As we all know, stretching should be an important part of your day, whether you work out regularly or not. Many benefits from stretching have been well documented from weekend warriors to well training professional athletes. Although stretching benefits everyone, some might argue, it has never been practiced more than in the martial arts, where stretching highly valued and practiced daily. From Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to Judo to Muay Thai to wrestling and many more forms of martial art, stretching is practiced not only to allow martial artists to pull off moves and techniques or improve response time but to also highly reduce the chance of injury, which is something that can benefit an athlete in any sport.
Stretching can improve your blood flow and overall health and it will make you more flexible. Stretching can also relieve stress and the symptoms that arise from stress. Stretching can improve your performance, by loosening you up and speeding up your muscular responses. If you exercise, a proper warm up followed by stretching is critical in order to prevent injuries from overstretching your muscles before they are warmed up and help prevent injuries during training.
Coming up with a good, stretching routine can be a challenge. Julies Blanc from Ricardo Barros Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Brentwood, California shows us his top five stretches to get you started.
Lunge To Instep Stretch – Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms by sides. Lunge forward with right leg, bending right knee 90 degrees and keeping left leg straight. Keeping back flat and abs engaged, try to lower elbows to the floor beside your right foot. Go as low as possible while remaining comfortable and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Release, switch legs and repeat.
Lying Crossover Stretch – Lie flat on your back with legs extended. Place arms on the floor, extended straight out to the sides at the shoulder level forming a “T”. Bend right knee and raise thigh until it is perpendicular to the floor. Slowly lower the right knee to the left side of your body, toward the floor. Keep shoulders on the floor. When the leg is lowered as much as possible to the floor, place the left hand lightly on the outside of the right knee and hold the stretch. Return knee to center position and extend the leg. Repeat on the other side.
Down Dog Calf Stretch – Begin on your hands and knees. The fold of your wrists should be parallel and your middle fingers should point directly forward. With your feet hip-distance apart, exhale and lift your knees off the floor. Gently begin to straighten your legs, but do not lock your knees. As you lengthen your spine. Lift your sit bones up toward the ceiling. Press down equally through your heels and the palms of your hands. Firm the outer muscles of your arms and press your index fingers into the floor. Lift from the inner muscles of your arms through the tops of your shoulders. Draw your shoulder blades into your upper back ribs and down toward your tailbone to push your heels into the floor. Relax your head between your upper arms, but do not let it dangle. Hold for up to one minute. To release the pose, gently bend your knees with an exhalation and come back onto your hands and knees.
Butterfly Stretch – Sit up tall with the soles of your feet pressed together and your knees dropped to the sides as far as they will comfortably go. Pull your abdominals gently inward and lean forward from your hips. Grasp your feet with your hands and carefully pull yourself a small way farther forward.
Pigeon Pose Glute Stretch – Start on all fours in a square table pose. Slide the right knee forward toward your right hand. Angle your right knee at two O’clock. Slide your left leg back as far as your hips will allow. Keep your hips square to the floor. If your hips are not square, there will be an unnecessary force on your back, and you won’t be able to open the hips to their fullest. If you’re not feeling a deep stretch in your right glute, slide the right foot forward little by little toward your left hand. Your right thigh should have an external rotation and your left thigh should have a slight internal rotation. This keeps pressure off the kneecap. Depending on how you feel, you will be upright on your hands while sinking the hips forward and down. For a deeper stretch rest with your forearms on the ground or rest with your chest on the floor with your arms fully extended in front of you. Stay in this position anywhere from 12 breaths to five minutes.
That should give you a good start to a stretching routine and remember that it is always one of the most important parts of a workout, especially when it comes to athletes preventing injury. That, in turn, reduces the chance of injury during competitions and allows you to train harder and more frequently so that you will get better results in the end.
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