When it comes to stretching, there’s a wide world filled with all kinds of different moves: yoga, pilates, dance classes — and each one seems to have its own system.
But what are the best everyday stretches for anyone looking to avoid sore muscles, get more flexible, and protect themselves from injuries? We turned to Marilyn Moffatt, a professor of physical therapy at New York University and author of “Age Defying Fitness” to go over some of the best basic stretches for everyone.
Note: If you have existing muscle problems or if any of these stretches is uncomfortable, don’t do it. Instead, consult a physical therapist.
To start off, it's important to be conscious of what you're doing with your neck. Having good posture will help you do these stretches correctly, so bring your chin back and down and make sure your neck isn't jutting out. And for the first set of stretches, take a seat.
First up is neck rotations. Slowly, move your head to the right. Moffat recommends holding any pose for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on the left.
The next one gets a little more complicated. Looking straight ahead, tilt your neck to the right and drape your arm so that it rests near your left ear. Your left hand will extend down toward the floor, either grabbing onto the chair or just pulling down. Repeat on the other side.
Next is the back-scratch stretch. The important thing here, Moffat said, is to make sure you don't hunch over. Try reaching hands toward each other, but don't fret if they don't touch. Repeat on the other side.
Now's your chance to bend over. Keeping your neck safe, bend over in your chair, making sure you're not straining anything. Again, hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds.
Then, if your back will allow it, try hyper-extending backwards. The little back bend is just enough to stretch out your spine without going too far.
Still seated, it's time to move into your 'trunk rotation.' Good posture here is still important, as is making sure your arms are crossed, looking far over each shoulder for at least 30 seconds.
Next: the trunk lateral flexion. Bending on one side, reach your hand up and over, like it's reaching for that space where the wall meets the ceiling. Repeat on the other side.
Hip flexors need stretches too. For this one, the best way is to lay on your back. Keep the other leg straight, then after 30 seconds swap legs.
My personal favourite, piriformis stretches are done laying on your back. Neck and down is the most important part, as well as making sure the ankle is in the middle of the thigh. If the stretch is too intense, bring the uncrossed leg out farther. Repeat with the other leg.
A classic, the quad stretch is great if done right. Make sure your knee is extending down to the floor, not out and about. Hold on to a wall if you're feeling wobbly. Repeat with the other leg.
You'll need to lie down for this one. Using a strap, ideally, reach one foot up to 90 degrees into the air. The other foot should be planted on the floor, knee bent at 45 degrees. Switch legs out, and repeat on other side.
And last but not least, find a wall to do a solid heel chord stretch. This requires both feet firmly on the floor with the front knee moving into a bend and big toe against the wall. Repeat.
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