Before any workout begins, it’s important to stretch and loosen up those muscles in order to avoid any tears or injuries. Stretching helps keep your muscles flexible, strong, and healthy and allow your joints to have the proper range of motion they need when exercising.1 Here are some more top stretching tools that can further assist with proper mobility and flexibility when it comes to your body.
Stretching Tools For Common Exercises
Imagine that your muscles are like a piece of canvas, and these tools are the pliers, nails, or other various canvas stretching tools needed. Meaning, they’re here to help you reach further until you ultimately reach your full potential. There are many different stretching tools, but these are some of the most common that can help with plenty of different stretching techniques:
- Lacrosse ball: These hard, dense balls are about the size of a tennis ball and make for a perfect massage on tight muscles after a grueling workout. Lacrosse balls are also great for myofascial release, which is when the ball is used to stretch and loosen the fascia tissue (which is responsible for connecting the various muscle groups) in order to lessen any muscle pain.2 Lacrosse balls are great for massaging your glutes, hamstrings, shoulders, feet, and more.
- Resistance bands: Resistance bands are not only great when it comes to various strength training exercises but can also help you improve muscle flexibility. These stretching tools are great for relieving any muscle tightness, especially in the hips, thighs, or hamstrings.
- Foam roller: Foam rollers are similar to lacrosse balls in that they’re a wonderful self-massage tool that loosens muscles and leaves tight areas feeling warm and ready for recovery after a workout. This stretching tool is also great for alleviating muscle soreness and even increases blood flow and the elasticity of muscle tissue and joints.3
- Leg stretchers: Much like the other stretching tools included in this list, a leg stretcher helps aid your muscles in recovering and loosening up any tight or sore areas, specifically in the legs. (i.e., calves, knees, thighs, hamstrings, tight hip flexors, etc.)4
How To Get More Flexibility And Mobility
You know why stretching is important, but what about mobility and flexibility? It may not seem like much, but these two things are vital when it comes to most basic functions – and you probably don’t even think about it until you find your joints or muscles stiff.
In addition to improving the motion of your joints and muscles, mobility stretches or training can also help your posture, improve your body awareness, and even alleviate everyday aches and pains in your muscle fiber. While resistance bands can help with any mobility or flexibility issues you may be experiencing, sometimes static stretching (i.e., stretching without any tools or equipment) can also be a great resource.
For ideal flexibility, you should move your muscle to the end of its range of motion. It’s important to note that going past your range of motion only puts your muscles at more risk of injury. Be sure to maintain this stretching position for at least 20 to 45 seconds; repeat a couple of times before and after your workout, and watch your flexibility increase over time.5
Stretching Tools For Runners And Athletes
For those who find themselves running or on a sports team, these stretching tools are for you if you need a little something extra after your post-run static stretches:
- Calf stretcher: Runners and dancers, rejoice because those tired legs and feet can finally have a little break with this cool tool. For runners, dancers, or any other athletes who spend ample amounts of time on their feet, calf stretchers allow those tight arch and calf muscles to loosen up and feel great.
- Stretcher bar: Stretcher bars are also great for athletes and dancers. Many can be found in workout rooms, but cheap options exist online if you’re looking to make your own at-home gym or stretching paradise. Grab your favorite resistance band or other rubber band stretching tool for the ultimate muscle repair techniques that will leave you feeling loose and ready for your next workout or dance lesson.
Some studies suggest that regular stretching not only helps improve your flexibility and mobility but can also enhance your athletic performance.6This further drives home the importance of a good stretching routine both before and after any type of physical activity. It can only help in the long run.
Stretching Is Caring
While these stretching tools and techniques are great for enhancing your mobility, they’re also a great form of self-care and recovery. When you exercise, your muscles undergo a certain amount of damage and need time to repair. Stretching is a great way to ensure that your muscles can repair themselves thoroughly and in ways that cause you less muscle pain and soreness.
Additionally, stretching may also help with:
- Stress: If you’re stressed out in your daily life, your muscles are most likely tense. Not only can a good workout help in this department, but a solid stretching session can further help relieve any stress, especially in your neck, shoulders, and upper back.7
- Tension: Similarly, stretching can alleviate any tension that may come with certain exercises, which is why it’s also incredibly important to set aside some time for stretching after a workout. Plus, a cool down feels great; your muscles will be thanking you later.
- Back pain: Backache got you down? Sitting in an office chair or overworking those back muscles won’t do you any good in the long run. Grab your foam roller and give your back a much-needed stretch session at the end of a long day. (This is especially helpful in enhancing your range of motion as well.)8
- Blood flow: Stretching on a regular basis may help improve your blood’s circulation, which can ultimately shorten your recovery time and reduce muscle soreness.9
Creating A Stretching Routine
To reap all the benefits of stretching your body, consider creating a stretching routine. It can be first thing in the morning, before a workout, or even before you go to bed. Whatever route you choose, be sure to pick the stretching tool that best meets your needs that day. For example, if you ran a couple miles, end the day with a calf stretcher or a foam roller or resistance bands, and a lacrosse ball after weight training. Then, spend at least 20 to 30 minutes each day on your stretching. You may find that your sore muscles recover quicker, and your range of motion and flexibility will begin to improve as well.
While a winning routine can make all the difference, so can the right tool. You know your exercise and workout routines best, so be sure to find the stretching tool that corresponds well with whatever workout is on the docket. Listen to your body and understand what it needs, and then massage or stretch those sore muscles out.