STRETCHING: HOW TO DO IT RIGHT

Regular stretching exercises should be performed before and after any form of vigorous physical activity to help you warm up and cool down. They are also necessary if you are performing regular muscle strengthening exercises. Knowing the proper stretching techniques is also essential. Statistics show that most common sports injuries—walking, running, and so on—are the result of improper warmups. Properly done, stretching will help you increase your flexibility, and could become a healthful daily routine as well as a warmup for sports or other exercise.

Here are six effective stretching exercises, designed for regular routines and/or pre-vigorous-exercise warmups: (To avoid injury during stretching you should use only slow, careful movements. Don’t jerk or bounce while you are stretching because you could easily injure the joint ligaments of the discs in your spine. Be sure to get your doctor’s approval before you begin any exercise routine.)

1) You can stretch the hamstrings by raising a leg onto a raised surface, such as a table, then bend down toward the outstretched leg. Repeat the stretch with the other leg. You should be careful not to jerk or bounce the movement. Also, don’t be foolish and stretch to the point of pain. In fact, if it does hurt, you should stop immediately, because you are most likely doing something wrong. Remember, incorrect stretching can be dangerous. Also, use common sense and consider your age and degree of fitness before you begin doing this or any other exercise. If done properly, this is an effective stretch for the hamstrings at the back of the thigh.

2) You can stretch your shoulders by standing tall (no slouching) and stretching both your arms straight behind you. This will help improve the flexibility of your shoulders.

3) To stretch the inner parts of your thighs, stand with your legs apart and then move one leg away from you to the side. This stretch should help improve flexibility in your inner thigh muscles.

4) To stretch the quadriceps muscles at the front of your thigh, while standing, hold one leg behind you and pull on it gently. Be careful when doing this stretch because using an arm to help you stretch your leg can cause you to overstretch. You could also easily lose your balance.

5) To stretch the lumbar spine, lie on your back, with your knees up and your hands clasped behind your head. Try to bring your shoulders off the floor and down toward your pelvis.

6) To stretch your abdominal muscles, lie flat on your stomach, with your hands underneath your shoulders, palms on the floor and elbows bent. Slowly push your shoulders and chest up off the floor until you feel a pull across your stomach. Keep that position for several seconds, then lower yourself back to the floor.

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