A massive welcome back to Strength & Conditioning Coach for the University of East London, Leon Williams, who is here to share 7 essential stretching tips to help you make the most of your pre & post workout time to help prevent injuries.
Are you logging into your home workout plans, jumping straight into your new favourite trainers, HiiT routine and then passing out on the couch?
Adding these simple movements to the beginning and end of your sessions will help you get the most out of your workouts and will prepare your muscles for training in addition to preventing injuries.
As a general rule, add in movements and stretches that focus especially on the areas that you will work the most during training.
The first three movements are Dynamic Stretches and can be used as part of your Warmup. Dynamic stretches use simple movements such as squats and lunges to improve joint mobility and prepare the body for your workout. They are also a great way to develop your co-ordination and stability.
These movements should be performed for 6-10 Reps.
1. Squat to Crawl (6-8 Reps)
This is a great dynamic movement which targets many facets of exercise, such as: Hip mobility; Core activation and Shoulder strength/stability.
Many people struggle with their squat ability due to modern living habits. By combining squats with another a fundamental movement pattern - Crawling (literally everyone’s first way of getting from A to B), this exercise enables you to spend time in a
deep squat position, mobilising the hips through their full ranges of motion as you move between positions.
Holding a tall plank position for a couple seconds at the end of the movement will truly get your core and shoulders engaged.
2. Cat / Camels (8-10 Reps)
The range of motion for this movement is a lot smaller compared to the other two warm up movements, however it should be a staple of your warmup. The Cat/Camel stretch is pivotal as it both strengthens and stretches the back extensors and abdominal muscles that protect the spine.
The purpose of this movement is to help mobilise the lower back and increase trunk flexibility with minimal irritation to the neck area.
3. World’s Greatest Stretch (WGS) - 3 mins cycle
As suggested by it slightly exaggerated name, the WGS is a favourite for many Fitness professionals and can be found at the start of numerous Strength and Conditioning programs.
The combination of dynamic exercises ticks all the key points on our “check list” of areas which tend to get a little stiff from hours of sitting at a desk, WGS works by creating a body flow that mobilises the ankles, hips and thoracic spine.
WGS is also a great way to engage the central nervous system. Creating a connection between the brain and body is essential when working out as this ensures you make the most of your session.
With your muscles fired up correctly, you’ll find an improvement in movement coordination resulting in an increased range of motion whilst decreasing risk of injury.
After your workout is the perfect time to stretch again as your muscles are warmed up and supple. Your post-workout stretch allows you to both retain and increase flexibility. Keep in mind that one stretch session alone will not permanently increase your mobility. However, with time and consistency you’ll soon start to see and feel the benefits of a purposeful stretch session.
There are hundreds of stretches you can perform, so identify your tight areas and focus on those. The three stretches below are some of my personal favourites to include after every session or even by themselves if I have been sitting for a long period of time.
With each stretch I aim to hold them anywhere between 30-45 seconds each, alternating between limbs. I repeat this between three to four times each side.
4. Lying Glute Stretch
I begin by starting with one of the largest and most central muscle groups in the body - the glutes.
Having tight glutes can cause problems all over the body, but particularly the lower back. Keeping your glutes and hamstrings loose will also go some way to taking tension off your knees.
5. Kneeling Quad Stretch
This stretch works on the muscles located at the front of the body as it opens the Hip flexors which works on reversing the effects of sitting for most of the day.
When trying to progress this stretch you may find yourself shifting your hips forward, the key is to try and keep your pelvis neutral avoiding compression of the lower back (hold onto something sturdy if you need to).
6. Kneeling Chest Stretch
The kneeling chest stretch is a great way to open the upper front muscles of the body. Tight pectorals and shoulders often contribute to that slightly hunched posture, which can develop over time in individuals who work from a desk daily.
Loosening these muscles through stretches in conjunction with an upper-back pulling strength exercise will have you standing tall in no time.
The use of massage is a fantastic way to increase the circulation and blood flow around the recently worked muscles. Massage is also a great way to increase the removal of waste products, improve tissues quality; increase muscle relaxation and reduce muscle soreness after a workout.
There are many forms of soft tissue techniques, however the most time and cost-efficient method is foam rolling. There’s a good chance that you have a foam roller tucked in a corner collecting dust or a tennis ball hidden in an old toy box somewhere, so now’s the time to dig them out and put them to good use!
Using the tool you have slowly work your way across the whole body, again spending a little extra time on areas where you feel knots or extra tight.
Don't have either? This Mobility Massage Ball by Velites relieves muscle tension and helps improve your mobility, made from high quality runner.
Available at shop.lifebyequipe.com
Leon is an accredited coach with the NSCA. Leon coaches a wide variety of athletes, from professional to recreational level. His professional work includes two seasons at AFC Wimbledon.
Read 5 Things To Help Stay Committed To Your Fitness Goals During Lockdown
Read Leon's coaching philosophy and personal wellness programme 'Expert of Week' - click here