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Stretching: A Key Component to Your Exercise Program

12:23 PM, Sep 10, 2013   |    comments
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(BLAIR MOREAU - MERCY HEALTH PARTNERS) - Stretching should be a key component to your personal exercise program.

Stretching can help improve flexibility and range of motion of your joints. Stretching should be done only after an appropriate warm up of 10 minutes of light activity also called the warm up. It should also be done after your workout during the cool down. Stretching your muscles before and after your physical activity program will make them feel less sore and ready for the next day's session. Whether you are an exercise enthusiast or just starting out, stretching your muscles before and after your exercise program is very important.

Here are some precautions to keep in mind:

1. Keep the stretch gentle
2. Don't bounce
3. If you feel pain, you've stretched too far
4. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds
5. Repeat the stretch if necessary

Here are a few of my favorite stretches:

• One Leg In One Leg Out Hamstring Stretch - This stretch is good for isolating just one of your legs. This is a good stretch to begin with until you increase hamstring flexibility.
o Sit up straight and a little forward
o Put your right leg straight out in front of you
o Bend your left leg and put your foot against your inner part of your right leg
o Bend forward at the hips and reach out as far as possible on your right leg
o Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat for your left leg

• Calf Step Stretch - This is a calf stretch that can be done basically anywhere. All you needs is a step or some sort of ledge.
o Stand with the front of your foot on the step
o Lower your heel until you feel a stretch in your calf
o Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg

• Hip Flexor Stretch - These muscles allow you to lift your knees and bend at the waist and are located on your upper thighs, just below the hip bones.
o Kneel on your right knee, cushion your knee cap with a towel or exercise mat
o Place your left foot in front of you, bending your knee at 90 degrees and place your left hand on your left leg
o Place your right hand on your right hip to avoid bending at the waist. Keep your back straight and tummy muscles tight
o Lean forward, shifting more body weight onto your front leg. You'll feel the stretch in your thigh
o Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs and repeat

• Knee to Chest Stretch - This stretch focus on the muscles of your lower back.
o Lie on your back on a firm surface with the your heels flat on the floor
o Gently pull one knee up to your chest until the stretch is felt in your lower back
o Bring the knee as close to the chest as comfortably possible
o Keep the opposite leg in a relaxed comfortable position, trying to keep it straight
o Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg

• Shoulder Stretch - Keep your shoulder flexible. If the back of your shoulder is tight, you may be more likely to develop rotator cuff problems.
o Stand up nice and tall
o Bring your left arm across your body and hold it with your right arm
o Hold this position for 30 seconds and switch arms
Keep your muscles loose and experience the benefits of stretching.

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