Stretching has been long recognized to be really healthy for bones, ligaments, joints and muscles. It releases tension and it is used in many methods like yoga to relax.
If you workout actively, especially with weights, your muscles would get bigger and stronger and also more dense. And this is great, but with the tightening of your muscles might come a variety of issues, like poor posture, injuries and pain. Tight muscles cause a lot of unwanted effects on your tendons, bones and joints. If your joints are cracking, you feel pain or you often feel too stiff, stretching those areas can really help you relief the tension.
Although cracking has been found non harmful it can be harmful if you have tight tendons or muscles and cracking is not done by applying pressure. Cracking usually means that you have tight muscles or tendons (that cause unusual movement of joint hence the cracking sound).
Stretching regularly not only can help you with your muscle tonus and mobility but also can relieve joint pain, muscle cramps and improve range of motion. Usually massages are recommended for many of those issues but stretching the muscles could be combined with massages and relaxation for best results.
Instead of showing you the typical places to stretch, we are going to talk about the 10 strange, or ones that you might often skip, places that you have to stretch and most people tend to neglect. Here they are:
- 1.Stretching the fingers of your hands
Now this might sound surprising, why would we want to stretch our fingers of the hands? Well as the rest of our joints and bones and tendons and muscles, there are many joints and from prolong immovable or taking too much action those joints too need some stretching.One of the main functions of the fingers is to grab objects, but sometimes they are way too heavy, for instance when we are at the gym and lift barbells when we perform rowing or deadlifting or anything like that. Grabbing things would increase our grip strength significantly but also puts a lot of stress on the muscles, tendons and joints in the hands.
Are your hands or fingers stiff or cracking all the time? One of the main causes could be that you never stretch them. Whether from lifting heavy weights, or similar activities, your hand muscles and finger tendons and joints need to be stretched to prevent loss of mobility and increasing the risk of developing joint issues in that area.
Instead of cracking them like most people do, which has been shown to has some negative effects on joints on in long term may harm them, we would recommend you to give them a little stretch every day.
And stretching the tendons in your hands is a good idea, but the actual muscles that move the fingers are located in the forearm so next place to stretch is:
- 2.Stretching the wrists and forearms
One of the most overlooked place to stretch is your forearm, it however usually is one of the main places that helps develop wrist and elbow pain and cracking. The main function of the forearm muscles it to move your arm, wrist and palm( when making a grip for instance) hence it is often really tightened by heavy weights lifting like: deadlift, rows, pull ups and etc. Those movements require a lot of grip strength, by increasing the strength you develop the muscle and if you do not stretch it, with time it would be a lot more dense and with limited range of motion.
Another important part that is often neglected is the ulnar nerve, which is a nerve that starts from your wrist and goes all the way up to your shoulders. The nerve’s main function is to move the hand, and like the rest of the tendons it too requires proper stretching. So here’s a little video that will show you how to stretch this nerve.
And for the wrist and forearms stretching take a look at this video
- 3.Ankle stretches
The ankle is a joint located between your feet and your legs. It is constructed of three bones and it hold your weight. Often times there is an injury in this area, like a sprain or a strain or you can even break it.
Of course in this case we would strongly suggest you consult with a doctor physician to make sure that the recovery is properly and the stretches and movements are correctly performed.
If you however did not experience any issue in that area, but would like to keep the joint healthy we would recommend you to do some stretches. Like in the other cases this area might get tight and stiff and might even hurt you when you walk without any injury having had occurred previously. Tight ankles can interfere with your motion, for instance when performing exercises for your legs, like lunges or squatting where the range of motion is important. Reducing the normal range from your ankles can interfere with the proper form of exercising, which may lead to injuries in other areas.
Here is a video that will show you how to stretch your ankles.
- 4.Stretching the toes
The main function of your toes is to keep your balance when walking, standing or running. For instance when we jump or we run we use the support of the toes to step properly. However tight shoes or other reasons might change their natural position, deform them or cause damage to them. Stretching will help keep them in their best shape.
Here is a video that will show you how to perform stretching of the toes of your feet
- 5.Stretching the abdominal muscles
Functions of the abdominal muscles include, keeping you straight, assisting the breathing movements, helps with rotation of the spine and other movements. Many physicians recommend regular exercising for your abdominal muscles, because they assist to your lower back (bearing almost all of the weight when you are standing up or performing exercises when bending over). Strengthening your abdominal muscles is really important and it might help you improve your posture and prevent injuries, however the tendency of having 6 pack abs is often leading people to workout their abs too often or too much and not to even consider to stretch them. Having tight abs might even worsen your posture, since if you do not stretch them, heavy exercises would tighten the muscle and reduce its length, which would make you slouched too often. So we would advise you to regularly exercise the abdominal muscles but to stretch them as well, to avoid any problem with them or your posture.
As a matter of fact as we mentioned one of the most common lower back pains can be cured with properly trained abdominal muscles and stretches.
Here is a video that will show you how to stretch your abdominal muscles:
- 6.Stretching the chest muscles
Now this might be a common stretching idea, but many people tend to forget to stretch their pectorial muscles. We are going to show you few methods that might help you release the tension in that area, which has been often associated with slouched posture. Since if the muscles of your chest are more tight than the usual they create disbalance, usually they pull your shoulders to the front, thus moving the shoulder socked out of it’s normal position and creating a injury risk posture. The main function of the chest muscles is to push objects away from your body, and pushing too much heavy weights for instance, overdevelops the chest muscle and the front of your shoulder (deltoid anterior), and as we mentioned this moves the joint out of its healthy normal position. So stretching those muscles and the tendons associated with them is going to relieve the tention and move the joint back to the position it should be in.
Here is a video that will show you how to stretch your pecs and your deltoid muscles:
Most of the time, the proper posture can be achieved by strengthening and stretching the abdominal, pectorial, back and shoulder muscles. But let’s not forget the muscles of your lower body.
- 7.Gluteus stretching
The biggest muscle in your body is the gluteus (gluteus minimus, medius and maximus) which are the muscles on your buttocks. Its main function is to move the hips and thighs. It helps us when we try to sit and when we climb stairs. It supports the leg when we kick or extend it upfront or behind. Exercises like lunges or squats can really improve the strength and the form of the gluteus muscles, and having a good looking buttocks is great, but they too need stretching.
If their health is worsen, often the person can experience other symptoms like lower back pain and problems when sitting or getting up. So stretching them is really important to keep them in a good shape and avoid those negative effects.
Here is a video that will show you how to stretch the gluteus muscles:
- 8.Stretching the hamstring muscles
The hamstrings are the muscles on the back side of your thighs. They work together with your quadriceps to make sure that your legs move properly and to keep your posture straight. Their main function is to flex the leg and extend the hips. They are often tightened by exercises like romanian deadlift. So if you want to keep the muscles in that area healthy, as long as the joints in your hips and knees (at both ends of the hamstring muscles) you have to stretch them. Otherwise like we mentioned before, if they are too tight, they are going to pull your body behind causing problems with your posture.
Moving the knee and hip joints to unnatural positions and eventually it may worsen your entire body posture and cause injuries or joint issues. So make sure to stretch and strengthen them to avoid those issues.
Here is a short video how you can stretch your hamstring muscles.
- 9.Calf stretching
The calf muscles take a lot of pressure, especially when we work out our legs. The main function of the calves (Gastrocnemius and Soleus) is to elevate the heel. They are often trainer separately and they bare a lot of weight. Often times people tend to forget they too need stretching to relieve the tightness and improve the mobility. If they are too tight, they can cause issues with both your ankles and your knees. Like many other cases, they can too pull the joint out of the usual place and worsen the posture, thus increase the chance of injuries, pain and damage in your joints.
Here is a video showing you how to stretch them.
- 10.Jaw stretching
The muscles of the jaw are used for talking, chewing and even to suppress things that we want to say out laud. We use that muscles too much sometimes, and sometimes when we sleep or we are too emotional we might tighten them and keep them for a long time like that. Now this creates a lot of unwanted tension in that area and to avoid any unwanted issues with your jaw and surrounding muscles that support the moving of the temporomandibular joint and the jaw itself. To relieve the unwanted pressure and tightness you can perform stretches to reduce it.
Here is a video that will show you have to stretch your jaw muscles and tendons
It is a great idea if you do your stretches (or a routine of them) every day or at least 2-3 times a week. This way you are taking care of your muscles and your entire musculoskeletal system and your posture.
Perform all of the stretches slowly and do not press too much (until you feel the stretch but without experiencing any painful feelings). And of course consult with doctor to make sure that those stretches can be performed without conflicting with your medical status.