By Kristen Fassolas
Stretching isn’t just for those who don tight leggings and own a yoga mat. Good flexibility can help improve your scuba diving experience and performance.
- Do you sometimes struggle to put on your wetsuit or your BC or harness?
- Do you find it hard to reach down to put on your fins?
- Is it difficult to bend down with your gear on to reach for something you have dropped?
- Are entries and exits into or out of the boat or water difficult?
- Would you like to be able to reach your own tank valve if required?
- Is just turning around to look at your buddy difficult?
- Do you suffer from lower back pain?
If the answer to any of these is yes, you should work on improving your flexibility. Having a healthy range of motion can help with all of the above. This even includes lower back pain. It can also improve your daily life and help to prevent injuries. Taking the time to stretch even helps clear the mind.
Stretching is most effective when your muscles are warmed up. Before you stretch, complete your usual exercise routine. If you simply want to have a stretching session, do a light warm up first. This can consist of a few minutes of gentle jogging on the spot, some arm circles and some hip circles. This will get the blood flowing.
To ensure progress, aim to complete the following stretches every day or at least every other day. If done frequently, they will also help to avoid cramps from tight muscles and ease tension in your body.
Once in position, hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. No stretch should be painful. If it is, adjust the intensity when you need to. Never pull or push through pain. Inhale and exhale deeply while holding the stretch, relaxing further with each exhale. Perform each stretch twice.
Chest and shoulder stretch
Stand in the middle of a doorway with one foot in front of the other. Bend your elbows in a 90-degree angle. Place your forearms on each side of the doorway. Shift your weight onto your front leg, leaning forward, until you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulder muscles.
Raise one arm up into the air. Then place the palm of your hand on your neck or back as low as possible. While doing so, keep your elbow pointing towards the ceiling. Use your other arm to gently pull your elbow back to increase the stretch. Repeat with the other arm.
Glute (buttock) stretch
Lie on your back and bring your knees up to your chest. Cross your right leg over your left thigh. Grasp the back of your left thigh with both hands. Pull your left leg toward your chest. Repeat with your opposite leg.
Quad (front thigh) stretch
Lie on your right side. Grab the top of your left foot and gently pull your heel towards your left buttock. Keep your knees touching. This will stretch the front of your thigh. Repeat on the other side.
Hamstring (back of thigh) stretch
Lie on your back and raise your right leg. Keep your left leg bent with your foot on the floor. Pull your right leg towards you, holding your thigh or calf and keeping the leg straight. Repeat with your opposite leg.
Put your right leg forward, keeping it bent, and lean forwards slightly. Keep your left leg straight and try to lower your left heel to the ground. Repeat with your opposite leg.
Make stretching a new habit. Remember, good flexibility translates into a greater freedom of movement. It helps prevent injury and improves your performance and comfort both above and below the surface.
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