Extend It, Don't Break It

Sharon Jane Akinyemi

Sharon Jane Akinyemi

By Sharon Jane Akinyemi

Hey! How come you are able to touch the floor with your palms and without your knees bent. “I wish I could do the same, how do you do that successfully”? asked Betty my Client. And I said to her, that was just a simple test for flexibility. Can you try that now? Fortunately this simple test can be done any where and at any time.     

A few years ago, I decided I needed more  time-efficient exercise plan. So I started to work out at home more often than not and my most important piece of exercise equipment  became my jump rope! That is I do  more of the jump rope and some few stretches, I loved the way I felt after each session.

Even when  you are doing your own thing, it’s still very important to start with a warm-up. I begin by moving around the house, going up and down the stairs; making the bed; whatever gets my circulation pumping.

There is need to stretch more and build up your body’s flexibility . The issue of flexibility can not be over emphasised. So  follow our quick stretching guide to test your tight spots and loosen up your knots.

You Can Test Your Flexibility.

Are you sitting down for this? All day long at your desk job, your hips and hamstrings are stuck in a shortened position, while the overstretched muscles in your back are getting kinks if you hunch — hello, lower back pain! But no need to go far to undo the tension: Targeting your specific spots  helps. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that just one 30-second stretch three times a week can significantly lengthen hamstrings in four weeks. Take our expert test to find out exactly how limber you are and get the fix for areas where you come up short. Try again next month to see how far you’ve stretched your limits.

Shoulders and Chest

Sitting stooped over a desk and rarely having to reach overhead mean chest muscles are continually restricted. Loosening up the chest and shoulders will help you reach behind more easily to do things like clasp your bra.

Try this!

With left hand, hold a ruler so left thumb is just at the one-inch mark. Bend left arm behind back so ruler points toward head. Now reach right hand up and over right shoulder, grabbing ruler as close to left hand as you can. To measure, pull ruler up with right hand without moving fingers. Write down the number your right hand has reached and subtract an inch to get the results for the left shoulder. (You can also try this test without a ruler to see if you can touch or clasp hands.) Switch sides and repeat to test your right shoulder.

Obliques

Tight obliques and less range of motion in your lower back tend to go hand in hand; back stretches alone may not be enough, experts say.

Try this!

Holding a pen in right hand, stand with feet hip-width apart with your back and butt (and heels, if possible) against a wall. Reach left arm up and overhead against wall as you side bend to the right; slide right hand down thigh toward knee. Place a pen mark as far down the leg as you can reach while keeping shoulder blades flush with wall. That’s the score for your left obliques. Switch sides and repeat to get the score for right obliques.

Lower Back

Our spines are built to move, so static, everyday activities like driving and standing in line eventually pull on the discs in your lower back, and that’s what hurts. Proper stretches keep you mobile and help prevent stiffness

Try this!

Sit on floor with back and head against wall, legs extended, knees pressing against floor, feet flexed. Rounding the spine, extend arms toward toes by hinging forward at hips.

Hamstrings

Make it a point to get up and walk around at least once every half hour. Otherwise, hamstrings remain shortened and become stiff.

Try this!

Lie faceup on floor and lift right leg 90 degrees. Try to straighten right knee without moving thigh. Switch legs and repeat test.

Hips

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When your thighs and hip flexors — the muscles that help lift up the legs — are tight, they may prevent you from lowering fully as you squat.

Try this!

Stand with feet hip-width apart, left hand holding the back of a chair for balance. Bend right knee 90 degrees up to hip height, then bring it out to right side. Switch legs and repeat to determine score for left hip.

Inner Thighs

If you sit with your legs crossed all the time, you make your inner thigh muscles steely. Too much of that can cause tension and pain in your knees.

Try this!

Sit on floor with knees bent, legs together and feet flat. Lower knees out to sides as far as possible while keeping soles together. Clasp feet with both hands and pull heels as close to body as possible.

Calves

Wearing high heels puts your feet in a downward-slanting position that automatically shortens calf muscles. Too much tip-toe strolling over time causes those muscles to remain short even when you’re in flats.

Try this!

Sit on floor with legs extended, feet flat against a wall, arms by sides with palms down. Without moving heels away from wall, flex left foot so that toes point toward body. Switch feet and repeat to get score for right calf.

Rules for Stretching

Warm Up

Get moving for five to 10 minutes prestretch to make cold muscles more pliable.

Match the Occasion

The stretches described here fall into the static category, in which a muscle or group of muscles is gradually stretched to the point of limitation. You should feel a mild, even tension and hold it for 15 to 30 seconds. Save these moves for your cool-down. Preworkout, try dynamic stretches, like slow, high-knee marches and jumping-jack arm swings, to rev your muscles into action.

Renounce Bouncing

Ballistic, or bouncy, movement is a no-no when you’re holding a stretchy pose.

Don’t Press Your Luck

Stretch only to the point of tension. If your muscles start to tremble, you’re pushing too far. Overstretching can cause muscle strains, which are actually injured fibres.

Muscular flexibility improves your posture, appearance and overall performance. By staying flexible, you can decrease the risk of joint injuries and muscle strains. When you have engaged in too much activity, stretching can also help reduce muscle soreness. As you get older, your flexibility naturally decreases. However with, with a regular stretching program you can slow down the process and stay quite flexible. Females generally have more  flexibility than men. It is important to flex properly to avoid injury.

Remember to check with your doctor before starting any exercise regime. If you are just beginning a fitness regime, start slow at a 60 percent target  heart rate. As your fitness increases, you can work toward a higher level and build up from that point.

•For questions and answers connect with me @ www.facebook.com/BodyConfidenceFitnessClub.