Karl Henry: Get loose with simple stretches
The easiest way to avoid injury is to stretch a little after each exercise, says the expert trainer, who argues that a little 'passive exercise' can go a long way
Yoga, Pilates, tai chi, stretching, body balance and meditation are all types of passive exercise, often one of the more overlooked forms of exercise that can reap such huge benefits for every part of your body.
These types of exercise are often far more chilled out than your usual running and weights, and men in particular tend to steer clear of them, but they deliver so many benefits and are often tougher than you think.
The feel-good factor from these is totally different to any other exercise high you may have come across before; yes you are still releasing endorphins but it feels totally different as you focus your mind on something else, leaving you totally chilled out as well.
This week we're looking at some of my favourite stretches that I use with my clients and myself. Classes are great ways to get involved in these type of exercise, especially when you get a great teacher, but sometimes it isn't always possible to get to a class so these stretches can be done on their own, as a session, or as part of your exercise session.
They are generally practised at the end of a session to help prevent delayed onset muscle soreness and it can also help bring your heart rate down slowly too.
Here are some of the other benefits that you can get from doing more of this type of exercise:
• Reduce stress
• Reduce your medical bills
• Improve your lean tissue
• Lower the risk of cardiovascular disease
• Lower the risk of injury
• Improve mobility
• Release endorphins
• Lower the risk of lower back pain
• Keep you exercising when the weather is bad and working as part of a group
• Lower cholesterol
• Reduce the risk of falls
Here are some simple stretches that you can add to your routine:
Yoga upper body bends
Start with your feet together, your hands above the head, palms together. Take a deep breath in and stretch your arms up to the sky. Now simply bend the body to the left and hold for 10 seconds.
Come back to centre and now bend to the right for 10 seconds.
As your body begins to loosen up you will find that you can bend further and further, but just ease into it.
These are great to loosen up the shoulder joints and muscles. Start with your feet together, and hands together. Keeping the arms straight, roll the arms back in big circles for 10 and then roll forward for 10. These should be done slowly and aim to stretch the arms out as far as possible. Repeat for three sets.
The triceps at the back of the arm can get quite tight and need a good stretch. Start with your feet together. Straighten the left arm above the head and the right arm by the side. Now bend the left arm behind the head and try to touch the hands in the centre of your back.
If you can't touch your hands, don't worry, just get a towel between your hands and move your hands up the towel as you get more flexible. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds and change hands .
This is one of my favourite and most simple stretches. Place your feet together, knees together and place your hands on the front of your knees. Now just roll your knees in a circular motion to the left for 10 and then the right for 10.
These should be easy and gentle, the idea is to loosen out the ligaments, tendons and muscles around the knee joint.
The hamstrings are a big muscle group at the back of the leg and if they become tight you are prone to lower back problems. With this stretch, simply start with your feet together, back straight and crossing your right leg over your left, lower your hands down towards your toes.
Don't bounce on this one, just ease into it and stretch as far as you feel comfortable. Hold for 15 seconds and then change legs. Repeat for 3 sets.
The quad is at the front of the legs and is a seriously big muscle group. This is one of the simplest ways to stretch it out. Lie on your side, take your right ankle in your right hand and bring your right heel up to your bum. Hold here for 15 seconds and then roll over on to the opposite leg and do the same. Repeat for 3 sets.
This routine is easy to do and will loosen out all the body parts. Remember it's important not to push the body to the point of real pain with these, just ease into it, relax and stretch, you will be surprised at how quickly you loosen up.