Personal Trainers Tips for Stretching

Flexibility is an important part of your fitness program, but unfortunately is also a very overlooked part by most people.  When we talk about flexibility, we are referring to the degree which a joint moves throughout a normal, pain-free range of motion. 

Your stretching program should include:

  1. Stretches that involve the major muscles and tendons of the body
  2.  Proper breathing techniques.  Try to exhale slowly as you move toward the end point of the stretch and inhale as you return to the start. 
  3. Time.  According to the American College of Sports Medicine, most stretches should be held for  10-30 seconds unless otherwise instructed.

When you think of stretching, you probably think only of the most common type:static stretching.  Truth be told, there are several types of stretching that should be included in a well designed stretching program.

Static Stretching.  This is the most common form of stretching you will see when you walk around the gym.  This involves slow movements into position and hold for a few seconds at the peak of contraction.  This type of stretching can be performed by yourself or assisted by a professional and should be performed after your workout.

Dynamic Stretching.  This type of stretching involves movement with muscle tension development and is best performed before your workout.  Some athletes treat this type of stretching as part of their warmup.  A great example of this is a swimmer just before a race who swings their arms in a controlled pattern to keep them loose but also to increase their range of motion. 

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation.  This type of stretching involves both static and active stretching techniques to improve joint range of motion.  It is typically performed after your workout.  This stretching method should only be performed by an experienced professional to prevent injury.

Self Myofascial Release.   Fascia is a soft tissue component of the connective tissue that provides support and protection.  It can become restricted for a variety of reasons, but more commonly because of overuse.  A great way to provide relief and keep the fascia from becoming restricted is to foam roll before and/or after your workouts.  Below are some of the more common foam rolling exercises for you to try.

For these exercises you will need a foam roll which can be purchased from your local fitness supply store.

Adductor Self Myofascial Release
1. Extend the thigh and place foam roll in the groin region with body prone (face down) on the floor.
2. Be cautious when rolling near the adductor complex origins at the pelvis.
3. If a tender point is located, stop rolling, and rest on the tender point until pain decreases by 75%.

Hamstring Self Myofascial Release
1. Place hamstrings on the roll with hips unsupported.
2. Feet can be crossed so that only leg at a time is one the foam roll.
3. Roll from knee toward posterior hip.
4. If a tender point is located, stop rolling, and rest on the tender point until pain decreases by 75%.

Quadriceps Self Myofascial Release
1. Body is positioned prone (face down) with quadriceps on foam roll
2. It is very important to maintain proper core control (abdominal drawn-in position & tight gluteus) to prevent low back compensations
3. Roll from pelvic bone to knee, emphasizing the lateral (outside) thigh
4. If a tender point is located, stop rolling, and rest on the tender point until pain decreases by 75%.

Iliotibial Band Self Myofascial Release
1. Position yourself on your side lying on foam roll.
2. Bottom leg is raised slightly off floor.
3. Maintain head in neutral position with ears aligned with shoulders.
4. This may be PAINFUL for many, and should be done in moderation.
5. Roll just below hip-joint down the outside thigh to the knee.
6. If a tender point is located, stop rolling, and rest on the tender point until pain decreases by 75%.

Upper Back Self Myofascial Release
1. Place hands behind head or wrap arms around chest to clear the shoulder blades across the thoracic wall.
2. Raise hips until unsupported.
4. Stabilize the head in a neutral position.
5. Roll mid-back area on the foam roll.
6. If a tender point is located, stop rolling, and rest on the tender point until pain decreases by 75%.

Flexibility is something you need to consistently work at, but over time you will get more flexible.  Try some of the above methods in your next workout.

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About Lisa

Lisa is a Certified Personal Trainer who is passionate about fitness and living an active lifestyle. She has a strong background in nutrition, having been a Chef for almost 15 years and applies this knowledge to helping her clients achieve their goals.
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