By David A. Abrutyn, MD and Diana Stavrou, ATC
It is well documented that performing mobility and flexibility movements can prevent injury, relieve pain and lower stress. With most of us spending more time at home these days, this is the perfect time to develop this beneficial habit. These exercises are important every day, not just prior to or after sports or exercise. These movements shouldn’t take more than 10 to 15 minutes of your time. Some may be familiar to you and some may be brand new. Regardless, refer to the written descriptions and demonstration video to be sure you are performing them correctly.
Afraid you will forget to do them? Set a daily reminder on your phone. Have this article printed or bookmark the video.
Don’t forget to breathe. Try to exhale when pulling or moving into the deepest part of the stretch. Try to breathe regularly while holding the stretch.
Stretch both sides, even if one side seems more restricted.
Hold the stretch for the prescribed amount of time. This may seem like a lot, but this will help you get the maximum benefit from the stretch.
Bonus: to get the most from the least amount of time, add the following cues while performing these stretches, where applicable.
- Engage your core. Squeeze your abdominal and glute muscles.
- Focus on your posture. Stand up straight. Keep your head up, chest out and shoulders back.
1. Lateral Trunk Stretch: stretches the upper and lower back.
Step forward with the left leg. Next, raise your right arm over your head and while exhaling, bend to the left side until you feel a stretch on the right side. Repeat for the other side. Hold stretch for 10 seconds and repeat five times for each side. Breathe normally as you hold the stretch.
2. Scapular Wall Slides: stretches the chest, activates and strengthens the neck, upper back, posterior shoulder and scapular muscles.
Position yourself against the wall with your bottom, shoulders, and head against the wall. Position your arms in the field goal position. Try to keep the back of your hands and elbows against the wall. Keeping all of the above points in contact with the wall, squeeze your shoulder blades back and move your arms into a Y position then slowly back to the field goal position. Repeat 10 times.
3. Cat/Camel Stretch: stretches the upper and lower back.
Start on the floor on all fours (quadruped position). Next, alternate arching your back up like a cat and sinking it down like a camel. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times for each position. Exhale as you move into each position and then breathe normally.
4. Downward Facing Dog: stretches the spine, hips, back of the leg and calf and strengthens shoulders, core and thigh muscles.
Start in quadruped position on all fours. Then, while exhaling, lift your knees off the floor. Start with your knees bent, and then attempt to straighten out your knees and lower your heels to the ground if able. Keep your elbows straight and hold your head in between and in line with your elbows. Breathe normally as you hold the stretch. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat three times.
5. Happy Baby Pose: stretches the lower back and inner hip/thigh muscles.
Lie on your back. As you exhale, bring one leg towards you with knee bent at 90 degrees and hold the inner foot. Repeat the same motion with the other leg. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat three times. Breathe normally as you hold the stretch.
6. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch: stretches the front of the hip and thigh.
While kneeling down on your right knee, lean forward with your left foot in front and while exhaling, bend your left knee until a stretch is felt along the front hip area of the right side. To feel a deeper stretch, try to squeeze your glute muscles. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat three times on each side. Breathe normally as you hold the stretch.
7. Piriformis Stretch: stretches the outside of the hip and the glute muscles.
While lying on your back with both knees bent, cross your right leg over the left with your foot resting on the left knee. Next, put your hands around your left leg and while exhaling, pull it towards your chest until a stretch is felt in the buttock on your right side. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat three times on each side. Breathe normally as you hold the stretch.
8. Hamstring Stretch: stretches the back of the thigh.
While lying on your back with your left leg down and knee straight, hook a towel or strap under your right foot and while exhaling, draw up your leg with your knee straight until a stretch is felt along the back side of the knee and thigh. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat three times on each side. Breathe normally as you hold the stretch. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat three times on each side.
Exercising and stretching are great ways to combat aches, pains and stress. However, be sure to consult your doctor or physical therapist if you are experiencing pain or discomfort that has lasted longer than two weeks.
NOTE: The information above is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as the sole course of action to be taken to prevent injury, relieving pain or lowering stress. If at any point during this exercise program you feel faint or experience pain, stop immediately. Always consult with your physician before beginning any new exercise program for a proper physical and orthopedic examination.