Ok yes, maybe I was born a little more bendy than most! My genetic makeup allows me to bend and stretch a little further than most. Regardless, I constantly still have to work on it daily if not several times a day in order to get the flexibility I desire. If I fail to, I usually end up pulling a muscle. Not everyone has to or needs to stretch as much as I do but for my goals I must stretch in order to reach and obtain them. But I do highly suggest stretching on a daily basis.
The great thing is, I enjoy stretching. In fact I LOVE STRETCHING! I love the way it feels when it releases my muscles from feeling tight. Not to mention the natural way it treats the chemical breakdown in my body from soreness, lactic acid build up, hard workouts, and stress from day to day activity.
I have to stretch my entire body focusing on the major muscle groups so I will not get tight, bound up, or get an injury from doing daily activities. I want to be able to move freely without worry of pulling a muscle. With my job I cannot be down because I chose to not take the time out to stretch and take care of my body by simple stretching techniques. I need to keep my hamstrings and lower back limber. In fact the two main common areas that get inured are the hamstring and lower back. Stretching can prevent these injuries and there are several ways to stretch. If you practice them every day, you will become more flexible and less injuries will occur.
To get the best results I suggest to warm up the muscle first. Depending on the time or format will depend on how you warm it up. It might be active movement, dynamic stretching, or slowly progressing into the stretch. Either way you chose to warm the body and muscle up its important to progress into the stretch. I suggest once the muscle is warmed up and you are ready to stretch to get the best results to hold the stretch 6-7 seconds then extend deeper into the stretch to 5-8 seconds longer up to 2-3 minutes. This will allow the muscles fibers and the bodies natural protective reflex to allow deeper stretching. I suggest for stretching the body for exercising it is important to warm the muscle, then static stretching, the progress to the bigger exercises to get the best results this will allow the body to get most out of the exercises and exercise time quicker than waiting the body to respond to the overload it is about to take on.
Sometimes you need to get a quick stretch whenever you can. A sneaky, but great way to stretch might be in bed when you wake up and before standing up. (see the pics below) It's a way to get the body going and blood moving around, not too mention helps from being stiff from not moving or even moving restless for your sleeping period. It may be a quick stretch or as long as you want (anywhere from 5 seconds to 2 minutes). The hamstring is so simple to stretch but it's the most muscle that never gets stretched. And its the tightest muscle group on the body. It can simply be a forward fold when tying your shoes. You can also do a supine stretch by laying on your back and bringing your legs to your chest. One foot at a time works for this stretch. If you are a beginner when it comes to stretching, use a towel or yoga strap and wrap it around your foot, pulling it toward you.
The best way to get a good stretch in your back is by rounding or curling it. Think of a cat when it sees a dog. Your back should resemble the cats back! Extend the spine now to lengthen and restock the vertebra then proceed to rotate both directions from the lower back. This will help with the lumbar part of your back when you lift and rotate. Proceed to do this in the middle of your back and the upper part to stretch the thoracic and cervical parts. Between each stretch be sure you center and align the spine before rotating the other direction. Lift your shoulders up to your ears and then roll them backwards in a downward motion. These stretches will leave the spine tall and ready for the next move of the day.
Hip Flexors are usually really tight from sitting, walking, and standing. The best way to stretch your flexors is by doing the deep runners lunge, pigeon, or even a full cobra!
By stretching these three main areas you will avoid soreness, injury, or walking in a shuffle as you age because of these areas being too tight. Stretch daily! Little things like bending forward and tying your shoe instead of getting down on one knee or doing a forward fold to pick something up rather than softening the knees will help. Take a yoga class if stretching is hard for you to make yourself do. Save your body from premature aging and injuries by doing these simple stretches.