I hope everyone reading this is staying safe, healthy, and finding ways to cope with this unprecedented circumstance. I’m dedicating this blog post to a collection of dynamic and therapeutic stretches to help keep us mobile and fluid while we self-isolate. We are living with a whole new set of rules; spending more time at home; having to work from home; some stuck in front of a laptop sitting in an awkward position, due to a lack of proper work space. I want to help you stay active and mobile! Circumvent stiffness by increasing movement and body awareness throughout the day. Keep reading for tips and video demonstrations!
I will be focusing on dynamic stretches and a specific type of stretch used frequently in physical therapy called PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation). PNF is a therapist assisted stretch technique, but may be adapted to be done solo at-home, as long as the specific steps are followed. PNF uses the muscle’s own stretch and tension receptors to elicit a relaxation within the muscle, therefore facilitating a deeper stretch – the body has so many resources! It gives you immediate temporary relief. If you perform this routinely, along with addressing any contributing factors to tension (mal-aligned posture habits), you will experience a long term benefit.
The first 2 video demonstrations are dynamic stretches, the focus here is movement around a joint. Utilize your full range of motion, keep your breathing rhythmic and deep (a running theme through all my instructions). Disperse these movements throughout the day; before a walk, upon waking, before bed; Whatever works for you!
Keep in mind, this is the perfect opportunity to listen to your body. Movement IS a communication with our body. Do all angles feel fluid? Do certain angles feel stuck? How’s your stability? Does your pelvis want to rotate uncontrollably if you let it?
Below I demonstrate the Contract-Relax PNF technique, on the calves, hip flexors, and hamstrings. I’m not verbally cueing in the video below so a few pointers to remember;
- The initial stretch is mild (just at the point where you begin to feel a stretch);
- Contract Phase is done at 50% of your strength/force;
- Stack your joints; if your pelvis is facing forward so should your shoulders;
- Keep your torso long, no excessive rounding the spine;
- Engage abdominals by pulling in your navel;
- I’m using a step stool to prop up my foot and lower leg when performing the HIP FLEXOR stretch – when I contract these muscles, I’m simultaneously pushing into the step stool with my lower leg and resisting as I push my hand into my thigh (you’ll see in the video). Also my opposite hand is grabbing the underside of the stool for support.
The video below demonstrates the stretch technique performed on the upper trapezius/neck and middle trapezius/top shoulder muscles. I’m using a kettlebell as counterweight (you could use a dumbbell, heavy bottle) for the middle trap stretch. No verbal cues in the video, I thought the birds singing would be much more peaceful to listen to! I’d like to point out the steps for the Middle Trap/Top of Shoulder stretch USING A KETTLEBELL;
Step 1. MILD STRETCH; Sit tall; Let your arm drop to the side holding the kettlebell – feel the weight of the kettlebell giving you a stretch but don’t let it overtake you – HOLD 15 seconds
Step 2. CONTRACT PHASE; Slowly hike up the shoulder you are stretching using 50% of your strength HOLD that contraction 7 seconds; Breathe rhythmically;
Step 3. RELAX-STRETCH PHASE; Exhale, release the contraction and let the weight of the kettlebell take you into a deeper stretch – you may tilt the head in the opposite direction for a deeper stretch. Move slow. HOLD 15 seconds
I truly hope this will be helpful! Please pass this along to someone that would benefit from this post! Remember your body is smart, listen to its cues above anyone else. Do not perform these stretches if you are experiencing pain.
I appreciate and welcome your feedback. This was a lot of info. If you need any clarity don’t hesitate to reach out! Meanwhile, please stay safe, active, and healthy.
Stand Tall, Breathe Deep!