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Post-workout stretching key for recovery

September 21, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Whether you had a morning game of tennis, you hit the treadmill or maybe some weights, you know that your body wants to stretch, something most of us ignore. "Well, the thing is people will do their workout," says fitness expert Michael Carson. "They workout very hard and when they're done they don't stretch at all."

Which is why Carson says many are so sore after they finish their game or exercise program.

"Their necks get tight, their backs get tight, the next day they say, 'God, I am so sore from the workout,'" says Carson. "When truly if you did five minutes of stretching, simple stretches for your outer thigh, your gluts, your hamstrings, you wouldn't have that same tightening effect and you'd actually get better blood flow. You're going to have much more faster re-cooperation time."

And contrary to popular belief, this can be done in as little as five to seven minutes, targeting the main muscle groups starting with the back of the leg or hamstrings.

HAMSTRINGS:
Using a towel or elastic tubing, stretch the hamstrings, being mindful to pull down rather than over the head, and keep the breathing deep and even.

LOWER BACK:
From there, let one hand take both ends of the towel or tubing and take the leg to its opposite side to stretch the lower back. Another way to stretch the lower back and to some extent the hamstrings is to hang on to something sturdy, like the kitchen sink, and lean back.

HIP OPENER -- THIGH STRETCH:
Both of these exercises are good to open hip flexors and quadriceps or thigh muscles. Secure a belt or tubing overhead and lunge with opposite arm raised, or lie on one side with towel or tubing hooked on one foot and pull overhead.

SHOULDERS, OBLIQUE MUSCLE, SIDE OF THE HIP
Hold onto a well-secured belt or towel over head. Standing or kneeling sideways from the towel, lean away from it and hold abdominals in, trying to pull shoulders down away from ears. This stretch gets shoulders, oblique or side abdominals and down to the side of the hip known as the I.T. band, which all get tight easily.

"And just like I said before, breathing is essential for all the stretching, and you want to then hold the stretch," says Carson.

Carson reminds that active warm-ups are for pre-workout; stretching is best done post-workout. Holding, rather than bouncing, is the best way to stretch to lengthen rather than tear and shorten muscles for anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, not a mere five.

"It's like they're posing for a picture and then they're done," says Carson. "Wrong! Hold that photo pose for a portrait, not just a picture."


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