With these absolutely scorching temperatures we have been having, doing intense cardio exercise might not be very appealing to many of us. Here at DMO we have a super alternative to getting in our regular movement, but in a bearable fashion… a summer stretching routine to help you improve flexibility and mobility, sporting performance and stay pain free.
What are the benefits?
The summer sunshine is the perfect opportunity to undertake this more low-key, yet vitality important part of any exercise programme…plus you don’t get quite as sweaty in the sweltering heat. WIN WIN!
There is a common perception that short = strong muscles, but this is not the case. Muscles do not get strong from being in a shortened position, but instead get stronger when exposed to progressive loads. Gymnasts are awesome examples of athletes who are both strong and flexible. Stretching out your muscles improves your flexibility and mobility, which in general improves sporting performance. For example, in sports that involve a swing, such as tennis, squash, golf or badminton, improving muscle mobility improves the range of motion in the swing and in running, increased flexibility allows for a longer stride length. Critically, across the board, stretching out your muscles regularly in a warm up and cold down reduces the risk of damage and injury.
Even if you aren’t an exercise fiend, adding some stretching to your daily routine can:
- help to counteract the effects of sitting for long periods and improve posture.
- give you more energy by bringing in some regular, structured movement into your day.
- allow you a moment to practice mindfulness – if sitting still in meditation isn’t for you, undertaking stretches and focusing in on how this feels in your body in the moment brings you into the present, the main aim of mindfulness.
- help you think more clearly – some studies have shown that activities such as yoga which involve stretching practices, reduce physical tension and mental stress and thus improve cognitive function.
DMO’s Top 5 Summer Stretches
We had a really tough time picking out our favourite stretches. We are a bit geeky like this and have many favs to chose from! But here is what made the shortlist for us all to try over the summer….
In at a fierce five: Pec Stretch
This stretch does what it says on the tin…stretches your pec, i.e. your pectoral muscles in the chest. Click here for a demo video.
This can be done anywhere there is a wall, door frame or anything sturdy you can place your hand on and then lean forward slightly, to create the stretch in your upper arm, front shoulder and into your chest.
This one is a corker for those of you that spend lots of time hunched forward over a desk, book, phone or road bike. Upper rib mobility can also be improved which is helpful for long-distance athletes or asthmatics.
In fabulous fourth: Open Book
Here’s another that helps your chest, as well as your upper back, neck, rib cage and shoulders.
The tricks to performing this well are:
- to make sure your bottom arm stays on the floor at all times,
- slowly rotate your upper back as you open your arms and shoulders (as far as feels comfy); and
- to follow your opening hand with your eyes. Full demo video here.
This one, again, is super for counteracting time spent hunched over. It also promotes rotation for such sporting activities as golf, tennis, squash and swimming. It really helps to “open” up your posture. Rotation reaps rewards!
The bronze medal goes to… Downward Dog
This stretch is an absolute stalwart of any yoga practice. And we love it even more as it is named after man’s best friend (Storm, the DMO mascot, performs this stretch daily)!
The downward dog is a great full body stretch, and also helps strengthen your muscles at the same time. This posture stretches and lengthens the entire back body including the calves, hamstrings, glutes, hips and lower back, whilst strengthening the wrists and shoulders. It is a stretch for everyone (including cat lovers!)
Pointers to remember when performing this posture are:
- try and keep your hips as high as possible. Reach for the ceiling with them!
- don’t worry about having your heels on the floor – you can peddle out each leg slowly and individually to get the heels closer to the floor and stretch your calves.
- aim to push your armpits towards your knees to both extend your upper back and open your shoulder girdle. You should be aiming for a straight line from fingers to hips if possible, striving for a perfect triangle.
This one even features on our YouTube Channel “How To” series (which you can find here). You can see Dom performing this one, accompanied with his tips.
In super second: Thoracic Extension
Here’s one for those of you with rounded/stiff upper backs. Improving thoracic extension can help to:
- Improve shoulder range of movement overhead
- Reduce neck and lower back discomfort
- Improve rib cage expansion
This super simple stretch involves placing your forearms onto a stable surface at shoulder width. Slowly push your hips backwards and drop your breastbone towards the floor, extending your upper back. This movement can be performed as a static hold or dynamically to improve thoracic range of movement. Click here for a demonstration video.
And the coveted top spot has been awarded to… the Hip Flexor (Psoas) Stretch
What is the main culprit for tight hip flexors? Elongated seated periods. We love to talk about the importance of movement for our health here at DMO; you can check out our previous blog on the topic. As a result of our modern lifestyles, many of us can find it hard to avoid sedentary periods – this stretch is critical to countering the impact.
Additionally, many types of sports require good hip mobility such as running, golf, squash, cricket and tennis, to create power and keep us agile. Other sports, like cycling, can exacerbate tightness.
So this stretch is really important and beneficial to many of us (including Dom and his golf handicap).
To perform the stretch, take a kneeling lunge position and move your body forwards to create a stretch to the front of your thigh and groin. Place your arm over your head and tilt to the same side as your front leg. This creates a stretch to your hip on the opposite side of your body. To make the stretch stronger and protect your lower back, tilt your pelvis backwards as shown. Click for video demonstration.
We hope our top 5 stretches have given you some inspiration of movement you can include into your routine. If you have any questions of queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via our social media channels: Facebook at Dominic Malone Osteopathy and Instagram at @dm_osteopathy.