Static Stretching Exercises – Improve Your Recovery and Range of Motion

Static Stretches Are Key

Static stretches are stretches where you hold your position for about 10 to 30 seconds depending on the muscle group and stretch. This is the most common stretching and is known to be great for flexibility, range of motion and muscle soreness over longer terms if used after a work out as you don’t want to over stretch the muscle before your work out. Most people are familiar with static stretching but not so much for Dynamic Stretching which is something I’ve covered in detail separately from this post and is usually don’t before a workout for a warm up.

If you need stretching assistance with stretches you can use Resistance Bands for almost anybody part stretch as well, I have a recommendation and product review as well. In this next section I will cover different stretches based on body parts such as chest, back, arms and legs. There are a ton of static stretching exercises out there so I will only cover the best and most common stretches for flexibility and range of motion.

Chest Stretches

The chest consists of two main muscles called the Pectoralis Major and the Pectoralis Minor. Pec major is connected to the arm so to stretch it you need to push your shoulder back in a way similar to this. Pec minor is connected to the front of the shoulder blade so to stretch it you would do the same thing but lift your arm higher so you can move your shoulder blade away from where the pec minor connects.

A great chest stretch has you interlocking your fingers behind or butt with your arms straight and pushed backwards and you can lean forwards for an additional stretch. Here is a fantastic stretch for the chest and in particular for the pec minor that you can do almost anywhere, you just need a vertical surface like a wall, door frame or squat rack. A similar stretch will target the pec major and minor at a different angle, the difference is arm verticality. A horizontal arm will put more emphasis on the pec major rather than the pec minor.

Back Stretches

Shoutout to Anabolic Aliens by the way as I found these videos very helpful when looking for varying stretches for anybody part. The back is a huge muscle group consisting of five muscles varying in sizes starting from the largest, Latissimus Dorsi (Lats), Trapezius (Traps), Erector Spinae, Rhomboids and Teres Major. The spine is obviously important and with these muscles being interlaced with the spine, it is very important to stretch these muscles to gain greater flexibility and range of motion.

The Cat Back Stretch is a superb stretch after a back workout and focuses on the mid back but targets all the back muscles as well. Arm reaches will target the Lats. To target the lower back you can perform many body twists, laying on your back and bring one leg over one at a time. Stretching the Traps can be done by stretching your neck, leaning your head to one side then the other.

Leg Stretches

The legs are huge for strength and stability and one of the most important muscle groups to stretch, train and stretch some more. The muscles are the Quadriceps, Hamstrings and calves, the Quads being the largest and the calves being the smallest. In addition, the hips, ankles and Achilles tendon are located on the lower body and are also important when training your body.

Sitting toe touch will stretch your hamstrings and you can do this one leg at a time for a more precision stretch or you can stretch both legs at a time. Standing quad stretch will be one of the best stretches for the legs which is done by grabbing your foot behind your hamstring and holding there making sure your knee is pointed toward the ground. The figure four is a great stretch to do while laying on your back to stretch your glutes and help hip flexibility.

Arm Stretches


The arms consist of a few different muscles, the Biceps Brachii consists of two muscles, the long head and short head. The Triceps Brachii consist of the long head and lateral head. The forearm has quite a few muscles but is rather easy to stretch. To stretch the wrist and forearm, hold one hand with the other hand straight out in front of your body and pull one wrist inward and hold. Switch hands of course and then with palm facing away and fingers up, pull your fingers towards your face to stretch the other side of the forearm. The wrist stretching is one of my favorites since the wrist is utilized in many exercises and does cause me some discomfort at time, which is why I got a certain pair of work out gloves. To stretch the biceps, the idea is to extend your arm straight as much as possible at different angles and Anabolic Aliens does a phenomenal job showing off some fantastic stretches.

Commence Stretching

So there you have it! Stretches for each body part, the chest, back, legs and arms. Try to incorporate stretches into your daily routine, Static Stretches when you wake and before you sleep and Dynamic Stretches right before you work out. There are always different stretches you can do so if I missed one that you like, let me know what it is in the comments below so I can try it myself. Let me know if you have any questions as well.

Dynamic Stretching Exercises – Before Your Work Out

Here we will be discussing Dynamic Stretching Exercises in detail. This will include how to do them and what areas of the body they will be stretching. Dynamic stretches are best utilized before a workout to warm up with stretching movement that cover a full range of motion rather than Static Stretches which are primarily for use after a workout. These stretches are used to soften connective tissue and allow you to get the most out of your workout without unnecessary pain or injury. Dynamic stretches before a workout is very important to avoid injury and work the specific muscles you are about to use. The video below is a great source to learn about why dynamic stretches help the body. If you are doing to be working out your chest, you don’t want to be stretching only your legs for example. Now we can cover what you would need to do prior to working out your chest and other body parts.

Chest Stretches

There are two primary muscles in the chest which are the pectoralis major, connected to the arm, and pectoralis minor, connected to the front of the shoulder blade. Since the pec major is connected to the upper arm bone, it is best stretched by moving the arms backwards horizontally. As the pec minor is attached to the shoulder blade it is best stretched by lifting your arms and shoulders vertically. A few stretches will cover these movements starting with arm circles. Arm circles are a fantastic dynamic stretch for you chest and get it ready to utilize as many muscles fibers during your exercise. This stretch is perfect for your pec major and pec minor. Another stretch called ‘ringing out the towel’ will help stretch the pec minor and work your rotator cuff. Resistance bands are always a great and inexpensive way to help you stretch dynamically so be sure to have one or two ready before your work out.

Back Stretches

The back is one of the largest muscles groups on the body which make it very important and prominent in many exercises, so it is equally vital to stretch them out. The main back muscles are the Latissimus Dorsi (Lats), Trapezius (Traps), Erector Spinae, Rhomboids and the smaller Teres Major. There is a lot going on when it comes to back muscles and most are connected to the spine making them very important muscles for the human body. The ‘worlds greatest stretch’ is great for spinal rotation and involve the shoulder and hip as well. There are also some great static stretches for the back that I will cover in detail here.

Leg Stretches

Another one of the largest muscle groups, the legs, are responsible for many activities and exercises. There a numerous dynamic stretches for the legs, like lunges or knee grabs, to get your body warmed up for your workout. The legs consist of 3 main muscle groups, the Quadriceps, the hamstrings and the calf muscles. The legs contain the strongest muscles in the body and possibly the most important tendon, the Achilles tendon. This being said, leg warm-ups are very important, one example is the quad stretch where you lift on leg behind you and grab your foot which stretches the strongest muscle. Leg swings are also great to get your blood pumping and provide a healthy stretch for your hamstrings. Combining the leg sweep to quad stretch will be more efficient. For the calves, you can use a vertical surface and lean your foot on it tilted upward and pulling your body slowly forward toward the wall. This is a great calf stretch and the only one you really need. The hip pull will help with hip mobility which is important for compound movements or cardio.

Make Stretching Part of Your Work Out

Those are the main stretches for the largest muscle groups in the body, the chest, the back and the legs. Make sure to dynamically stretch the muscles you wish to use in your workout so you avoid unnecessary strain or injury. To further improve muscle growth use Static Stretches after your workouts. If you have any questions or find anything I missed or skipped, let me know in the comments below and thanks for reading.

Stretching Methods and Techniques

Stretching Methods and Techniques

Stretching is an important part of any physical activity Whether it is running, lifting, or sports-related, stretching has been proven to help prevent injuries. Surprisingly the topic of stretching can be somewhat controversial depending on what expert you consult.

Should you stretch, before, during or after? Will stretching improve performance? These are questions that come up and have varying answers.

Stretching has actually been proven to improve performance if done correctly. The Journal of strength and conditioning Research found that one to two sets of dynamic stretching had a significant Improvement on Sprinter performance. The research also found the too much stretching in fact hindered performance. This tells us that stretching can help or hurt your performance depending on how you do it.

Active dynamic stretching

Dynamic stretching is a little bit different than your normal stretching where are you are pausing in a static movement. Instead active Dynamic stretching is a way to warm up and prepare your body for the activity you’re about to do by taking your body through a range of motions that will both warm up and stretch your muscle groups preparing you for the activity.

Active Dynamic stretching should be your go-to method of warming up and stretching before an activity or exercise. the proper way to do this is with a combination of a light aerobic warm-up and a series of dynamic warm up exercises. this process should take around 10 minutes.

Step One

The first step is to complete a warm-up with light aerobic activity. Remember that this is a light warm up to raise your temperature get the blood flowing, increase elasticity in the muscles, and increase your heart rate up. This is not high intensity training and should not be done at an intense level. If you are running out of breath then you are going to hard. Your warm-up should be around 5 minutes but could last longer up to 10 minutes if needed.

Step Two

At this point your blood flowing your body temperature is warmer and your muscles are now ready to be used, moved, and stretched through dynamic exercise. Dynamic exercises include lunges, push-ups, leg swings, inch worms, leg crossovers and many others. Find Our complete guide to Dynamic stretching exercises here.

Static Stretching

This is probably what you learned in gym class where you would sit or stand in place and stretch until you feel straining or pulling in a specific muscle group. At this time you will hold the straining movement or stretch anywhere from 15 seconds to a minute and repeat on both sides.  This type of stretching is actually good for developing flexibility if done at the right time.

Static Stretching has a time and a place, but evidence has proven it is not before you do your activity. Another study found that static stretching actually decreases vertical jumps when done before the activity. The best time to use static stretching is when you are cooling down after your workout this will help relieve tension caused in the muscle by exercise and it will help blood flow, increase flexibility, loose the tight muscles, and aid in recovery.

Some of the best static stretches include leaning calf stretch, hamstrings stretch, hip flexor stretch, abs stretch, glute stretch, and chest stretch. For detailed instruction find our complete guide to static stretching here.

Stretch and Flex

Before stretch and flex became a common name for workplace stretching programs this was actually a program developed to increase flexibility. About 25 years ago I actually applied stretch and flex principles to my stretching program to help me achieve being able to do the splits between two chairs just like John Claude Van Damme. I was in martial arts and found it extremely fulfilling to be able to show off my flexibility.

The principles of flexing while stretching are simple. It uses the same exercises as static stretching but instead during the stretch you will actually concentrate on flexing the muscles in the area you’re performing the stretch. You’ll perform the stretching and flexing in sets and hold for as long as you can up to a minute. In each following set you will try to achieve just a little bit more of a stretch then the last set. I used to do 3-4 sets at a time.

Stretching for Back Pain

If you’ve injured your back or have lived with back pain for a long time then you may already know that stretching is one of the key components to back rehab. There are specific exercises for your back that can dramatically make a big difference in your life.  You should combine stretching with strengthening exercises. You may even need to use a specific back stretching device for your spine like an inversion table to help decompress your back. Many people have also found that adding yoga is a great combination of strengthening and stretching your back. I personally have found that it has made an enormous difference in my quality of life after injuring my back over 10 years ago. I live with an injury caused by inactivity and weak muscles. By stretching,using an inversion table, and doing yoga I have been able to keep my back pain away.

Stretching your back and increasing your core strength should be done by everyone. You should not wait until an injury causes you to have to strengthen these areas.  In our mostly sedentary lifestyle most of us that do not stretch or exercise will eventually end up with back pain. Most of these problems can be prevented with the combination of stretching, exercise, and strength building. Prevent and Help Back Pain With These Top Stretches.

Keys to improving Flexibility

If your goal is flexibility then the key is to stretch often and more than once a day. Use your downtime like sitting on the couch watching TV to also stretch and  improve your flexibility.

Make sure to always do dynamic stretching before strenuous activities. In addition make sure to do post-workout stretching using the static stretching methods.  Many weight lifters will also stretch in between sets. Remember that flexibility takes time, this is something you will need to work at and do day in and day out.  Whether you’re using it for health or injury prevention it’s something that you need to take your time with and do you often.

Written by Mike Epson

Did I miss any important methods? If so please let me know in the comments below?

Calisthenics Workout Routine – What is Calisthenics?

This time on Mybestfitnessgear.com we discuss a calisthenics workout routine. Calisthenics are exercises consisting of a variety of motor movements like running, jumping, pushing, pulling, grasping and so on. They are typically performed without any equipment and the exercises are in essence body weight training, meaning you are not usually adding additional weight even though you can add weight to some exercises. Calisthenics exercises are intended to increase body strength, flexibility and body fitness through movements like bending, jumping or swinging using only body weight for resistance. Calisthenics are used in coordination with stretches and if you perform these exercises often can provide muscular and aerobic conditioning as well as improving balance and coordination. Be sure to add exercise bands for additional support or resistance.

Practical Applications

Calisthenics are used in some forms of synchronized physical training for sports teams and military units to keep in peak physical condition. The United States Marine Corps perform a physical fitness test consisting of push-ups or pull ups, sit ups and a 3-mile run which are all forms of calisthenics. There are many benefits for performing calisthenics, from fat loss to muscle growth, there’s no excuse to not implement calisthenics into your workout routine.

Pros and Cons

I have a few reasons for and against calisthenics that I want to get into initially before talking about the different exercises and benefits.

Pros:

  • Calisthenics is the most inexpensive for of training due to the fact that it is purely body weight training.
  • Since there is little to no equipment required you can train calisthenics indoors and outdoors.
  • Body weight exercises are more athletic since they are usually compound movements.
  • Calisthenics exercises are fantastic for fat loss and muscle conditioning.

Cons:

  • Compound movements are not good for training with an injury as they include multiple muscles and joints instead of isolating one area and working around the injury.
  • Calisthenics requires massive coordination more so than most weighted exercises.
  • It is harder to progress in calisthenics as the more advanced movements take a lot of practice and quite of few steps to get to, let alone to do them consistently.

Now a lot of people think that a calisthenics workout routine is not good for muscle growth but that is just not true. With varying and consistent training you can burn fat which will show more of your muscle. Once you get into the more advanced movements and continue consistent training you can really build a large amount of muscle. Now we can talk more about the individual exercises and their benefits. I will include images when possible.

Foundation of Calisthenics

The foundation of calisthenics will strengthen tendons, ligaments and joints. The first steps are supporting yourself through exercises like side planks or bridges. Side planks are done by starting in push up position and then turning 90 degrees onto your side while keeping your body as straight as possible.

Negatives are the eccentric phase of any exercise, for example, the second half of a pull up when letting your body down. Performing negatives slowly will add greater muscle damage during an exercise giving more power, flexibility and stronger connective tissue. Negatives are often a great stepping stone when performing harder exercises for the first time.

A number of these exercises can be assisted with the use of resistance bands. This will help progression of exercises like the push up, Australian push up or even some more advanced movements like the front and back lever. Amazon has some great resistance bands to choose from, like these bands which are longer and easier to use for these exercises.

The bridge is basically a backward push up and holding this position with extended legs is the harder variation of this exercise. This exercise is great for working the gluteus as well as your entire core. The extended variation works additional muscles like the hamstrings and obliques.

Levitation squats are a body weight squat variation. This exercise uses one leg to squat down with your other leg hovering off the ground. As you lower your body, your lifted leg will move back into a lunge position while your hands stretch forward to help balance your body. Alternate legs for muscle equilibrium. Levitation squats are great for working lower to mid-body muscles, for example, hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, gluteus and core muscles.

The burpee is our next beginner exercise and is one of the best beginner compound workouts in calisthenics. To do a burpee, start in a standing position, from here, place your hands on the ground in front of your feet, with your hands on the ground, jump your feet backwards into a push up position. Reverse the movements to finish the burpee, jumping your feet back up towards your hands then stand back up. This exercise will work a plethora of muscles and can be implemented in and around other exercises once you master the standard burpee. The next step of the burpee is adding a push up at the bottom and adding a jump at the top. There are many variations of burpees for beginner and advanced exercises so let me know if you want me to cover those.

Australian pull ups are great for people starting to learn pull ups and is also a great back and shoulder workout. This move is done on a very low bar by laying under it and pulling yourself up. Progression of the Australian pull up starts with a higher bar, about waist high, and progressing to higher difficulties’ means you are using lower bars, about knee level or just above knee level. This exercise works primarily back and shoulder muscles like the traps, lats, rhomboids and deltoids. Minor muscle activation also occurs in your biceps and core when performing Australian pull ups.

Advanced Moves – Godlike

Some of these exercises are hard to explain in words so I will attempt to show videos or pictures as reference.

Pistol squats are a more advanced version of the levitation squats that require more balance and coordination. To do these, you would do a levitation squat but your elevated leg sticks straight out which makes it more of a challenge to balance. You can have your arms out in front of you for additional balance or have your hands behind your head for an added challenge. When first learning this exercise, you can grab onto a pole to stabilize yourself until you feel comfortable balancing.

The front lever, when mastered, is a very impressive looking exercises requiring great strength and coordination. The front lever is basically a suspended straight arm push down which is a back workout (Latissimus Dorsi). This move will activate many more muscles as well. There is a good amount of progression to lead up to performing the front lever and this video explains it very well.

The hefesto bicep curl is a beastly body weight exercise for your biceps. It starts by hanging from a pull up bar and flipping your body backwards so your hands grip the bar behind your body which is the starting point for the back lever, which is basically the opposite of a front lever. In the backward hanging position, you would pull your body up with your biceps until your back touches the bar and you body is more vertical. You can use a resistance band in front of your waist when attempting this exercise for assistance. Hefesto negatives are necessary for some people to ultimately learn the exercise correctly.

Muscle ups are one of the most well know advanced calisthenics exercises. They make you seem strong and even better, you have to be strong to do them. This is basically an add on to the pull up as you push your body over the pull up bar at the end of the movement. As with most calisthenics moves, you can combine exercises here like the L-sit to incorporate more the core and lower body into the movement. There are, again, many variations for the muscle up like the explosive muscle up and if you’re feeling a little ‘extra’ you can add a clap towards the end of the movement.

The planche push up! One of my most favorite workouts I’ve seen (as I can’t yet do them), the planche push up is a godly exercise first consisting of a planche. The common explanation of a planche is where you hold your body parallel to the ground with your arms straight and holding a horizontal bar. You can see how adding a push up to it makes it godly, especially if you can’t do one. The planche push-ups works many major muscle groups from the chest to the glutes and is one of the most demanding exercises. The progression of the planche is explained in great video detail here.

Be An Athletic Phenom

I have a ton of respect for people who perform calisthenics especially the advanced exercises as they are very tough-looking. I will continue to study these movements myself and hopefully I can get to the point where I can share movements I’ve mastered. If anyone else does calisthenics, let me know how it’s going, and thanks for reading!

Resistance Bands Exercises – A Different Way to Exercise


In this post I will be discussing different resistance bands exercises and varying uses to add some variety to your workouts. Since researching and incorporating resistance bands into my exercise routine I have realized how many possibilities there are in this type workout. Resistance bands are great pieces of exercise equipment as there is not much-needed besides the bands for most exercises. This makes resistance bands an extremely cost effective form of exercise. Exercises that can be performed are varying based on the specific resistances of the bands.

Light bands are fantastic for warm up and joint strength exercises and can help you stretch very effectively. The mid range bands are really great for learning pull ups which are one of the most dreaded exercises for new people working out. Heavy bands are going to allow you to add a greater amount of resistance to larger muscle groups. Those heavy bands are most effective with compound exercises like dead lifts and squats. In addition, if you are a bigger person just getting into exercising, light bands are exceptional for initially training your muscles for other exercises and heavy bands are going to greatly help with pull ups. Now let’s get into some key points of why bands can be so useful.

Little to No Equipment


One of Amazons cheaper resistance bands.

Resistance bands have varying weight resistances allowing you to have multiple sets of bands for different exercises. Some muscle groups can lift much more weight than others so having varying band resistances will allow you to better work more muscle groups with only one type of equipment. The only piece of equipment you may need is something to wrap the band around in order to do some leg exercises for example.

Portability is another reason to get bands over other equipment. You can have 5 to 10 bands and carry them in a backpack with your water bottle, workout clothes or other items and take them wherever you want. If you wanted to take them to the gym and include them in your free weight or machine workouts you can easily do that since they are so lightweight and small. When buying bands, they are conveniently color coordinated to show varying resistances at a glance, for example, the red bands having the least resistance and the blue having the greatest resistance (colors may vary by manufacturer).

Cost Effective Exercising


 

Even the more advanced sets are inexpensive.

Cost can be an extremely important part of exercising for a number of reasons. If you can’t afford to do to a public gym, or you just do not want to workout in a public place then resistance bands can be your exercise saviors. There are a couple variations on exercise bands. Smaller bands are good for lower body exercises and larger bands are more for upper body exercises and both of them are fairly cheap ranging from $10 to $50 on average. I absolutely recommend even the cheaper bands for times when I can’t get to the gym and I get more than my moneys worth.

Resistance Bands VS Free weights


Some sets come with workout guides.

Resistance bands can be used in place of free weights and can give you a bit of a different workout. Many people think exercise bands are too easy but you can make band exercises harder by using 2 bands at the same time if you need more resistance for a typically heavy exercise. Resistance bands have a variable resistance meaning that the band gives more resistance the more you pull on them whereas you lift a free weight and it weighs the same the whole time giving you a constant resistance. Free weights give a vertical resistance as gravity pulls down on them where resistance bands can resist from a horizontal axis if you attach them to a fixed point allowing you to, for example, work your chest muscles from a standing position instead of laying on a bench horizontally.

This will also increase the muscles time under tension which is very important for muscle growth. With most exercises, as you get to the top of the motion, the weight is not very heavy and if you do a free weight bicep curl, you can hold the weight at the very top of the rep for quite some time compared to the middle of the rep. This is not the case with bands. As I mentioned a moment ago, bands increase resistance the farther they stretch which means you get the muscles time under tension is increased and you can build more muscle over time. I believe slow negatives are also very important for many exercises. This means slowly releasing each rep on the way down which increases your targeted muscles tension for a longer period.

Momentum reps are reps that you had to use momentum to initiate which usually means the weight is too heavy. So if you’re doing a bicep curl but have to swing your body to begin to lift the weight, you’re not getting the full muscle tension you would with a lighter weight. Bands can eliminate this entirely providing constant tension over time allowing you gain more muscle and push yourself farther than you thought resistance bands could. Resistance bands also work out smaller muscle groups which often support larger muscle groups allowing for better training on machines or free weights. So bands can also complement other workouts.

Band Exercise Examples


  • Band pull apart – Work mid back muscles and shoulders
  • Band pull through – Gluteus and lower back workout
  • Standing band corkscrews- Obliques
  • Band face pulls- Traps, rear deltoids
  • Overhead band extensions- Triceps
  • Band shoulder press- Shoulders
  • Band push ups- Chest
  • Band front squats- Gluteus and legs
  • Band rows- Upper back

Conclusion


So with resistance bands exercises you can work out almost any muscle you usually workout with free weights or machines. You can buy different bands with varying resistance thresholds, this gives you a ton of exercise variety for only a single piece of workout gear which will save you money in the long run and are very easy to transport. Bands can also compliment other machine and free weight exercises by working out smaller muscle groups that don’t get as much time under tension. I’ve included a short list of resistance bands exercises above to show examples of the different muscles you can work out. Ultimately, whether you are just warming up and stretching, or pushing your muscles to the max with many reps, resistance bands are a great alternative workout. Now get out there and try something new!