Fitness Articles

Reference Guide to Stretching

An In-Depth Look at Flexibility

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Get the Most Out of Your Stretching Routine
Stretching can be highly beneficial if done properly. If done improperly, it can cause serious damage. Here are some helpful tips to ensure you are stretching safely and preventing injury:
  • Always warm up before stretching. Stretching a cold muscle increases the risk of pulls or tears. Think of your muscles like you would a rubber band. It’s easy to stretch a warm rubber band, but if you try to stretch a cold one, you risk cracking or breaking it. Don’t treat your muscles like a cold rubber band! Your best bet is to stretch after warming up or at the end of your workout.
  • Do not lock your joints when you stretch. Keep joints like the elbows and knees slightly bent to avoid unnecessary stress on the joints.
  • Never hold your breath while stretching. Try to breathe normally, in through the nose and out through the mouth. This will make your stretching a more relaxing experience.
  • Take your time. The long-sustained, mild stretch reduces unwanted muscle tension and tightness.
  • Do not compare yourself with others. Everyone has different degrees of flexibility. Comparisons may lead to overstretching.
  • If you have had a hip replacement, do not cross your legs or bend your hips past a 90-degree angle during any of your stretching exercises.
  • Avoid ballistic stretching and other high-force, short-duration stretches that use rapid bouncing motions or momentum. You have far less control during this type of stretch and therefore a greater potential risk of injury. It does not allow your muscles to adjust to, and relax in, the stretched position. It may instead cause them to tighten up by repeatedly activating the stretch reflex.
  • Never stretch to the point of pain. If it hurts, stop.
  • Talk to your doctor about any current or former musculoskeletal injuries or problems that might affect your ability to stretch safely and effectively.
SparkPeople Stretching Routines
The following videos and routines will help you increase your overall flexibility.
Basic Stretching Routine
Quick and Easy Stretching Routine
Seated Stretching Routine
Daily Stretching Routine
Advanced Stretching Routine
VIDEO: Lower Body Stretching Routine (standing)
VIDEO: Lower Body Stretching Routine (lying on mat)
VIDEO: Calf and Ankle Stretching Routine (for shin splints)
VIDEO: Upper Body Stretching Routine
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About The Author

Jen Mueller Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, medical exercise specialist and behavior change specialist. See all of Jen's articles.

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