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 a certified personal trainer, certified health coach and advanced health & fitness specialist. See all of Jen's articles.

Member Comments

  • OK article except for the comment about martial arts using stretches as a warm up. In all my years as both a student and teaching karatedo did i ever see stretching used as a warm-up. It was always done after the warm up not as the warm up. - 5/9/2014 10:05:13 PM
  • Such a great help!! Thank you! - 10/11/2013 6:25:26 PM
  • Enjoyed the article - 8/9/2013 8:15:29 AM
  • Thanks ..Great article. - 7/27/2013 2:02:01 AM
  • Great article. I needed this article to help with pain. - 5/6/2013 7:59:37 AM
  • Thank you for great article. This will help us as we are starting our walking programme today! Getting ready for summer! - 8/20/2012 6:17:52 AM
  • Many of the stretching videos have indeed help my various muscle pains keeping me from having to take meds. Thanks - 7/4/2012 2:25:57 PM
  • CDLBL123
    LOVE THE ARTICLE ON STRETCHING,I HAVE FYBROYIALGIA ,COULD NOT FUNCTION WITHOUT STRETCHING.CDLBL1
    23 - 4/17/2012 9:40:14 AM
  • LMHOLTE
    The article was very informative. Even though I have been doing some streches, I learned some things that I did not know. I also found new streches to try out. Very helpful. - 4/2/2011 2:18:52 PM
  • I enjoyed the specifics & instructions. Great detail!

    And stretching just FEELS good! - 11/5/2010 3:09:17 PM
  • AngelWisdom2857 This is a very good article and i believe more people should follow it., I however, do no the results if you don't for i had a friend who really suffered just from not doing the stretches before a work out or walk. So, my theory do what you want but my advice is to LISTEN for your own benefit and others who have to take care of you afterwards. ann marie - 10/11/2010 10:15:46 AM
  • 2BFITSPARK
    DOTTSLADY-I love the word Joggling---or maybe it should be jogaling... ha ha. It made me feel good! - 9/11/2010 5:12:52 PM
  • Very good article! I'll start stretching 2 or 3 times a day. Thanks very much. - 8/19/2010 8:39:38 PM
  • Thank you for this very informative article. It's great that there are links to both stretching videos and stretching demonstrations : ) ! - 3/29/2010 12:42:30 PM
  • I sometimes don't stretch after walking/joggling, so I sought out a SP article to remind me why (I need constant reminders!). Thanks for writing and reminding me :). - 8/21/2009 10:40:24 AM
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