Posted on March 24, 2021 by Kate Halsall
Stretching. We are always saying you should do it, but why? Stretching is such an important part of fitness: it can help improve your range of motion, increase blood circulation, help reduce the risk of injury, improve posture, reduce muscular tension, is good for managing stress and the list goes on. Plus, it just feels so good! The great thing is, you don’t actually need to stretch for that long to reap the benefits from it – which begs the question – why aren’t you doing it more?! So here are 5 simple standing stretches to get you started.
This is a great stretch for the hamstrings, and for your lower back. This stretch is as simple as standing with your feet hip width apart and folding from the hips to reach your hands down to the floor. But, take your time doing it – enjoy the stretch! Bend your knees as much as you need to reach the floor with those finger tips. Stay there for a few seconds and then slowly curl up back to standing.
If you want to add a little extra something to this stretch, whilst in the folded position take your hands behind your back and interlace your fingers. Now reach those hands upwards as if you are trying to get them over your head.
If you’re going to flex, you need to go the opposite way also. In my experience, most people have very weak extensor muscles. If you struggle with this standing version, I recommend a lying back extension stretch instead. To do the standing stretch, place your hands on the small of your back. Keeping the legs fairly straight, you are pushing your hips forwards as you lean back. Again, do this slowly, hold for a couple of seconds and then return to your normal standing position.
Standing Side Bends
If there was ever a stretch that looks and feels like some kind of dance – this is it! Stand with your feet hip width apart and your arms straight overhead. Interlace your fingers but point your index fingers like you’re about to do a “Charlies Angels” pose. Bend your upper body to the right, hold for a couple of seconds and slowly return to the center. Repeat on the left side. NB try not to move your hips when reaching to the side.
Standing Calf Raises
Here’s a great move to get those lower leg muscles working. I guess this is more of an “exercise” than a “stretch” but it’s still great! Standing tall with your legs straight, raise your heels as high as you can go while balancing on your toes/balls of your feet. Hold for a few seconds at the top, lower and repeat. If you’re doing this right, you should start to feel a little something in your calf muscles.
Wrist Extension & Flexion
Now I bet you weren’t expecting this! Not all stretches need to be for big muscle groups! These days with laptops, ipads and other mobile devices – we simply need to stretch our wrists which will also help to stretch our forearms. Keep your arms at shoulder height and ensure that they are straight. Flex (point the fingers to the floor) and extend (fingers to the sky) the wrist and apply an over pressure with the other hand.
You will always read different things about how often to stretch and how long to hold a stretch for, so here’s my advice: take your time time doing the stretch, hold it for as long as you feel “comfortable” (i.e. that you can feel the stretch working), and repeat as many times as you want as long as it’s more than once. Enjoy!