21/10/2013 10:10 BST | Updated 21/12/2013 05:12 GMT

Stretching... The Most Important Part of Exercising??

The alarm is pounding on your bedside table and your arm reaches instinctively out to slam it off. It's another morning of work and no play, and to top it off, as you sit up and reach that leg out of bed, it hits you...agony! How, when yesterday you felt so good after your work out, can you feel so terrible in the morning? Sound familiar? I thought so haha.

Well first, I just want to say 'Congratulations!' If your muscles are feeling a bit sore, it means that you killed it in the gym the day before, so feel proud of yourself for putting in the effort. It might be sore now but stick with it and you'll definitely see the rewards in the mirror. If, however, they're feeling painfully sore, this could mean that you haven't stretched properly.

Stretching may not seem important however it is THE MOST important part of your workout. Stretching helps you to avoid injuring yourself during a workout and prevents your muscles from tightening up afterwards. Stretching doesn't take long to do but it will prevent any pain later so don't skip it!


Here are a few stretches to get you started.

1) Static Stretching.

This is where the desired muscle is stretched with the work of other muscles by holding a static pose for 20 -30 seconds.

2) Active Stretching

This involves stretching the muscle actively, by using the opposing muscle to hold the stretch. (E.g. using your quads to hold a position while you stretch your ham strings.)

3) Dynamic Stretching

This is similar to active stretching but, instead of holding the stretch, you move during it. (E.g. The 'Grand Battement' is performed using the ballet bar and is good stretch to include in any warm up.)

4) PNF Stretching (Propioreceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation)

This is my favourite type of stretch. It's an effective but intense combination of contracting and relaxing the intended muscle. Plus, it never gets boring because there are many possible combinations (e.g. Contract-Hold-Relax).

To perform this stretch, you should contract the muscle isometrically for 5 seconds before you relax into the stretch. I like to repeat this 3 times and often find that I'm able to stretch deeper after each contraction.

Top Tip: The most effective way to do this stretch is with a partner

5) Functional Stretching

This is fairly new and is, as it's name suggests, functional and precise. The majority of functional stretches are done standing. (E.g. like moving from a forward lunge to transfer the weight through to the back foot, and stretching the front hamstring with the front foot flexed.)

My favourite stretch at the moment is the Hamstrings Stretch.

To do this:

• Start with you legs in a wide stance (feet further out than your hips). Then slowly lean forward, hingeing from your hips and running your hands gently down the back if your legs.

• When you are completely relaxed over, with straight legs, hold your ankle with your hands. To progress the stretch, try to touch your shin with your head. If this is too easy, try to touch the floor.

• For each position, hold for approx. 20 secs to feel the stretch before moving onto the other leg.

• Once the stretch is complete, flex your knees slightly as you roll up gently through the spine.

Top Tip: For more detailed versions of the stretches and variations, I recommend visiting YouTube as you can find lots of great exercises videos and stretching demos to help you visualize what you should be doing.)