Monday, December 21, 2009

Quick and Dirty of Stretching - Part 2

In part one of the Quick and Dirty of Stretching, the essentials of stretching were identified, marking key points to reaping the benefits of stretching. Now let’s take a look at what to stretch and where to begin?

A complete stretching routine can take as little as 10 minutes, so no excuses! The best time to perform your flexibility routine is after exercise, this being when the muscles are warmest and when you can use the relaxation after your strenuous workout. Because everybody has unique needs, a stretching routine can be designed specifically for you based on your current activities and range of motion. If you find yourself stuck on where to begin, below are basic sample stretches from head to toe, allowing a fluid transition through the routine.

Neck stretch: Lateral Flexion- Ear to shoulder:
Gently bend your neck in attempt to touch your left ear to your left shoulder. Stop when a stretch is felt in the right side of your neck and hold that position for 30 seconds. Return to starting position and repeat for the right side.

Posterior Shoulder Stretch:
Pretend you have an itch between your shoulder blades. Hold your left arm across your body and grab the back of your left elbow with your right hand. Pull the left elbow in as far as you can so that your left fingertips can reach your upper back. Repeat for the right shoulder.

Anterior Shoulder Stretch:
Hold a towel with both hands behind your back, or if you can, grab your hands with elbows extended. Now stick out your chest while you raise the towel/hands back away from your body and hold.

Chest/Biceps Stretch:
Place the palm and inner elbow of the right arm against the wall. Keeping the right arm in contact with the wall, exhale and slowly turn your body around, to feel the stretch in your biceps and chest. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the left arm against the wall.

Triceps Stretch:
Standing up straight and keep shoulders even as possible for this stretch. Bend your right arm at your elbow, lifting your arm next to your head. Position right fingers so they touch the shoulder blade area. Place your left arm across top of your head, and left hand on the right elbow to gently support the arm during this stretch. Hold and repeat for the other arm.

Back Stretch (Childs Pose):
In the kneeling position, place your arms extended out in front of you on the floor and shift your hips back towards your heals. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat if necessary.

Hip Flexor/Psoas Stretch:
Lie on your back. Bend your left leg and bring it toward you. Grasp your left knee gently with your right hand and pull it slightly down and to the right until you feel a stretch. Turn your head to the left. Your right leg should stay flat on the floor. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.

Standing Quadriceps Stretch:
Stand on one leg (grab onto something solid if you need support). Bend your knee and bring your heel toward your buttock. Reach for your ankle with your hand. Stand up straight and feel a slight pull along the front of your thigh and hip. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, release and repeat on the other leg. Be careful not to strain your knee - the goal is not to touch your heel to the buttock, but rather to stretch the thigh.

Hamstrings Stretch:
Sit on the floor with one leg straight in front of you and the other leg bent (with the sole of the foot touching the inside thigh of the outstretched leg). Keep your back straight and lean forward from the hips. Slide your arms forward toward your outstretched foot. Stop when you feel a pull in the hamstring. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg extended.

Written by Jamey Peters
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

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