Your body is shaking, your thighs are burning up and you hear your instructor say one more set … “three, two, one and release.” That one little word that seems to be a favourite among barrestars: release. We know that the first thing that you want to do after that fire barre series is take a quick break to reset but we are only half way there. As important as your barre series is, the stretch that follows is just as important. We encourage you to carry the same mental focus that you maintained throughout your barre work into the stretch series that follows. Today on the blog we are chatting about a few of the many benefits that come from a killer stretch after a killer series and then giving you a few tips to get into each stretch both deeper and safer.
So why do we stretch? There are a million reasons but we will start by breaking down the two most important:
1) Stretching out your muscles after exertion reduces tension. This may not take away the next morning soreness and stiffness entirely, but it will certainly minimize it. Stretching will eliminate the lactic acid that your body has built up during that series of plies and pulses! Also, if your muscles remain in a tense state after your workout, you are more prone to injuries including strains, pulls, rips and tears. Stretching will reduce your predisposition to injury.
2) We get the question all the time – How do I increase my flexibility? One word baby: STRETCH! This follows from dissipating muscular tension after exertion, stretching allows muscles to return to their natural form rather than remaining in a constricted state. An increase in flexibility will promote a greater range of motion and will increase muscle coordination/control. These are both things that will take your workout to the next level.
So now that we have been though the WHY, let’s hit up the HOW. Like we mentioned earlier, many people use the stretching segments of class as a mental and physical break – break that nasty habit! Staying mentally connected to every stretch that you do is the best way to get the most out of it. This means activating that mind-muscle connection and sending your breath into each muscle that you stretch. Here are a couple of pro tips to help you get the most depth out of a few of your favourite stretches:
1) Barre Stretch – Make sure that your hips stay even and your back stays flat to get a good stretch into the hamstring/back of the thigh. Pull your chest towards the mirror and reach your belly button towards your knee. (Unless you are blessed with long hamstrings and a tall torso, this probably won’t actually happen, but it is still a good way to think about it.)
2) Barre Pigeon – Work on releasing tension through your hips so that you can lay your leg flat on the barre. (It’s okay if it doesn’t go completely flat … again, it’s just a good way to think about it.) A lot of people have a tendency to pull away from the barre in this stretch, but shining your chest forward, towards the mirror, will actually take it deeper.
3) Side Body Stretch – Energetically reach your fingertips towards the mirror, but slide that shoulder blade down your back simultaneously, do this all while twisting your heart up to the ceiling and you will feel not only a great stretch into your side body, but also your inner thighs and chest.
If you want tips and tricks about any of the other stretches that we do in class, your #BarreBoss knows best. Hit her up with any questions about form, alignment or advice to take your stretch to the next level. Also, if you are feeling any trouble spots brought on by barre or another workout that you do, your barre instructors are more than happy to recommend a few stretched to fix you right up!