Stretching

will save your gluteus maximus not to mention the rest of your muscles!

Benefits
Crucial Steps of Exercising
Rules on Stretching
Neck
Back
Legs & Ankles
Chest
Arms
Wrists & Forearms
Shoulders
Butt
Torso

Benefits

  • It improves flexibility, increasing your range of motion.
  • Because of your increased range of motion, stretching improves athletic performance.
  • Stretching prevents soreness and injury.
  • Inflexibility can lead to many seemingly unrelated problems. For instance, hamstring inflexibility causes lower back pain. So besides the benefits to your athletic performance, stretching is an integral part of remaining healthy.
  • An evening flexibility routine can even help you relax and go to sleep more easily.

Crucial Steps of Exercising

The Warm-up

Never exercise without warming up and stretching first. Don't stretch cold muscles - you won't accomplish squat. Make sure your warm-up and stretch routine includes the following steps in this order:

Step 1: Warm up first for 8 to 10 minutes. Emulate the activity you'll be doing at a minimal intensity; Light jogging to warm up for running, or any sport that includes running. Light cycling for cycling. Easy relaxed swimming for swimming. Jogging and shooting baskets for basketball. Jogging and kicking around the soccer ball for soccer, etc.

Step 2: Stop and engage in slow, relaxed, static stretching. Static stretching includes any stretch that is held to increase flexibility.

Step 3: Light dynamic exercises for loosening-up: Start with shoulder, arm and ankle rotations. Progress to leg-raises, and arm-swings in all directions. Do as many repetitions as it takes to reach your maximum range of motion without causing fatigue.

Step 4: Practice the same movements that will be used during the athletic event, but at a reduced intensity to stimulate coordination, balance, strength, response-time and to prevent injury.

Exercise!

The Cool down.

Immediately after your exercise begin a cool down that lasts 8 to10 minutes. Emulate the same movements you used during exercise at a progressively lower intensity. Then do your static stretches again. While stretching before exercise prevents injury, stretching after exercise is the best time to increase flexibility.

Rules on Stretching

Improper stretching can be just as bad for you as not stretching at all, so pay attention to proper technique and the following rules:

Once again never stretch cold muscles.

Always stretch after warming up and after cooling down.

Do not hold your breath when stretching.

Inhale before you start the stretch, and slowly exhale as you move farther into the stretch. When holding a stretch for a long period of time, continue to breathe shallowly.

Start conservatively.

Just like working out, you need to ease into a routine. Don't go crazy the first time you stretch. Also each stretch should start conservatively, slowly and gently increasing the stretch.

You only need to stretch far enough to feel your muscles elongating.

Obviously you are going to feel tension, possibly gentle pins and needles or some gradual amount of discomfort. However, if you suddenly feel sharp pain or sudden discomfort and feel like saying "ouch" or some other four-letter word, you have likely torn muscle tissue and should immediately discontinue the stretch. Your goal is to create tension and lengthening of the muscle without ever reaching to the point of sudden pain. There is a natural progression of sensations that occurs during a stretch as you increase tension; First you feel the muscle elongating (this is good), then a localized warm feeling grows near the origin or insertion of the muscle. This is followed by a burning spasm-like sensation, which is followed by a sharp pain. Whenever you feel the warmth beginning, ease off slightly to avoid further progression toward pain. In some cases, especially when you are doing a stretching routine for the first time, you may follow the above guidelines flawlessly, but still become sore the next day. For this reason it's best to be very conservative when starting a stretching or exercising routine. Always ease into an exercise routine doing less than you know you can, whether you've had a 1-week break, a 3-month break, or are starting a stretching routine for the first time. There will be plenty of time to impress yourself once your body is used to daily exercise and stretching.

Do not bounce:

Bouncing can produce microtrauma, which turns muscle fibers into scar tissue. This actually makes you less flexible and prone to pain. Bouncing also triggers the stretch reflex. This is a natural reflex that tightens the muscles when the autonomic nervous system senses you are about to overextend a muscle, tendon or ligament. When you bounce your central nervous system is actually shortening your muscle making you less flexible than when you started.

You should always hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds to gain any benefit.

Ideally if you want to increase flexibility, you should take 30 to 40 seconds to ease into a stretch. At the end of this time you should have determined the maximum position you can hold without causing sharp pain. Hold this position for another 20, to 30 seconds, or with practice for another 1 to 2 minutes. Relax and move to the next stretch or repeat after 1 minute.

Try to keep all sides of your body equally flexible.

If you stretch your thigh for instance, be sure to stretch its opposing muscles, the hamstrings. If one leg is more flexible than the other, strive to bring the problem leg up to equal flexibility. Flexibility imbalance can lead to an unbalanced gait (or walk), strain and injury.

Always make sure you're using proper technique.

Review diagrams or instructions from time to time to refresh your mind on the details and remind you of stretches you may be forgetting. It also can't hurt to ask a trainer or therapist if you're using correct technique.

Thoroughly stretch the muscles you'll be using.

Every sport requires certain muscles to work harder than others. It's a good idea to stretch all your muscles every time you exercise to maintain overall flexibility. However you need to take the extra step to focus back in on those muscles you will be using the most.

The order at which you stretch is very important

if you want to get the maximum benefits from your routine. When you do a stretch that "targets" a major muscle group, you end up pulling on other "supporting" muscles. This concept is called synergism. If you don't stretch the supporting muscles first, they could limit the quality of the stretch that your target muscle receives. Stretching your supporting muscles immediately before the target muscle enhances the stretch that your target muscle receives. So follow the guidelines below when setting up the order of your stretch routine. (We've included an order following the guidelines.) Once an order has been established, stick to it. This helps you remember to do every stretch.

  • Stretch your back (upper and lower) first
  • Stretch your sides after stretching your back
  • Stretch your buttocks before stretching your groin or your hamstrings
  • Stretch your calves before stretching your hamstrings
  • Stretch your shins before stretching your quadriceps (if you do shin stretches)
  • Stretch your arms before stretching your chest

Now to make it easier, here's an order that follows the above rules:

  • Back
  • Sides
  • Neck
  • Wrists and forearms
  • Triceps
  • Chest
  • Buttocks
  • Groin (inner thigh)
  • Ankles and shins
  • Thighs (front and outer)
  • Calves
  • Hamstrings
  • Instep

Too many different stretches?

You may not have time to do all the following stretches aggressively each day. If you stretch one muscle for a long time on one day, and fail to stretch it equally hard the next day, you will accomplish very little. In order to increase the flexibility of a muscle you must stretch it thoroughly every day for at least a week. An effective way to still increase the flexibility of all these muscles, is to divide the stretches into several groups of five or six stretches each. Each week pick a different group of muscles to focus on and to stretch thoroughly to improve their flexibility. For all of the other muscles, just spend the amount of time required to maintain their flexibility. Continue to rotate through the muscle groups from week to week in this manner.

Neck

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Neck Rotations

  • Stand erect, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Relax your arms.
  • Slowly make large circles with your head, changing direction every few circles.
  • Feel the stretch along your neck.

Back

Cat Stretch

  • Get down on all fours (hands and knees) starting with your back straight.
  • Press your back toward the sky and hold for several seconds.
  • From that position, slowly move torso back until your legs are completely bent, and your arms are extending over your head.
  • hold for 15 seconds.
  • Feel the stretch in your upper back and triceps.

Spine Stretch

Similar in position, but not to be confused with the butt stretch

  • Sit erect with your legs stretched out in front of you.
  • Bend the right knee and place the right foot on the floor to the left side of the left knee.
  • Turn your shoulders so that you are facing to the right.
  • Use your left upper arm against your right knee to help ease you further around.
  • Place your right hand on the floor for support.
  • Feel the stretch along the length of the spine.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Trunk Twists

  • Stand tall with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, hands resting on hips.
  • Rotate the upper body slowly and smoothly to bring the right shoulder to the front and the left shoulder to the back.
  • Hold for a couple seconds.
  • Rotate the upper body slowly and smoothly to bring your left shoulder to the front and right shoulder to the back.
  • Hold for a couple seconds and repeat, keeping your back straight.
  • Feel the stretch in your upper back.
  • You can simultaneously tone your stomach by doing 2 crunches each time you hold at the end of a rotation.

Upper Back Stretch

  • Stand tall, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Keeping your palms face down, cup the outside of one hand with the other.
  • Gently straighten your arms and push your hands as far away from your chest as possible, allowing your upper back to relax.
  • Feel the stretch between your shoulder blades.
  • Switch the hands so the opposite hand gets cupped and repeat the stretch.

Pelvic Tilt (for pregnant women)

  • Get down on all fours (hands and knees) starting with your back straight.
  • Pull in your stomach, arch your back upward and hold for several seconds.
  • Return to a straightened back position.
  • Repeat.

Legs & Ankles

Ankle Rotations

  • While standing on one leg, rotate your ankles one at a time in every direction as far as they will go.
  • This will loosen up your ankle joints to avoid injury incase you land on them wrong.
  • You can try spelling the alphabet in the air with your toes if you need some form of entertainment.

Calf Stretch

Exercise 1

  • Stand facing a wall (or other vertical surface such as a tree).
  • Place your hands at shoulder height against the wall a shoulder width apart.
  • Extend your right foot backward, placing it directly in line with your left foot.
  • Straighten your back leg, pressing your heal to the floor.
  • Keep your hips facing the wall and your spine straight.
  • Feel the stretch in the back of the lower leg in your calf muscle.
  • Repeat with your other leg.

Exercise 2

  • Stand facing a wall (or other vertical surface such as a tree).
  • Place your hands at shoulder height against the wall a shoulder width apart.
  • Extend your right foot backward, placing it directly in line with your left foot.
  • Slowly and conservatively press your right knee toward the ground allowing your heal to lift slightly off the ground.
  • Feel the your posterior ankle loosen up.
  • Remember to be conservative during this stretch as it involves tendons and ligaments of your ankle.

Quad Stretch

  • Stand on your left leg.
  • Brace yourself with your left hand or practice your balance by placing your left hand against the center of your chest.
  • Take hold of the right foot with your right hand.
  • While pointing your right knee toward the ground, ease your right foot close to your buttocks.
  • To enhance the stretch, contract the quadriceps muscle. Hold this contraction for four to five seconds. Then relax the leg and pull the foot closer to the butt.
  • Feel the stretch along the front of the right thigh.
  • Repeat with the left leg.

Hamstring Stretch

It's more effective to stretch one leg at a time, so you're less limited by your pain threshold.

Option 1: a good hamstring stretch to start with

  • Lie on your back.
  • Lift your right leg up.
  • Grab the back of your right thigh.
  • Slowly straighten your right leg keeping your foot flexed at a 90û angle to your leg.
  • Repeat with your other leg.
  • If your hamstrings are rather flexible and you need more of a challenge, wrap a towel around the ball of your foot, and gently pull it down with your hands.
  • Feel it in the back of your raised leg.

Option 2

  • Sit on the ground with your left leg straight and your right leg bent so your right foot is resting against your inner thigh.
  • Point your left toes up, straighten your back and if you can, lean toward your left foot.
  • Hold
  • Feel the stretch in the back of the right leg.
  • Repeat with the other leg.

Option 3

  • Once you completed option 2 try this more difficult stretch.
  • Extend both legs straight out in front of you.
  • Straighten your back and point your toes up.
  • If you can lean forward without breaking form.
  • Hold
  • Feel the stretch in the back of your legs.

Option 4

  • Stand straight up.
  • Place the heal of either foot on a surface that is close to hip height.
  • Keep your toes pointed up.
  • Straighten your raised leg.
  • If you can, bend your torso at the hips toward your feet taking hold of your raised leg with your hands.
  • Feel the stretch in the back of the raised thigh.
  • Repeat with your other leg.

Note: The hamstrings can cause great pain and injury if not thoroughly stretched, so you might want to hold these stretches for up to 1.5 minutes. For increased effectiveness, while bent forward in the stretching position with your extended leg slightly bent, tighten all of the muscles of the upper leg for four to five seconds. Then relax the leg. As you relax, you should be able to move farther into the stretch. Try this technique several times with each leg. This technique of contracting and relaxing helps with other stretches as well.

Forward Splits

  • Place one leg forward and one back.
  • Use the hands for support. If your hands don't easily reach the ground, place a chair on each side, and place a hand on each chair seat for support.
  • Gradually lower yourself into the stretch for one to 1.5 minutes.
  • Feel the stretch on the front of your backward stretched thigh (quads) and on the back of your forward stretched thigh (hamstrings).
  • Push yourself back up out of the stretch with your hands when finished.
  • Switch legs and repeat.

Regular Splits

  • Stand with your feet about two shoulder widths apart to each side.
  • Use the hands for support. If you can't place your hands on the floor, then place both hands on a chair seat directly in front of you.
  • Gradually lower yourself into the stretch for one to 1.5 minutes.
  • Feel the stretch in your inner thigh (groin or adductors).
  • Use your hands to press up out of this stretch when finished.

Butterfly Groin Stretch (Modified Lotus, Tailor Sitting)

Exercise 1

  • Sit with erect posture.
  • Ease both of your feet up towards your crotch and place the soles of your feet together, allowing your knees to come up and out to the side.
  • Grab the front of your ankles and ease both knees toward the ground, while gently pushing outward and down with your elbows.
  • Feel the stretch along the inside of your thighs and groin.

Exercise 2

  • Sit with erect posture.
  • Ease both of your feet up towards your crotch and place the soles of your feet together, allowing your knees to come up and out to the side.
  • Grab underneath your feet and ease your torso toward the ground.
  • Feel the stretch along the inside of your thighs and groin.

Inner Leg Stretch (adductors)

  • Stand erect with your feet spread about two shoulder widths apart.
  • Place your hands on your thighs.
  • Bend the right leg and lower the body toward the right foot keeping your back straight.
  • Feel the stretch in the inside of the left leg.
  • Repeat with the other leg to the opposite side.

Hip and Thigh Stretch

  • Stand with you feet approximately 2 shoulder widths apart.
  • Turn the feet, pointing your toes to the left and facing to the left.
  • Bend the left leg and place your hands slightly apart on the floor to the right side of your left bent leg.
  • Extend the right leg backward while pressing down with the hips.
  • Keep your back straight.
  • Feel the stretch along the underside of your left thigh and in the front of the right thigh.
  • Slowly return to a standing position keeping your feet 2 shoulder widths apart and turn to the right side to repeat the exercise on the opposite side.

Top Thigh Stretch

  • Lie down on your stomach as if you were doing push-ups.
  • Extend your right leg out to the right
  • Push your upper body off the ground while keeping your hips against the gound.
  • Hold
  • Return to starting position.
  • Switch legs and repeat.

Chest

Chest Stretch

  • Stand tall in front of a wall (or other vertical surface such as a tree) at a 45û from the walls surface.
  • Raise your right arm and place your right hand against the wall so your right arm is bent at a 90û angle and your upper arm is parallel to the ground.
  • Slowly rotate your left shoulder away from the wall pressing your forearm and hand into the wall.
  • Feel the stretch across the right side of your chest.
  • Repeat the stretch using the left arm.

Arms

Tricep Stretch

  • Stand straight.
  • Grab your right elbow with your left hand.
  • Raise your left elbow straight up into the air and gently pull it backward so your right hand slides down your spine.
  • Make sure your spine is straight and torso erect.
  • Feel the stretch on the underside of your upper right arm.
  • Repeat with the left arm.

Arm Circles

  • Stand erect, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Straighten one of your arms.
  • Make as large a circle as you can make with this arm in one direction several times and then in the other direction several times.
  • Keep your back straight.
  • Repeat with the other arm.
  • Feel your chest, shoulders and side loosening up.

Biceps Stretch

You might be able to stretch your biceps just by fully straightening your arms And extending the top of your hand with bent fingers toward the top of your forearms Now rotate your arms so they extend behind you and hold.

If you need more of a stretch resume this position and ask a friend to gently and slowly raise your arms higher behind you.

Or if a friend isn't available try the following:

  • Stand one arm's length from a pole facing away from the pole.
  • Keep your back erect, feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent.
  • Extend your right arm to the side with your palm facing backward.
  • Reach back and wrap your right fingers around the pole propping up your hand with your right thumb.
  • Keeping your right arm slightly bent at all times, slowly and gently rotate your right shoulder forward and down.
  • Feel the stretch across your chest and in the biceps.
  • Repeat with other arm.

 

Wrists & Forearms

Very important before handling heavy weights

Hand Rotations

  • Rotate and bend your hands as far as you can in every direction you can think.
  • Your wrists should loosen up a bit.

Wrist Flicks

Once you have loosened up your wrists with wrist rotations and wrist stretches, try this exercise to prepare your wrist for tension.

  • Hold your hands up and toward the center of your chest with palms facing you.
  • Briskly shake your hands down and out.
  • Return to starting position.

Wrist Extension Stretch

  • Extend your right arm in front of you, elbow slightly bent, and hand opened face up.
  • Place your left fingers together, face down, on top of your right fingers.
  • Extend your right arm straight while pressing your right fingers down with your left hand.
  • Hold.
  • Feel it in the belly of your right forearm.
  • Switch hands and repeat.

Wrist Flex Stretch

  • Position your right hand palm facing down in front of you, extending across your chest.
  • Raise your right elbow so your right arm is parallel to the floor.
  • Grab the top of your right hand just distal to the wrist with your left hand.
  • Use your left hand to flex the relaxed right hand toward the right elbow while gently lifting the right wrist upward.
  • Feel it in the top of the wrist and forearm.
  • Repeat with the other hand.

Inward Wrist Twist

  • Position your right hand face up in front of you just below your chest.
  • Grab the underside of your relaxed right hand with your left hand by wrapping your fingers around the thumb-side base and pressing your left thumb against the right hand just below the first pinky knuckle Ð much easier to explain visually.
  • Gently pull at the right thumb-side base while pushing at the right hand near the pinky knuckle.
  • This should twist your wrist to its limit.
  • Feel the pull in the extensors and wrist.
  • Hold.
  • Repeat with the other hand.

Outward Wrist Twist

Another doozy to explain Ð see diagram.

  • Extend your arms in front of you.
  • Place your hands back to back like spoons, palms facing to your left.
  • Lock the right fingers between the bases of the left fingers.
  • Slowly and gently use the right hand to pull the relaxed left hand toward the center of your chest upper.
  • Feel the pull in your wrist.
  • Hold.
  • Repeat with the other hand.

Shake out your wrists after each exercise.

Shoulders

Shoulder Stretch

  • Stand erect, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Place your left arm, straight out in front of you, parallel with the ground, palm facing to your right.
  • Reach under your left arm with your right hand and grab the outside of the left elbow and upper arm.
  • Use your right hand to pull your left arm in an arc from its current position toward your right side.
  • Feel the stretch in the back of your right shoulder.
  • Repeat with the other arm.

Shoulder Circles

  • Stand erect, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • With your arms relaxed make as large a circle as you can make with both shoulders in one direction several times and then in the other direction several times.
  • Feel the stretch between your shoulder blades and in the chest.

Butt

Butt Stretch

  • Sit erect with your legs stretched out in front of you.
  • Bend the right knee and place the right foot on the floor to the left side of the left lower thigh.
  • Wrap your left arm around the top of your right shin, grabbing the left elbow with your right hand.
  • Pull the right knee toward your left shoulder keeping your back erect.
  • Feel the stretch in your right butt.
  • Repeat with the other leg.

Torso

Back Arch

  • Lie with your belly on the floor.
  • Bring your hands to the sides of your shoulders as if you were going to do pushups.
  • Ease your chest off the floor, keeping your hips and lower abdomen firmly pressed against the floor.
  • Feel the stretch in the front of your torso.

Side Bends

  • Stand erect, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Place your left hand on your left hip.
  • Bend slowly to the left side, raising your right arm over your head.
  • Do not lean forward or backward.
  • Feel the stretch along your right side.
  • Come back to the vertical position and then bend to the right side raising your left arm over your head.

Scratching Post

  • Stand facing a wall (or horizontal bar at a height above your head) with your feet planted an arm length away from the wall.
  • Raise your arms and place your palms against the wall (or grab the bar).
  • Without moving your hands, lower your upper torso toward the wall.
  • Feel the stretch in your chest, upper abdomen and upper arms (triceps).

Swimmer Streamline Stretch

  • Stand erect, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Raise your arms above your head and clasp your hands together.
  • Press your hands toward the sky straightening your arms.
  • Feel the stretch in your torso.

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