Stretching is a crucial part of any training. It improves flexibility, warms up the muscles and prevents injuries as you move forward to strenuous training. In military training, stretches are categorized into three types: Static, Passive, and Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation or PNF. Military stretches are radically different from stretches taught by a fitness trainer. They are only recommended for fit, healthy soldiers. So when performing any of these stretches, be selective.
Static stretches release tension and discomforts from stiff muscles. Hold every position for at least 10 seconds during warm-up and cool down. To improve flexibility, maintain the position for at least 30 seconds.
Neck and Shoulder Stretch
Start by standing straight with feet shoulder-width apart. Keep the arms behind you. Now with your right hand, hold onto your left wrist. Tilt your head to the right then maintain this position for 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side, tilting your head to the left.
Hip and Back Stretch
Lie on your back on the floor. Keep your arms and legs straight, feet together. Now, bring the left knee slowly to the chest, stretching it towards the head. Grab the bent leg with both hands, pulling the leg closer to the head. Hold this position for at least 10 seconds. Repeat the motion to the other side. Another variation of this stretch is to bend both knees and pulling them closer to the head with the hands.
Passive stretches are typically performed with a gym equipment or a partner. Every movement improves flexibility and a greater range of motion.
Assisted Groin Stretch
This stretch has to be performed with a partner. Sit on the ground with your knees bent, soles together. Your partner will kneel behind you then gradually apply pressure on your bent knees. This will cause the groin muscles to stretch out, causing a slight discomfort. Maintain the stretch for at least 10 seconds.
Assisted Hamstring Stretch
Sit up straight on the ground, legs outstretched, and feet together. Slowly reach for your feet by stretching your hands. Your partner will knee behind you then apply pressure on the upper back. Once you reach your feet, grab them and maintain this position for at least 15 seconds.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation or PNF Stretches
PNF stretches will engage all major muscle groups. The stretches are performed using a series of muscle contraction, assisted resistance and relaxation to release tension.
PNF Gluteal and Hamstring Assisted Stretch
Lie down with your back on the ground with the legs outstretched, feet together. Now lift your right leg straight up. Your partner will put your lifted leg on his shoulder while holding your left knee. He will then apply pressure so you can stretch your glutes. Hold the stretch for at least 5 seconds. Do three reps on each leg.
PNF Assisted Chest Stretch
Sit up straight, cross-legged on the floor. Slowly outstretch your arms to the sides to engage the pecs. Your partner will hold both arms by the wrist, applying gentle pressure to open up the chest. Now maintain the stretch for at least 5 seconds, that’s one rep. Now do three reps.