Why and How You Should Stretch, Including Total Gym Stretching Exercises

Stretches for the Upper Body on the Total Gym


Stretching is important for people of all ages! Regardless of age, current flexibility, and whether or not you workout, stretching should be a part of your daily routine.

Just a few minutes of stretching a day is beneficial to your body. If your muscles, joints, and tendons are well conditioned they will be better able to handle the impact of sport, exercise, and daily activities and it helps prevent injuries.


As we age, our muscles tighten up and the range of motion in the joints decreases. Daily activities and normal movements can be affected due to an inhibited range of motion in the muscles and joints. Simple tasks such as reaching for something on the top shelf or bending down to tie your shoes can also become extremely difficult if the muscles are unable to accommodate these movements.

Flexibility training should really be a prime component of any fitness program but often, it’s last on the list. If your muscles are not fully recovered and ready to perform, how do you plan to achieve any results?

The three main components of any fitness program should include:
• Strength training
• Cardiovascular training
• Flexibility training

Often, the flexibility part is never performed. One may say, “oh I’ll do it later… at home,” and it never happens! As a result, you return to workout the next day feeling tight, heavy, sluggish and sore, all because your muscles have not recovered and the toxins have not been released from your body.

A regular stretching program can help strengthen and lengthen your muscles, prevent future injuries, and can make daily activities much more enjoyable.


Stretching is important for people of all ages and fitness levels. Everyone can learn to stretch and incorporate it into a daily routine, even if you do not exercise regularly. It does not have to be a huge commitment; a little can go a long way.

Here are a few benefits that you can expect from stretching daily:
• Daily actives and workouts will be much easier
• Reduced muscle tension
• Increased range of motion in the joints
• Increased circulation of the blood
• Increased energy levels
• Increased performance level
• Prevents injury


Stretching should be done dynamically before a workout to warm up the muscles, during a workout to briefly release a muscle just worked, and post workout to recover, release, and promote resting length of the muscles again.

Flexibility work is something that can be done daily. The more you practice a task, the better you become. The same is true with your body. The more you focus your attention on flexibility, the more your muscles will adapt to the stretch and greater flexibility will be achieved.

Making an effort to stretch does not have to involve a huge time commitment. Stretching for even a few minutes a day will produce results!

There are so many different types of stretching techniques used to improve flexibility. Here are some of the most commonly used techniques and examples.

Static Stretching

Static stretching is the most common type of flexibility training. Static stretching is executed by extending a muscle to its maximal point and holding it for 30 seconds or more. There are two types of static stretching:
Active: the individual applies more force to the stretched muscle for more intensity.
Passive: a partner or a device applies force for you to increase the intensity of the stretch
Example: active or passive hamstring stretch

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching is continuous movement patterns or specific exercises to warm-up and stretch the muscle being used. Typically dynamic stretching is performed before a workout, sport, or activity.
Example: Walking lunges, leg swings, jumping jacks

Ballistic Stretching

Ballistic stretching utilizes a repeated bouncing or pulse movement to stretch the muscles followed by static stretching. This is not the most preferred method of stretching due to the increased risk for injury by stimulating the stretch reflex. Athletes and dancers commonly use ballistic stretching to perform specific drills.
Example: seated butterfly

Myofascial Release

Myofascial release technique is typically performed on a foam roller or small ball. This technique helps to relieve tension, soreness, and improves flexibility in the fascia (connective tissue) and muscles. Perform continuous forward and back as well as side-to-side movements over an area for 30-60 seconds before moving to the next spot. Your pain tolerance will determine how much pressure should be applied to the muscle.
Example: IT band


1. Static – child’s pose (face the tower)
2. Dynamic – reverse lunge (low incline)
3. Ballistic – Fig 4 stretch (squat stand is on)
4. Foam roller – chest on TG (wide stance of legs)


1. Shoulders – (kneel facing tower, hold onto cables to open shoulders)
2. Triceps – (hold 1 cable and arm stretches back)
3. Biceps – (sit away from tower, hold cables & rotate the arm to feel the stretch)
4. Back – (sit away from tower, hold cables & move spine into flexion/extension)
5. Chest – (sit facing away from tower, hold onto cables & lean forward to open chest)
6. Neck, Upper Back, & Shoulders – (up dog, down dog, rotate spine & reach)

*View the video link to see a demonstration of these stretches.

Stretching is an important part of every person’s daily life! We do it unconsciously all the time, especially if the body feels stiff or sore from sitting for long periods of time. A consistent stretching program will provide your muscles with increased flexibility and joint movement, plus it feels good. Take care of your body and the muscles that carry you around each day, and they will take care of you!

Maria Sollon Scally, MS

Maria Sollon

Maria Sollon Scally MS, CSCS holds a Master’s Degree in Performance Enhancement/Injury Prevention and Kinesiology. She has obtained numerous certifications in various areas of fitness and is a national conference presenter. Maria specializes in Pilates, Performance Coaching, and Corrective Exercise Techniques and Kettlebells. She is the creator of the Plyo Pilates Method and has developed a series of amazing workout DVDs. She is a Master Trainer for Total Gym, Resist-a-Ball, Body Blade, Peak Pilates, Kettle Bell Concepts and is a freelance writer for Fitness accredited magazines, newsletters, and fitness blog sites. Maria demonstrates her knowledge each day and uses her dynamic creativity throughout her specialized line of work. http://www.groovysweat.com http://www.groovysweatstore.com (purchasable workout videos) http://www.youtube.com/groovysweat (workout clips)

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