Ask a Coach: How Do I Get Started with Stretching?

Hi 8fit,

I’ve been feeling tight after my workouts lately. My friend Sadie can touch her nose to her knees, but I can barely touch my ankles with my fingertips. What gives? Will stretching help me loosen up? Do you have any tips to help me get started?

Sincerely,

Let’s Get Flexy


Hi Let’s Get Flexy,

Great question — and one that often gets overlooked!

Stretching is important for preventing injuries and maintaining flexibility. During exercise, your muscles constantly contract, causing them to tighten up and shorten over time. Tight muscles don’t contract properly, leading to incorrect form and bad posture during exercise. This poor form can eventually result in injury. Stretching helps muscles return to their original length and increases the body’s range of motion. Stretching also helps muscles recover and grow after a tough workout.

How to stretch properly

When you stretch, don’t stretch to the point of pain. At the same time, recognize that there is a difference between pain and discomfort. Lean just hard enough into a stretch to feel a gentle pull in the muscles, not pain. Stretch with the intention of relieving tension and know that feeling a little discomfort is totally normal — it’s actually associated with positive adaptation in your body. Breathe deeply and slowly while stretching; inhale as you hold a stretch and exhale to go deeper into the stretch.

If you are tight on time after a workout, just stretch the muscle groups you worked during your workout. As you become more comfortable with stretching, aim to stretch multiple times per day, focussing on major muscle groups. This is especially important for those of us who sit a lot during the day. Make sure to stretch your neck, shoulders chest, hamstrings, hip flexors and hamstrings specifically to counteract all of that sitting.

Get started with stretching

You can get started with this great full-body stretch routine. For best results, hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds (the longer the better).

Tricep stretch

Sit or stand upright and reach one hand behind head. Grab elbow with opposite hand and gently pull the elbow. Breathe deeply and hold the stretch for desired time. Repeat on the other arm.

 

how to stretch tricep

Cross-body arm

Raise both shoulders up, then relax them back and down. Raise one arm up to shoulder height, thumbs facing down. Keeping shoulders back, extend raised arm across chest. Use the opposite hand to push the arm into the body, creating a stretch. Breathe deeply and hold the stretch for desired time.

 

how to stretch cross body arm

Downward dog

Begin on hands and knees with shoulders directly above wrists and hips directly above knees, spine neutral. Spread fingers wide, distribute weight evenly in knuckles and palms. Tuck toes under, lift knees off the floor and raise hips to the ceiling. Gently straighten legs, but don’t lock the knees.

Press away from the floor to lengthen spine into an inverted V shape. Align straight arms to ears and relax the head and neck. Hold the position for a desired amount of time, breathing deeply. To release, exhale and gently bend knees to return to hands and knees.

 

how to stretch downward dog

Cobra

Come onto the belly with legs stretched back, tops of feet on the floor. Place your hands on the floor under the shoulders with fingers spread wide. Draw the elbows back towards your body.  your legs back, tops of the feet on the floor.

Press the tops of the feet and thighs and the pubis firmly into the floor. Breathe in and lift the chest up off the floor, straightening the arms halfway. Hold the position for a desired amount of time, breathing deeply.

 

how to stretch cobra post

Deep lunge (runner’s lunge)

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart with hands by sides. Step forward with one leg, bending the front knee to 90°. Bring the hands to the ground on either side of the front foot and let the hips descend slightly to create a stretch. Breathe deeply and hold the stretch for desired time.

 

how to stretch lunge runners