It is important to plan an exercise regimen that encompasses all aspects of physical fitness. A person’s physical condition is determined a lot by factors such as power, strength, speed, endurance, balance, coordination, agility and skill. However, one vital component that is often overlooked is flexibility.
Flexibility is the capacity of a joint/joints during a certain motion to move through a functionally desired range. It covers lengthening motions such as stretching and bending. It is important to remember that each joint is different. Joints each have distinctive ranges that allow smooth movement. For instance, your hamstrings might make it easier for you to reach your toes and bend forward, but when you try to move in the opposite direction, your hip flexors might limit this motion because they’re not limber enough.
Therefore, over-all flexibility should be thought of as specific and developed at each joint or muscle group. Here are some ways that working with a fitness instructor can help.
The Problems of Having Stiff Muscles
Our body’s lack of stretchability contributes to us not being able to effectively perform everyday activities. This may lead to discomforts such as muscle and joint pains that could seriously affect how we function. For instance, office workers are in a seated position the whole day and may possibly have tight hips. This may lead to hip and pelvis malalignment, causing pain to the lower back, consequently affecting work performance. Furthermore, cases of chronic tight muscles might lead to decreased circulation if not addressed. If the lack of oxygen and nutrient supply continues, the muscles’ ability to recuperate from physically demanding tasks or injuries will take longer, making it difficult to get back to work; worst-case scenario, the body will have further susceptibility to more injuries in the future.
Benefits of Stretching
- Increased Range of Movement
Through stretching, parts of our body are being lengthened. Without any restrictions from a tight muscle, our joints could freely move and muscles will produce less tension when recruited. As a result, there will be an increase in range of movement resulting to our limbs moving smoothly and freely. Because of the lesser tension is needed, our muscles generate more force to perform a task. Which brings us to the next benefit.
- Increased Power
When our muscles are lengthened, the distance they need to move is also increased. Based on physics, if a lever (in this case, the distance our flexible muscles can move) is longer, the force generated by muscles is also increased thus having ‘mechanical advantage’. In simple terms, this means the muscles have more power to move thus functioning efficiently.
- Reduced DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).
DOMS results to micro tears, blood pooling, and accumulated waste products in our muscles. Stretching before and after exercise is an effective cool-down routine to help prevent muscle soreness.
- Improved Energy
By being more flexible, our body is less stressed. For instance, pelvic muscles such as the hamstrings, hip flexors, and quads should be stretched more often to prevent lower back pain – one of the most common reasons why working people seek medical help.
When one is in pain, one is under a lot of stress and as a consequence, stamina and enthusiasm for work is severely affected. Therefore, increasing flexibility through stretching will decrease the possibility of our body being fatigued, thus relaxing our mind and body resulting in increased mental and physical capacity to work.
All About Your Quads
The quadriceps femoris forms the large muscles in the anterior part of the thighs. Four muscles comprise the quads, often referred to as the ‘four heads’ of the muscle and inserts to different sides of the femur bone.
Below are the quad muscles and they are mostly named based on how they insert in your thigh:
The deepest of the quad muscles is known as the Vastus intermedius, which lies between vastus lateralis and medialis.
The medial muscle situated in the inner portion of the thigh is called Vastus medialis.
As its name implies, Vastus lateralis is on the most lateral part of the thigh.
Lastly, the most superficial and medial muscle is called Rectus femoris, which is the part that covers the other three muscles.
Quads straighten your leg at your knee and as the quadriceps tendon inserts at the tibial tubercle over your patella or ‘knee cap’, it also helps to keep your knee joint protected by straitening your knee cap. It also assists in flexing your hips since it crosses your hip joint and pulls your torso and thigh towards each other.
Why Do We Need to Do Quad Stretches?
Quad stretches are essential to your stretching routine since it is a major muscle used in walking, running, or pretty much anything to do with moving your legs. These huge bulk of muscles produce great force and are susceptible to injuries which can affect our functional mobility. They help us move in bed, is activated when we roll, scoot, and even more when we want to move to our chair. They play a great role when we rise from a chair and climbing and descending the stairs. So, therefore maintaining these muscles’ utmost function and increased range of motion is crucial for us to physically move from one place to another.
Best Quad Stretches
- Start in a supine position, lying on a yoga mat or firm mattress. Bend your knees and place your feet firmly on the surface, hip-width apart. Place your hands on each side of your body.
- Slowly bring your hips upwards, pushing your feet into the floor and feel your gluteals contracting.
- Make sure your back is firm and feel them contract as well.
- Feel your front thighs stretch and hold this position as comfortably as you can.
- Try to maintain for 10 seconds and relax your body afterward. Repeat it 10 times.
Wide Child’s Pose
- Begin by kneeling and sitting in your legs with your hands and knees in front of you.
- Bring your knees and hips as wide apart as you can with your big toes touching behind you.
- Breath in deeply, and slowly bring your body forward, lowering your head and while doing so, try to exhale steadily.
- You should be able to feel your neck and spine lengthening, reaching forward with your palms facing up.
- Continue stretching until you feel a stretch through the sides of your body. Relax your whole body and try to inhale and exhale.
- Starting position is the same with the first stretch.
- This time, instead of separating your knees, bring it together and separate your feet apart.
- If your quads are too tight and you feel pain on your knees, place a firm but with a smooth surface object (yoga block or a pillow) behind your back to support it.
- Then, slowly bend backward with your arms above your head palms facing upwards.
- Once you feel comfortable, lift your chest hold this for 30 seconds.
Standing Quad Stretch
- Start by standing next to a wall and put one hand on the wall for stability.
- When you’re in a stable position, slowly bring your legs behind your back with your heel touching your buttock.
- Hold your foot with your free hand and move it tightly towards your body.
- Make sure your flexed knee is perpendicular to the ground. For added stretch, move your hips forward and feel your lower spine contract. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then switch to the other foot.
Lunge Quad Stretch
- Begin by standing and stepping forward with one foot in front. Lunge with your knee bent 90 degrees.
- Next, place your back knee on the floor, and hold the foot with your hand, making sure your heel reach you buttock on that side.
- Open your chest and feel the front of your thigh (with the knee on the floor) stretch.
- Hold this for 30 seconds and try your best to maintain balance.
- Afterward, rest your body and then repeat with the other leg.
Need One-On-One Coaching?
If you’d like to work your quads and want to do so in the safest manner possible, working with a personal trainer might be right for you. Click here to find out more about the fitness coaches at Fast Pace Personal Training