Leg stretches are an essential way to maintain flexibility and avoid common lower body injuries. If you enjoy biking or jogging, it is especially important to pay attention to protecting the commonly injured areas such as the hips, knees, and ankles, resulting in injuries like hamstring strain, calf strain, patellar tendinitis, and Achilles tendinitis. These injuries can best be prevented by a dynamic warm-up and saving stretching exercises to follow your exercise once the muscles are warmed up. Here are a few of the most effective leg stretches:
This important stretch can be done in several positions. One technique involves standing on one leg while putting your heel on an elevated surface like a bench or chair. Keep the elevated leg straight and lean into the knee, bending at the waist. You will feel the pull in your hamstring. Hold the position for 10-20 seconds and repeat on the other leg.
Another way to do the stretch is to lay on your back with one leg straight out on the floor and the other flexed 90 degrees at the hip, knee straight using a towel around the foot or ankle. (more…)
You’re in the middle of your workout, everything is going great, and then suddenly something feels off. There’s a twinge of pain, a tingling sensation, or a wave of nausea comes over you. Or maybe you don’t feel anything until later, in the form of soreness or shin splints.
Whatever the symptoms may be, the cause is likely that you’re doing something about your workout wrong. With the help of fitness experts Dempsey Marks, Jessica Smith and Valerie Orsoni, we’ve got a list of the top signs your workout is doing more harm than good, and ways you can fix the problems.
You’re Super Sore the Next Day
A little soreness can be good, but if you’re so sore you can’t move, you need to tone your workout down a bit. According to Shape Magazine, that level of soreness can indicate that you’re well on your way to an overuse injury.
Dempsey Marks, fitness expert, yoga trainer, and founder of DempseyFit.com, suggests decreasing the intensity of your workouts by lifting less weight or doing fewer reps. She also suggests properly refueling your body by eating a post-workout snack, like her Strawberry Banana Crunch Smoothie Bowl, full of carbohydrates and protein.
When you think weight lifting, you think big muscle groups: quads, biceps, abs. When you think this way, you’re already on your way to injury. So many of us step up to the weight bar thinking we are ready to rock our reps without properly focusing on key joints and smaller muscle groups. A major area that most women don’t think about is their hands and wrists. It’s these very areas that cause a ton of post-lifting pain, especially for beginners who are just starting a strength training routine.
You should absolutely continue to warm up big muscle groups and major joints, but don’t forget the small stuff either! Weight lifting, when done improperly, can be dangerous, and women especially should take extra care to maintain the health of their hands and wrists. Proper hand and wrist care is important whether you are a regular gym fanatic or simply use your hands for daily tasks like working at a computer.
Try This: Yoga Poses for Computer Wrists
Flexibility is often overlooked, but it’s one of the most important areas to focus on while increasing your level of physical fitness. After all, it’s been among the benchmarks for measuring fitness on the Presidential Physical Fitness Test for years! Having good flexibility is beneficial to the mind and body alike and can help prevent injuries, improve posture and range of motion in our joints, and increase overall physical fitness, just to name a few.
When you think of flexibility, stretching is probably the first thing that comes to mind. And, unfortunately, stretching seems to be thing that that so many of us focus the least amount of attention on in our workouts. Warming-up and cooling-down properly before and after exercise are very important and aid in better flexibility, but it can also be focused on during a workout.
In my five years as a group fitness instructor I’ve noticed something over and over again: most people don’t know how to warm-up properly. Let’s face it – we’re short on time. We want to get in the gym, get our workout over with, and go home. Rather than properly warming up, many of us tend to jump right into our workout full force.
The ultimate purpose of “warming up” is to reduce the risk of injury while exercising, as it will prepare the body for exercise by increasing blood flow and warming up various muscle groups. A great way to warm up is by taking a few minutes to perform various dynamic stretching exercises.
When you think of “stretching,” you probably think of holding a stretch in place for a specific number of seconds; this would be static stretching, and should only be done after a workout because it actually relaxes the muscles. Performing static stretching exercises prior to exercise can actually cause injury to the muscles because it prevents them from preparing for a workout!
Dynamic stretching means performing a constant, controlled motion through a full range of motion. This stimulates blood flow and warms up the desired muscle group. I like to warm up for 5-10 minutes before a workout and target various major muscle groups throughout the body. Here is a good example of an effective dynamic stretching warm-up:
Fully extend one arm up with fingers pointed towards the sky and the other arm down (with fingers pointed to the ground). Circle the arms forward, as if you were doing a freestyle swimming motion. Make the movement big and keep the movement of your hips to a minimum. Keep this forward motion for about 30 seconds and then move in the opposite direction (as if you were doing the backstroke) for another 30 seconds.
Warms up: shoulders, back and abdominal muscles (more…)