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Feb 26, 2011

5 Basic Stretching Exercises for Increased Flexibility

Safe StretchingIf you’re a fan of Pilates or yoga, you might know all about the benefits of stretching. However, in addition to improving flexibility for overall health and fitness, stretching can also help you prevent injuries to muscles (when done as a warm-up) while doing your workout and even help you ward off tight muscles when done after a workout (as a cool down training method), during the recovery phase. Most experts agree it’s important to add stretching techniques to your exercise routine, whether you’re into running, aerobics or other cardio fitness program

Tips On How To Stretch In A Safe Way

To do a basic stretch, get your body into the proper position and hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds. Be sure not to bounce or force your body. Just stretch as far as you can, without it being painful. It’s fine to feel mild tension but not pain. If you feel uncomfortable stretching in front of others, isolate yourself in the locker room to do your stretches in private. Also, never hold your breath while stretching. Some people naturally do this and should be avoided at all costs.

5 Basic Stretching Exercises To Try

  1. Calf Stretches. Some experts like guru Bob Anderson calls the calf area the “second heart of the body” because there is a major circulation system in the area, especially when runners push off for the running motion. To stretch the calf, start by leaning against the wall with your arms in front of you. Put your palms flat on the wall. Move one leg forward and put your toe close to the wall. Bend the knee of that leg and slowly move your hip area forward. Keep your lower back area flat and be sure to keep your heel of the straight leg on the floor. Hold this move for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat with the other foot. Do this twice for each leg.
  2. Lower Body Stretches. To stretch the lower back, hip, groin and hamstring, try this stretch. Start by standing with your feet about shoulder width apart. Point your toes straight ahead and slowly begin to bend forward. Keep your knees slightly bent and reach toward your toes. If you can touch them, good. If not, don’t worry about it. The key is not to touch your toes but to stretch out the lower back and hamstrings in an effective way. You can accomplish this whether you touch your toes or not.
  3. Quad Stretches. To do this challenging stretch, start by taking your left foot with your right hand and use your left hand to support your body by holding onto a wall. Slowly and easily pull your heel toward your buttocks, trying to keep the rest of your body straight. Repeat with the other leg and hold each move for 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Hamstring Stretches. Hamstrings most often get tight for those beginning exercise programs, so it’s important to target them while stretching. Sit down and extend one leg out in front of you, bending the other leg in until it touches the inner thigh of the extended leg. Reach out toward the toe of the extended leg for the stretch. It doesn’t matter if you can reach the toe or not. Hold and repeat the process with the other leg extended.
  5. Upper Body Stretches. The upper body can get sore, even from cardio exercises like running where you might think you use it very little. So, it’s important to remember your upper body shoulder and neck stretches as well. To start, raise the top of your shoulders toward your ears until you feel the stretch. Hold this for 5 seconds and relax. Do this 3 times.

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