Just what the doctor ordered: Despite physical distancing requirements due to the current pandemic, nine minutes a day is all you need to prepare your body for repetitive motions with purposeful stretches.
BY Amanda Hill, CPT, CES, and FMS
With current Federal pandemic protocols, morning huddles and formations of groups may be diminished. This means employees must take responsibility and ownership for their morning routine, which may or may not include effective stretching.
Stretches are mistakenly regarded as unimportant and may be dismissed if a crew is in a rush to work on a project. This is especially true if employees’ generic stretching program doesn’t seem useful for preparing them for the day. However, a three-minute stretching routine in the morning, afternoon, and evening (total of nine minutes in the day) is beneficial in a number of ways, including improved mobility, better job performance, and reduced risk of injury. This is especially true when the stretches are tailored to the day’s activities.
That’s why Bio Health Management, Inc. (BHMI) works directly with clients to build quick yet beneficial daily craft-specific stretching programs and resources for individual employees. We also take the time to educate on each stretch’s benefits and how to build a personalized stretching routine.
Educating individuals on quick craft-specific stretching programs builds autonomy and personal accountability while properly preparing employees for their job demands.
7 Steps to Encourage Employee Participation
First, educate employees on the benefits of stretching.
Here are seven benefits employees will get out of daily stretching:
- Stretching can minimize the fatigue and soreness usually felt upon waking and at the end of a shift.
- Stretching builds healthier muscles by increases blood supply and nutrients to joint structures and soft tissues.
- Stretching warms up the body allowing for greater tissue flexibility for those overextended motions.
- Stretching increases our bodies’ joint lubrication (think of this as our body’s WD-40), allowing for improved range of motion and reducing joint wear and tear when doing repetitive tasks.
- Stretching prevents nightly cramping caused by overuse of the muscles.
- Stretching improves balance and posture, which reduces discomfort in our neck, back, and hip discomforts and prevents trips and falls on the job site.
- Stretching helps to lengthen shortened muscles to allow for better activation during tasks which reduces the risk of strains and sprains.
6 Jobsite Stretches for Paving Professionals
Below are six stretches you can add to your current stretching routine to improve personal flexibility. These stretches focus on hip, back, knee, and shoulder health. This full-body stretching routine can be done in three minutes.
1) Knee Lift
Hip health and mobility are essential for reducing back discomforts and injuries. Knee raises warm up the lower body, engage hip muscles, and improve balance (which reduces trips and falls). This warm-up and stretch is ideal for anyone climbing stairs, shoveling, or in a bent forward position during the day.
2) Hamstring Stretch
Hamstrings should be like taffy and expand with your body in movement. Most humans are walking around with tight hamstrings more like rope and pull from the hips and knees when bending over or rotating. You can gain around 1/8 to 1/4 inches to your hamstring length by stretching twice a day for six weeks, thus improving how your back feels when you wake up, and at the end of the day. This stretch is beneficial for all crafts and job tasks.
3) Squat Stretch
Squats not only prepare the front of our legs and glutes, but they activate the core. The key to this stretching exercise is keeping a neutral spine and bracing your core. The squat stretch is more effective at prepping the front of your legs and glute muscles for job tasks such as climbing, bending, kneeling, walking, and shoveling/raking.
4) Lunge Stretch
Hips support any activity requiring bending, rotating, sitting, shoveling, walking, running, and side-moving movements. Strong and flexible hip flexors help promote proper posture and reduce back strains. Add this stretch if you sit for long periods, are in a forward bent position for long periods, climb ladders or stairs, kneel, and shovel/rake during your day.
5) Back Arch
Many job tasks in asphalt paving require the body to be in a forward bent position during the day, causing the back to be in a flexion state. When in this position for long periods, muscles used to support our lumbar spine become weak, increasing the chance of a back strain and injury. The back arch helps to increase the curvature of the lumbar spine and prevent muscle imbalances from a forward bent position. This stretch is beneficial for all crafts and job tasks.
6) Chest Stretch
A tight chest muscle causes 70 percent of the shoulder discomforts with a doctor. Chest muscles are the first muscles activated when lifting objects or bringing objects to the body (think of shoveling or controlling a hose during a cement pour). These muscles can’t perform properly if they are too tight, causing tension and soreness in the shoulders and upper back. This stretch is beneficial for all crafts and job tasks.
Teach Employees How–and When–to Stretch
We encourage two forms of stretching: dynamic and static. Dynamic stretching warms up the body and static stretches help stretch tight muscle groups and aide in the recovery process.
Employees can use the same stretches for both but perform them slightly different.
- Pre-shift: Perform each stretch using shorter hold times (3-6 seconds) and more repetition (2-3 per side). This should take no more than 3-5 minutes before a shift.
- Lunch: This can be a combination of dynamic and static stretches, depending on if tension is felt (static) in muscle groups or if the afternoon will have a high demand for repetitive motion (dynamic) in the afternoon. Set aside three minutes at the end of lunch to prepare for the rest of the day.
- Evening: Add a few static stretches for tight muscles to increase recovery and reduce tension. Stretching before bed can change the way one feels in the morning. We recommend a three-minute back and hip stretching routine before bedtime.
For additional information on body mechanics and stretching protocols, visit www.reduceinjuries.com to learn more about Bio Health Management, Inc. injury prevention programs. Just because you work hard does not mean you have to live with discomfort.