Muscle stretching is an essential component of exercise and health, helping to maintain flexibility and range of motion in the joints. It's easy to forget to stretch before a workout, perhaps because we don't know exactly why stretching is so important. Stretching improves muscle development, increases range of motion, reduces the chances of injury, and provides warm-up for the muscles. When the muscles are more flexible, the body can carry out activities and exercise them in the correct way; therefore, stretching also helps improve posture.
34 pictures showing muscle stretching
So muscle stretching is important. But which stretches work for which muscle group? Vicky Timon, a yoga expert and author of the encyclopedia "Pilates Exercises," created 34 beautiful illustrations that show you which muscles are affected by different stretches.
1. Camel pose
Reserved for those with good flexibility, the muscles that stand out in this stretch are the rectus abdominis and the external obliques. Sit on your heels and place your hands on your feet as you push your hips up and forward. Avoid putting too much pressure on the neck or spine.
2. Open and flex
This is a great exercise to open your hips, while stretching your adductors and hamstrings. Start this stretch with your knees bent. As your muscles begin to release, slowly straighten your legs, hunch your back, and reach for your feet.
3. Frog pose
This is a deep groin stretch that works the adductor muscles. Begin by resting on your hands and knees and gradually extend your knees until you feel the stretch in your groin muscles. Rock your hips back and forth for slight variations.
4. Side lunge posture
This is another posture of the adductors. Start with both feet forward in a wide stance, and gradually bring your hands to your right foot as you bend your right knee and lift your left toes toward the ceiling.
5. Butterfly muscle stretches
This section highlights the adductors. Start in a sitting position and bring the soles of your feet together and sit upright. Put pressure on the knees with your hands. Bring your feet away from your hips and slowly bend your body to release your back muscles.
6. Stretches of the extensor muscle of the forearm
To stretch the forearm extensors, you start by pushing your shoulder down and back, then turning your shoulder externally. Once in position, apply pressure to the opposite hand and begin to stretch.
7. Lateral neck flexion
This section highlights the sternocleidomastoid or SMC. Keep your neck straight as long as possible, while slowly bringing your ear closer to your shoulder. You can progress this stretch by sitting in a chair and grasping the bottom of the seat.
8. Stretching by turning the neck
To stretch the sternocleidomastoid, slowly rotate your neck, keeping your chin elevated. For a deeper stretch, apply pressure with the hand opposite the direction you are turning.
9. Neck Extension Stretch
To work the sternocleidomastoid, place your hands on your hips, keeping your spine elongated, and tilt your head back.
10. Lateral flexion of the neck with the assistance of the hands
Extend the sternocleidomastoid and upper trapezius, keeping your neck long and gradually dropping your ear to your shoulder.
11. Kneeling quad / hip flexor stretch
This stretch works the psoas and quadriceps. Begin in a medium kneeling position. Gradually bring your right hip forward, take your foot back and squeeze your glute back.
12. Stretches of the forearm extensors
Stretch the forearm extensor, pushing your shoulder down and back, and externally rotating the shoulder. Apply pressure with the opposite hand as a final point.
13. Lateral shoulder stretch
To stretch the side of the deltoid, bring your arm across the front of your body and lightly apply pressure to increase the stretch at the shoulder.
14. Assisted neck flexor stretch
This stretch will work the trapezius muscle. Begin by standing with your feet together. Keeping your spine long, slowly bring your hips back and hunch your upper back, while tucking your chin toward your chest.
15. Dorsal muscle stretch with spinal traction
To stretch your latissimus dorsi, take a firm grip on a barbell while slowly lifting your feet off the ground. Avoid this stretch if you've recently injured your shoulder.