Stretching is an important part of keeping our muscles long and healthy. After exercise it helps us relax, cool down, increases our mobility, and helps slow the heart rate.
Regular stretching can also be used as part of a programme of regular care to help maintain flexibility, range of movement, good posture, and relaxation.
Here are a few ways of stretching some of the main muscle groups.
These exercises shouldn’t cause pain, if you experience a problem, stop the exercise and consult your Osteopath or other medical practitioner. If you have an existing complaint, it would be wise to consult your practitioner to check these exercises are appropriate for you.
Hamstrings and Calf Muscles
Use a length of elastic exercise band, or a scarf. Hook the mid-section of band/scarf around the base of the toes. Holding the two ends of the band/scarf close to your body. Support your leg to feel a stretch up the back of the leg. Flex the toes towards the body to increase the calf muscle stretch if necessary. Hold for a slow count of 20 to 30. Repeat on the other side.
Stand next to a wall or piece of furniture if you need help to balance with this one. From a standing position, bring your foot and heel up towards your bottom to feel a stretch at the front of the thigh. As much as is possible for you, keep your pelvis level and hips facing forwards. Hold for a slow count of 20 to 30, then repeat on the other side.
Ilio-Tibial Band (Outside Muscle of the Thigh)
The same start position is needed for this stretch, as in the hamstring/calf muscle stretch above. With the leg raised, bring your leg inwards towards the opposite leg, and rotate the leg inwards from the hip (in a clockwise movement). You should feel a stretch along the outer part of the thigh. Hold for a slow count of 20 to 30, and repeat on the other side.
A really simple pectoral muscle stretch. Raise your arms up to the sides and rest at shoulder height, palms facing forward. Extend the arms backwards to feel a stretch at the front of he shoulders.
This is another pectoral muscle stretch, its a little stronger. You can use the side of a barn (as in the picture!) Or a doorframe is a good place to do this one. Stand level with the doorframe, raise the arm up onto the doorframe so your palm and forearm rest flat against it, and your elbow is a t shoulder height. With the leg of the side you’re stretching (that’s the side on the doorframe). Step forward, make sure you keep your forearm planted on the doorframe to feel a stretch across the front of the shoulder. Try to keep both shoulders facing forward when you stretch.Hold for a slow count of 20 to 30, then repeat on the other side.
Bring your arm across the front of your body, with the other arm place pressure above your elbow joint to encourage stretch in the shoulder blade area. Try and keep both shoulders facing forward as much as possible. Hold for a slow count of 20 to 30, and repeat on the other side.
Extend your arm out ahead of you, palm facing up and elbow straight. Apply a gentle downwards pressure to the fingers to feel a stretch at the front of the arm and forearm. Hold for a slow count of 20 to 30, and repeat on the other side.
Raise your arm up, bend at the elbow, and allow your hand to slide down your upper back. Apply gentle pressure above the elbow to encourage stretch along the back of the upper arm. Hold for a slow count of 20 to 30, and repeat on the other side.
Hip Flexor Stretch
If this is aggravating to your knees, avoid it, or try it kneeling on a cushion. From a kneeling position, lunge forward with one leg. Rest at a point where you can feel a stretch across the front of the back hip. Make sure your knee doesn’t travel ahead of your foot, so extend the lunge if necessary. Hold for a slow count of 20 to 30, and repeat on the other side.
On all fours, try and position your knees below your hips, and hands below shoulders. This exercise stretches and opens the joints in our spine. Start the exercise in a neutral position, that is lower back not to arched and neither too rounded. Start with the neck level and your gaze to the floor.
Tilt the pelvis, and allow the movement to travel up the spine sequentially. So rounding the lower then upper back. Finally allowing the neck to gently flex forward. So your position is a little like an “angry cat”.
To return, start from the pelvis, gradually bringing your pelvis, lower back, upper back and neck into your neutral start position. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
Start this exercise laying on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Allow one ankle to cross over and rest on the front of the opposite thigh. Reaching forward, with both hands grasp hold of the back of the thigh (the one that remained in it’s original bent start position.) You should feel a stretch in the buttock area of the crossed leg. Hold for a slow count of 20 to 30, and then repeat on the other side.