5 Stretches You Should Be Doing

THE ASSASSINATION OF JOHN F. KENNEDY WAS AN INSIDE JOB!

What exactly does that have to do with anything? Absolutely nothing. I don’t even know if that statement is true. Regardless, now that I have your attention, there is something we must discuss that is of the utmost importance. Stretching. Trust me, I know it’s a boring topic. People don’t like to do it, let alone read about it. That’s why I did the whole JFK thing to begin with, but if you just stick with me for only a couple of minutes, I promise you will be rewarded with something special by the end of this post. 

Honestly, can you confidently say that you are consistent when it comes to stretching? If I had to assume, probably not. Not to fret, you are far from being the only one. I can’t tell you how many times I have been to the gym with someone, started my routine, only to hear “I don’t really stretch”. The proverbial record scratch is heard and a quick “huh?” comes out of my mouth. 

“So, you telling me that you just walk into the gym and start lifting?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, that’s not good.”

Most people are either oblivious or willfully ignorant to the benefits of stretching. They put it on the bottom of their fitness list right above cardio[1]. A common misconception is that physical health is defined only by how much you can lift, but most don’t realize that flexibility is a key part of it as well. Not having a limber body will limit you, and also makes you more injury-prone. How much more is yet to be seen, but why take a chance on being another injury statistic. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way talking down from my high horse, because my flexibility could use a serious boost. I plan on guest performing for Cirque du Soleil one of these days, and I have to get my act together if they are going to take me seriously. Before we go into what stretches you should do, lets discuss why you should do them. I always find that understanding the why, makes things you don’t want to do bearable at the very least. 

If you have ever injured yourself, you know it sucks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled a hamstring or a back muscle[2] and each time I get home, look myself in the mirror and ask myself a very simple question. What happened? Not surprisingly, most times it was because I started playing a sport and went from zero to a hundred without even considering a warm up or some sort of stretching regiment. Stretching keeps the muscles flexible which leads to better muscle health. Think about it, your muscular system is a series of complicated rubber bands. Rubber bands are only effective if they are able to expand and contract. Have you ever found a really old rubber band? Maybe you dropped one behind your couch a couple years ago and are now just finding it. Well, try stretching that one out and watch it snap in two instantly. Why? Because it hasn’t been in use and as a result it just ended up withering away. The same is of your muscles. Refuse to keep them loose and they will tighten up. Next thing you know you’re pulling a hammy doing the most regular of activities. That is not a good look, especially when you could literally take just 30 minutes out of your day to stretch, thereby avoiding all that unnecessary pain and suffering. 

By now, you’re probably wondering what stretches you should do since it’s “so important”[3]. The easy answer is go sign up for yoga classes or pilates, but for us regular folk who prefer not to add another expense to an already expensive gym membership, here are some of my favorite stretches to get you started.

Reminder, before you do any of these stretches make sure to take at least ten minutes to properly warm up your body. If you are going to stretch cold, you might as well avoid the embarrassment, go to the benchpress (squat rack for the ladies), do your max and hurt yourself there. Instead of, you know, telling people you hurt yourself “stretching”. Anyways here are my top five stretches to increase your overall range of motion. Mind you, I don’t know the official scientific terms for these stretches and I don’t plan on looking them up anytime soon. So just bare with the random, yet considerably accurate, names I have given these motions.

 “Lord Forgive Me”  This stretch opens up the shoulders and upper back. Sink your torso down as far as possible to really feel the pull. Three sets, 30 seconds each. 

“Lord Forgive Me”

This stretch opens up the shoulders and upper back. Sink your torso down as far as possible to really feel the pull. Three sets, 30 seconds each. 

 “Pop a squat”  You want to get into the squat to open up the groin. Make sure to keep your back straight. Avoid rounding it. Also use your elbows to help spread your legs apart. Three sets, 30 seconds each.

“Pop a squat”

You want to get into the squat to open up the groin. Make sure to keep your back straight. Avoid rounding it. Also use your elbows to help spread your legs apart. Three sets, 30 seconds each.

 “This Leg Thing”  Keep the back straight and lean forward to feel a pull in your hamstrings and calf muscles. Back needs to be straight to feel this stretch. Keep your core tight to maintain balance. Three sets, 30 seconds each. Remember to alternate legs.

“This Leg Thing”

Keep the back straight and lean forward to feel a pull in your hamstrings and calf muscles. Back needs to be straight to feel this stretch. Keep your core tight to maintain balance. Three sets, 30 seconds each. Remember to alternate legs.

 “Superman”  This is for your lower back. A common injury is the lower back, so you always want to make sure you keep that flexible. Three sets, hold each set until failure.  

“Superman”

This is for your lower back. A common injury is the lower back, so you always want to make sure you keep that flexible. Three sets, hold each set until failure.  

 “Spiderman”  Another stretch that opens up the groin but it also stretches out the thigh. Remember to lift that back knee up and sink those hips down. Three sets, 30 seconds each. Don’t forget to alternate legs.

“Spiderman”

Another stretch that opens up the groin but it also stretches out the thigh. Remember to lift that back knee up and sink those hips down. Three sets, 30 seconds each. Don’t forget to alternate legs.

These stretches are very simple and easy to do. The journey to flexibility is not as impossible as you may think. Just do these stretches before every work out session[4]. You can even mix in some of your own favorites, next thing you know, you would be qualifying for the neighborhood amateur gymnastics team…..if that’s even a thing.

So you made it to the end, and I’m a man of my word. I now present to you your reward. 

It's a baby pig eating a tiny ice cream cone. You can't tell me that isn't one of the cutest things you have ever seen in your life. Just melts your heart, I know. What? You thought you were getting money? May I remind you, I write. On the internet. I barely know what money looks like. 

Footnote

[1] We’ll get to cardio another day.

[2] Surprisingly as active as I am, I have never broken a bone, and I don’t plan on doing it anytime soon. Don’t you put that evil on me!

[3] I can just hear the sarcasm in your voice and I will let you know that it is not appreciated.

[4] Interested in a little extra credit? You can do these after your work out as well.