6 Essential Stretches for Students and Professionals
A word to the wise:
If you are anything like me, or most of the people I know, you are probably spending way too much time sitting at your computer or playing on your phone. We sometimes joke about how people are always looking down at their phones or how people are getting a bend in their finger from texting to much. But even though we joke about it now, we need to realize that this will affect us a lot more the older we get and the longer we do it. Because of this, the general population is in desperate need of a good stretch! Taking time in the morning and throughout your day to do some stretching will make you feel better and reduce future pain.
After high school I went straight to College. After College, I decided to go get my Bachelor Degree. After getting my Bachelor Degree, I got a job at an Architect’s firm. I’m sure you can guess what I did for a majority of the time.
Lots and lots of sitting!
Technology has change the world for the better in my opinion. Unfortunately, most of us now lead a sedentary lifestyle whether we like it or not.
Here is a list of 6 Essential Stretches for Students and Professionals:
#1 – Child’s Pose
This stretch is fantastic in my opinion. The reason I enjoy it so much is that it gives you a deep and satisfying stretch in many different areas of your body, while also being incredibly simple to do.
- Sit down with your knees on the floor. They should be slightly farther than shoulder width apart.
- Keep your feet flat on the ground with your toes together.
- Lean forward and slight your hands along the floor until your forehead is touching the ground.
- Relax in this position.
- Once you’ve gotten comfortable, begin to stretch your arms a little bit further.
- Remember that although you are stretching forward, you are not lifting your butt up higher. Stay as long to the ground and possible.
- Try to sink your butt down as low as you can go. You should feel a good stretch in your shoulders, chest lower & upper back, glutes, groin, quads, and knees.
Here’s a great example of a Child’s Pose, demonstrated by Medibank.
#2 – Neck Stretch
Sitting at a desk and looking down at your phone can wreck havoc on your neck and posture. Properly stretching and exercising the neck muscles will go a long way to keeping you pain free.
- To do a basic neck stretch, take your right hand and put it on top of your head.
- Take your left arm and either let it hang at your side or reach around your back to hold it in place.
- While keeping your left shoulder down, tilt your head to the right.
- Once your head is a far as it will go naturally, very gently pull it further to the right with your hand. Remember to do this lightly as the neck muscles are very easy to over stretch.
- Hold this for 15-30 seconds and switch sides
- Next, I like to take the pressure off from my right hand and slowly roll my head back so I feel a stretch in the big muscle at the front of my neck and hold for 15-30 seconds.
- Slowly straighten your head, switch your arms and repeat the stretch on your left side!
Here’s a great example of a Neck Stretch, demonstrated by Medibank.
#3 – Thoracic Rotation
This stretch will give you a great stretch in your core, chest, shoulder and spine. It can be very easy for some and very difficult for other. It is important to be careful with this type of movement because it is a twist focused movement!
- To start I lay on my back.
- Next, I will raise one knee 90 degrees and rotate so I am laying on my side.
- Assuming it is my left knee I started with, I will put my right hand on my left knee to hold it against the floor.
- Slowing I will raise my left are in the air and twist my shoulders so that eventually my left hand is resting on the opposite side as my leg.
- Trying to look at your left hand will increase the stretch and give you a decent neck stretch as well.
- If you feel any type of uncomfortable tension or intense pressure, ease off a bit and maintain a stretch that is comfortable. Remember that with any stretch the goal is to eventually be able to do these moves with ease. If you cannot do it at first, do not force it. Work on the movement regularly and before you know it, you will be able to do comfortably!
An easier way to complete this stretch is to keep both knees up, similar to the fetal position to start. Here’s a great example of the Thoracic Rotation stretch, demonstrated by Medibank.
#4 – Up-facing dog
Dogs are the ultimate stretchers! After a good nap or long time sitting they will stand up and have good ol’ stretch. Or at least my dog does!
- Lay on your stomach with your hands on the ground (almost like a push up position)
- Keeping your neck in a straight and neutral position, push yourself up while keeping your legs flat on the ground.
- A lot of people will push up like they are trying to force the back of their head to touch their butt. This is not correct. Just like standing with good posture, you want your neck to be in a straight and neutral position with your chest proud and your shoulder blades down and strong.
- Use your chest to properly support yourself, your shoulders should not be touching your ears in this position. Push down into the floor with your chest muscle.
- If you feel pain in your lower back, you are putting to much pressure on it and should ease off a bit.
- You should feel this stretch in your hip flexors and abs.
Here’s a great example of the up-facing dog, demonstrated by Medibank.
#5 – Downward dog
mimicking our pets one more time with the downward dog. With your hands already in position from the previous stretching, you can move immediately into the next stretch for your
- Starting in a position similar to a push up. Your hands should be shoulder width apart, while your feet should be about hip width apart.
- Begin moving your body backwards and up while maintaining straight legs and straight arms. (remember, this does not mean your legs should be pushed completely backwards. This can cause you to hyper extend your knees!)
- By keeping our knees and elbows from bending, we are utilizing our shoulders and hips for the majority of the movement.
- Keep moving backwards until your butt is in the air and your body is in the shape of an A or upside-down V.
- Ideally your feet should be flat on the ground.
- If you are having trouble keeping your legs straight because your calves and hamstrings are to tight, try to “walk it out”. Bend one leg and straighten the other as much as you can, switch and repeat. Continue doing this until you start to feel looser.
- You should be feeling this stretch in your feet, ankles, calves and hamstrings. In addition, you should also feel a great stretch in your arms, shoulders and abs.
Here’s a great example of the Downward Dog, demonstrated by Medibank.
# 6 – The Couch Stretch:
Wow, was this stretch ever hard for me when I started. I learned this stretch originally when I went to a CrossFit gym in Ireland. I was able to squat a decent weight for my size; however, I was having trouble getting low enough because of my tight hips and knees. My coach pulled me aside after class and demonstrated the stretch before asking me to try it out myself. Thinking it looked fairly easy, I got into position and tried to straighten up. I was only able to get my body about 45 degrees from the floor! she burst out laughing and told me it was the worst she had ever seen and that it was definitely a problem. She than made me do it after ever workout.
- Find either on open space on a wall or a couch/chair/bench if that is easier.
- Place your knee on the floor as close to the wall as you can comfortably. (Perhaps start about 6 inches away and get closer when you are able!)
- With your knee on the ground, your foot should be on the wall/couch behind you.
- Your other leg should be bent at a 90-degree angle with your foot planted firmly on the ground, similar to if you were doing a lunge.
- Slowly straighten your body up as high as you can, using either your supporting leg, a chair or yoga block to help support yourself.
- You should immediately start to feel a stretch in your hip flexor and knees. Make sure if you are feeling to much pressure in your knees to ease off a bit. You should never feel pain. It is important to understand the difference between a tight muscle being stretched and pain.
- Ideally you should be able to have your body straight up as if you were standing with your knee as close to the wall as possible. (Your leg and body should be at a 180-degree angle comfortably)
- Keep in mind that you are not arching your back, your core should be tight and you should be pushing your hips forward, not your stomach!
Here’s a great example of the Couch Stretch, demonstrated by BJ Gaddour from Men’s Health.
Here is another great example of the Couch Stretch, demonstrated by Dan the owner of CrossFit Windansea
Safety Note: The Couch Stretch is a very intense stretch for people who sit for a majority of the day. I believe that this is one of the most beneficial stretches I do. That being said, it was also extremely intense for me at first and it took me a lot of practice before I was able to get my knee close to the wall or straighten my body. Take your time so that you do not injure your knees or hips!
Rounded shoulder Fix:
Here’s a little exercise which is great for opening up your chest and keeping your shoulders from getting too rounded by sitting at a desk all day! The TappBrothers have done a good job demonstrating the movement in this video! It’s a simple movement that can be done multiple times throughout the day at your desk, when you take a bathroom break, when you wake up in the morning and when you go to sleep at night.
If you are interested in getting fit naturally and safely, check out their channel. I really enjoy how they focus on natural body movements to promote movement, stretch and flexibility.
We live in a world where texting is ruining our posture. Here’s a great stretching routine to get you fixed up, demonstrated by Jeremy Ethier! Jeremy does a good job of showing you exercises and backing it up with real science.
If you are interested in not only fitness but the science behind it, check out Jeremy’s channel. He uses scientific terminology, demonstrations and well thought out illustrations to show you the science behind the movements and how to properly do them.
What’s your favourite stretch to do everyday?