A simple stretch benefits the body in complex ways.
Flexibility training is always a popular topic because most people recognize they need more of it. It’s one aspect of fitness that is often bumped down the priority list in favor of cardiovascular or strength training.
This week, I’ll present some ways to weave flexibility training into your routine without setting off any boredom alarms. Plus, I’ll introduce an exercise that’s perfect for sneaking a little extra stretch into your abdominal routine.
Let’s face it, stretching isn’t an activity that people are lining up to perform. It’s a topic that people know the least about, so the likelihood of performing it incorrectly/ ineffectively/painfully definitely increases. Plus, it’s another one of those fitness activities that takes time before results are realized.
Rather than fight an uphill battle and force yourself to perform a solid 10 minutes of static stretching (holding a stretch with no movement) before a workout, I like to recommend “active stretching.” Active stretching is a technique that requires stretching a muscle in between strength training sets for the same muscle group.
For example, an active stretch for the quadriceps might be incorporated between sets of leg extensions. The strength training activity will engage the target muscle and the active stretch will maintain flexibility in the same target muscle.
My rationale for recommending this technique is two-fold. First, you’re going to rest between sets anyway. Rather than sitting on the leg extension machine sifting through social media, why not keep your mind and body engaged with an activity that is beneficial — while facilitating rest at the same time? Second, these little stretch “snacks” can accumulate to provide one with a stash of flexibility minutes that is truly meaningful.
This week’s exercise is a perfect addition to one’s flexibility “snack pack” (see what I did there), as it is easily woven between shoulder exercises during a workout. The Shoulder Extension stretch is a unique way to incorporate an active stretch for the anterior deltoid.
1. Sit on an exercise mat with your knees up and together with your feet flat on the floor.
2. Your hands should be placed behind you to support your torso in a slightly reclined position.
3. From here, lift your seat off the floor about 2 inches and slowly move your hips toward your ankles while leaving your hands on the floor behind you.
4. As you move your hips closer to your ankles, your shoulders will begin to extend backward — creating a great stretch.
5. Move the hips forward until your shoulder stretch is slightly uncomfortable, hold for 10 seconds, then return to the starting position.
6. Repeat for five repetitions.
It’s important not to take this stretch too far, simply because extending the shoulder under resistance can place the joint in a compromising position. Just move to a position of slight discomfort (not pain), hold, then move back to the starting position. It’s a cool little stretch that makes shoulder training a little more fun.
Amanda Price does the Shoulder Extension Stretch, moving slowly and taking care not to ask her wrists and shoulders to do too much too soon.