Thursday, March 25, 2010

Top Five Basic Stretches to Promote Flexibility

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There are many views about stretching and its benefits. If done properly, stretching can be a relaxing and stress relieving experience. Some say that we should stretch before exercising. Others say we should stretch after exercising and still others emphasize stretching before and after. There is no substantial evidence about the benefits of stretching as it pertains to exercise or that it helps prevent injury. If you are involved in high-impact sports or athletic activity requiring the use of lots of agility, stretching could result in creating instability and actually result in injury.

My main concern is too much precious time is spent focusing on stretching and thereby neglecting the cardio and strength training which are higher priorities. Performing all movement exercises, be it strength training or cardio, results in promoting flexibility.

Stretch briefly between exercises. Please remember that you may want to leave stretching out altogether from time to time when performing a circuit routine that combines the cardio and strength training, because you want to maximize the cardio and muscle endurance benefit.

Here are the top five basic stretches to promote flexibility.

ARMS AND SHOULDERS
Take your right arm and place it across your chest parallel to the ground. With your left hand, reach over and grab your right elbow. Now gently pull your right arm across your chest with your left hand. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds. Switch arms and perform the same stretch.

TRICEPS AND UPPER BACK
In the standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart, raise your right hand to the sky, then bend your elbow and place your right hand behind your back. Reach up over your head with your left hand and grab your right elbow. Now pull your right arm downward behind your back for a gentle  stretch. Reverse arms and do it again. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds for each arm.

FOREARM STRETCH
After you’ve knocked out all those push-ups and pull-ups, you may experience some tightness in your forearms. This stretch will help to relieve the tightness. Reach your right arm out in front of you with your palm facing up as if you are making a hand signal for someone to stop. Reach over with your left hand and grab your right hand at the fingertips and gently pull back on your fingers. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds and then switch arms. For a variation, try this stretch with the fingers facing downward and then pull back with the other hand.

QUAD STRETCH
In the standing position, bend your right knee backward and grab your foot at the ankle with your right hand. Pull your foot to your butt while keeping your other leg straight and both legs close together. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds. Then switch sides and do the same. For support you can put the free hand against a tree, wall or on a rail.

HAMSTRING STRETCH
In the standing position, extend your right leg forward and your left leg is back. Both legs are only about two feet apart, which means this is not a wide position for your legs. Now, while bending the left leg as a lever and your right leg is straight with knee locked, bend down towards your right leg and reach for the toes. You are stretching the hamstring of your right leg. To leverage that stretch, simply bend the left knee; the more you bend the left knee, the greater the stretch. No bouncing! Hold that stretch for 15 to 20 seconds. Switch positions of your legs and repeat the stretch.

GROIN STRETCH (SEATED)
Sit on the ground with the bottoms of your feet together. Spread your legs with knees bent to have the bottoms of your feet touching. Place your hands around your feet and hold them together. Now bend forward and place your elbows on your knees and gently push downward with your elbows while keeping your head up. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds.
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