Stretching has become a controversial topic, and some research questions its efficacy. You may have wondered whether you should include stretches in your cooldowns. As a general rule of thumb, if it's weak, strengthen it; if it's sore, rub it; if it's locked, unlock it; and if it's tight, stretch it. This works in theory, but we don't know exactly what's going on with our participants' bodies. What we do know is that most people want to move more freely and with less pain.
For the purposes of this article, we will presume that most people need better mobility around the shoulder girdle, torso, pelvis and hips. These dynamic and static mobility and stretching techniques work for everyone.
Here are some tips:
- Maintain normal breathing patterns. This helps to reassure the brain, allowing the body to relax.
- Encourage attendees to perform each mobility technique slowly and smoothly 12× each side, 2 sets.
- Perform each static-stretching technique slowly, without bouncing. Hold for 30 seconds or more.
- Note that static stretching is preferred in the cool-down, but not the warm-up.
Static Stretch: Neck
- Sitting with good posture, grab bench or bike, or place hand on floor. This allows shoulder to drop and offers "traction" for upper-neck muscles.
- Lean head to side and gently place opposite hand on side of head to intensify stretch.
- Draw chin down on a diagonal, and place hand on back of head.
- Rotate head upward and look toward ceiling. Repeat on other side.
Static Stretch: Chest and Back
- Find a corner in the studio, and place forearms against wall, keeping elbows below shoulders.
- Gently lunge forward to feel chest stretch.
- Extend arms up wall (from lunge) until stretch is felt in upper back.
- Not enough space? From all fours, place hands on bench and lean back.
- Lie on back, knees bent, feet shoulder-width apart.
- Extend and lock out arms at elbow.
- Maintain position and slowly move arms side to side while keeping hips stationary.
Mobility: Hips (not pictured)
- Lie on back, arms outstretched, knees bent. Stack knee and ankle joints (imagine you've got zip ties around both knees and ankles).
- Move "zip-tied" legs from side to side.
- Keep shoulders in contact with floor to gain optimal mobility.
Mobility: Wall Glides (not pictured)
- Stand with side toward wall, about 12 inches away.
- Lean against wall; keep upper arm in contact.
- Maintain this connection while allowing hips to gently glide toward wall in side-to-side motion.
- Return to start; repeat on opposite side.
Static Stretch: Hip Flexors
- Kneel on floor, bench or mat.
- Bring one leg forward and bend knee to 90 degrees. Extend opposite leg at hip.
- Keep body upright, and support body weight by placing hands on bent knee.
- Slowly lunge forward until optimal stretch is felt.
Static Stretch: Adductors
- Sit on floor or bench and extend legs into "V" sitting position.
- Have legs far enough apart to feel mild to moderate stretch.
- To increase intensity, lean forward toward one leg.
- Repeat through middle and on other side.