What does stretching mean?

Stretching is one of the most important components of a complete workout. While cardio and core exercises form the crux of a workout, it needs to be combined with certain stretching exercises to avoid body pains and injuries. Stretching exercises for flexibility are one of the most important components towards maintaining physical fitness. The stretches can be held for several seconds and several minutes depending upon your goals and times.

What is stretching?

If you are doing stretching exercises for beginners, there are some things you need to remember. Thumb Rules of Stretching Exercises

  1. Do not confuse stretching with warm-up. It is a part of it.
  2. Strive for symmetry.
  3. Target the major muscle groups.
  4. Hold your stretch for as long as you can.
  5. Do not bounce.
  6. Stretches could be sport specific.
  7. Don't aim for pain.
  8. Bring consistency and movement into your stretching.
  9. Keep up with your stretching.

Why is stretching important?

Stretching after workout helps in improving joint range of motion and decreases the risk of an injury. Stretching after workouts is extremely beneficial in improving athletic performance. Body stretching exercises not just improves flexibility but also makes the body more mobile.

What are the different types of Stretching Exercises?

Here are the best stretching exercises:

  1. Bound Angle: Also known as the butterfly stretch helps to stretch the groin and lower back. It is one of the most popular stretching exercises both pre and post a soccer or basketball game.
  2. Seated Cross Shin: This involves crossing legs and trying to lean on the floor using both elbows and holding for several seconds. It stretches the back muscles. It targets the glutes and IT bands.
  3. Seated Straddle: Developing flexibility for the flares. Stretch your legs and lean side to side without bending your knees. This stretches out the back, groin and lower back.
  4. Pigeon Variation: Lean forward or arch your back and bend down. It stretches the hips and IT bands.
  5. Seated Forward Fold: Also known as basic sit and reach. It is an effective stretching exercise for flexibility for the back and hamstrings.
  6. Single Leg Seated Forward Fold: It's a variation of the seated forward fold and helps in stretching the hamstrings.
  7. Saddle: This requires bending both knees and bending backwards gradually. It targets the quadriceps.
  8. Downward Dog: Keeping the legs, back and arm straight perform the stretching. This targets the hamstrings and back.
  9. Basic Lunge: This stretches the hip extension on one side and the hip flexors on the other side. It is to be performed with both legs.
  10. Lizard: Put your arms down to the side of your leg and stretch. This helps in opening up of hips.
  11. Frog: Developing hip and groin flexibility, this is great movement improving the mobility of the body. This is part of the full body stretching exercises regime.

How to fit stretching exercises in your day to day life?

Most sports coaches and gym instructors prepare certain stretching guidelines including stretching exercises as part of their training regime. Pilates workouts has gained popularity overtime for its dynamic stretching programs that are part of it. Chest workouts and back workouts are also beneficial for overall health.

  1. Develop a stretching exercises program or stretching workout suitable to the needs of the sport.
  2. The stretching program should be included as part of the warm-up and done at least 15-20 minutes before exercising and again thereafter. Warm-up exercises before and after stretching also help to increase tissue extensibility.
  3. Apply a slow static stretch and avoid bouncing movements at the end of range to reduce the risk of injury.
  4. Do not overstretch into pain but, rather, feel a stretch in the muscles within one's level of tolerance. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Partner stretching is also beneficial and helps perform certain complicated stretches.
  5. Each muscle group should be stretched three to five times for maximal benefit.
  6. Stretch throughout the season and in the off-season to maintain flexibility. Improved flexibility can only be achieved through a long-term stretching program.
  7. Always stretch agonists and antagonists and both limbs alternately. Avoid flexibility imbalance in muscle groups and limbs.
  8. The art and activity of stretching should be enjoyed to derive maximum benefit so that it never becomes a burdensome task.

What are the benefits of Stretching Exercises

A good posture is an outcome of daily stretching activities that help in keeping the body in proper alignment and more vertical. Moreover, stretching exercises also help in an increased blood flow reducing soreness and improving nutrients. It has a direct impact on an improved mental health. It calms the mind and releases any stress or pressure. Since stretching allows for an increased blood and nutrient flow throughout the body, not only will you feel refreshed, but also your energy levels will be increased resulting in an improved sense of invigoration. Stretching exercises for women improve flexibility and reduce fat build-up in problem areas. Stretching exercises for men increases flexibility and improves the range of motion. It can also help you develop a six pack.

Disadvantages of stretching

There are no disadvantages of stretching exercises as such, however, overdoing stretching exercises for men or women can cause harm to the body. Particularly in wrestlers and boxers could get a sprain or strain, causing an injury.

What to eat after stretching exercises?

Exercising must be supplemented with a healthy and nutritious diet which is rich in carbohydrates, protein and fat. Some of the options are chicken, eggs, meat, pulses and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of vitamins, minerals and fibres that are also an essential part of a good diet.

Is it effective to do stretching exercises at home?

Yoga can be practiced at home for stretching. Regardless of the type of yoga, all yoga postures require the participants to hold and move between a series of stationary positions that use isometric contraction and relaxation of different muscle groups to create specific body alignments. Stretching exercises are performed even before practicing complicated yoga postures or asanas. Stretching exercises for women can also conveniently be done at home. Yoga asanas are often recommended by doctors for those suffering from back problems as it helps in stretching the body muscles. Hatha Yoga can be compared to certain strengthening and stretching exercises for beginners in terms of its impact on the body.

  1. Sukhasana or seated shoulder/ arm stretch is nothing but Straight line walking which is one of the stretching exercises for flexibility.  
  2. Garudasana also known as the seated eagle pose is performed as standing abductions in the gym.
  3. Ardha Matsyendrasana which is modified seated twist is skin to a standing ab crunch.
  4. Single leg dip is performed the way as Marjaryasana/Bitilasana cat-cow pose.
  5. Urdhva Hastasana upward salute is a seated twist which is one of the basic stretching exercises.
  6. Ardha Uttanasana standing half forward bend is just like flutter kicks
  7. Vrikshasana tree pose is like the standing bent over row
  8. Virabhadrasana warrior 1 is similar to squats
  9. Bhujangasana cobra pose Seated military press
  10. Balasana child pose Bicep curls
  11. Savasana corpse pose is performed at the end just like relaxation after every intense work out or game.

What to do post stretching exercises?

Stretching is regarded as an important component of any training routine of athletes, artists. or social exercisers. It is also evident that stretching plays an important part in improving flexibility, reducing the incidence of injury, and enhancing athletic performance. Post stretching exercises, one could relax or opt for a massage.

What is the right age to do stretching exercises?

There is no right or wrong age for exercising. There are workouts for teenagers, adults and younger children as well. However, it is important to define the training load according to age to prevent injuries.

What are the equipment or accessories required to do stretching exercises?

There is no heavy equipment required to do stretching exercises, however, one could use a theraband to perform certain stretching and strengthening exercises. We hope this has enlightened you about the types of body stretching exercises for beginners and their benefits. Choose the ones that best suit your requirements and lifestyle to create a stretching routine that you can follow regularly to improve your physical fitness.

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July 7, 2022

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