. After finishing 5-10 repetitions, do the same on the other side.
Finally for the quads or quadriceps (front of upper legs), stand in front of a wall with legs straight (do not lock your knees). Support yourself with right hand on the wall, and bend your right knee. Grab your right foot with your left hand and bring it as close to the glutes as possible. Feel the stretch in your right quads. Hold for a count of 5 and bring the leg back down. Now support your body with your left hand on the wall and bend your left knee. Grab your left foot with your right hand and bring it as close to the glutes as possible. Feel the stretch in your left quads. Hold for a count of 5 and bring the leg back down. This is one repetition. Do it for about 5-10 times, depending on your fitness level.
Yay!!!! You are done with stretching!!!!! Do this regularly and never pull a muscle again! At least not from your daily chores!!!!
Please exercise caution when you do all stretching movements. Do not over-do any bend or pull. And always do stretching on warm muscles, that is after a good warm-up and exercise routine. Not only it will help you cool down, but Stretching will relax your muscles and make you feel so damn good.
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