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Stretching exercises alone will not improve your endurance or strength but are critical if you want to avoid injury during your normal exercise routine.
How much to stretch & how often - Stretch before, during, and after you do your regularly scheduled strength and endurance exercises. Some doctors agree that stretching after weight training will assist in the promotion of muscle growth. Also, stretching between excercises or sets reduces the amount of chemical buildup in your muscle cells that cause fatigue.
Note: Stretching exercises, by themselves, don't improve endurance or strength. Slowly stretch into the desired position, as far as possible without pain, and hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Relax, then repeat, trying to stretch farther. Always warm up before stretching exercises, for example do a little bit of easy walking and arm-pumping first). Stretching your muscles before they are warmed up may result in injury. Stretching should never cause pain, especially joint pain. If it does, you are stretching too far, and you need to reduce the stretch so that it doesn't hurt. Mild discomfort or a mild pulling sensation is normal. Never "bounce" into a stretch; make slow, steady movements instead. Jerking into position can cause muscles to tighten, possibly resulting in injury. Avoid "locking" your joints into place when you straighten them during stretches. Your arms and legs should be straight when you stretch them, but don't lock them in a tightly straight position. You should always have a very small amount of bending in your joints while stretching.
Making Progress - You can progress in your stretching exercises; the way to know how to limit yourself is that stretching should never hurt. It may feel slightly uncomfortable, but not painful. Push yourself to stretch farther, but never so far that it hurts.
Shoulders - Interlock your fingers and reach above your head. Your lower back should be flat or slightly arched inwards. You can perform this exercise sitting or standing.
Triceps -Place your left hand behind your head and reach as far down your back as possible. With your right hand grasp your left elbow and gently pull it behind the back of your head. You can perform this exercise sitting or standing. Repeat for the other arm.
Biceps - Extend both arms out so they are parallel to the floor. Turn your hands palm facing up and your elbows locked. Now, without moving your arm try to point your fingers to the ground. You should fell a pull in your biceps and forearms.
Chest - Clasp your hands behind your back. Gently straighten your elbows and raise your arms as high as comfortably possible. You can perform this exercise sitting or standing.
Calf Stretch - Stand 2-3 feet away from a wall. Put your hands against the wall at about shoulder level to support your weight . Lean in toward the wall by bending your elbows until you feel a stretch in the back of your calves . Keep your body erect, your knees straight, and your hips forward. DO NOT bend at the waist. Make sure your heels remain on the ground. Alternate foot position by turning the feet outward, stretching, then inward, and repeating the stretch. If you run a great deal, do this repeatedly throughout the day. To increase stretch, a book can be placed under the "ball" of the foot, letting the heels hang down.
Anterior Thigh - Stand with one arm holding onto a chair or wall . With the free hand, grasp the instep of the foot and pull the heel behind you toward your buttocks. KEEP YOUR KNEE BACK . Do not let it come forward. Note: You should be standing erect throughout the entire stretch. DO NOT LEAN FORWARD. If you can touch your heel to your buttocks, slightly extend your back while doing this exercise.
Inner Thigh - Sit on the floor. Place the soles of your feet together and bring them about two feet away from your body Place your hands on your knees and gently push downward toward the floor. SLOWLY bend forward, trying to touch your nose to your feet.
Posterior Thigh - Sit lengthwise along a table and place your right leg on the table. Rest your left leg on the floor or on a footstool . Lean forward over your right leg until you feel a stretch behind your knee and in your calf. Hold that position by grasping the right leg Repeat with the left leg. Note: Stretch the calves by pointing your toes upward and toward your chest.
Iliotibial Band and Lateral Thigh -Sit comfortably on the floor with your legs out in front. With your left leg straight, put your right foot flat on the ground on the opposite side of your left knee. Reach over your right leg with your left arm so that your elbow is on the outside of your right leg . Slowly turn your head and look over your right shoulder and, at the same time, turn your upper body toward the right ann. Keep your hips flat on the floor at all times. Repeat on the opposite side. Note: If you do not feel a stretch, bend your left knee, placing your left foot next to the right hip. The more you run, the more you need to do this stretch.
Groin -Stand with your feet about 2 meters apart, toes pointing forward. Gradually shift all your weight to your right leg by bending your right knee. Your left leg stays straight. Place both your hands on your right knee for support. You can increase the starting distance between your feet for a greater stretch.
Soleus - Stand next to a chair and place your left foot flat on the seat. Hold onto the chair for balance Keeping the left foot flat, lean over the chair until you feel a stretch in the back of the left calf
Lower back -Lying flat on your back place the sole of your right foot on your left thigh. Grasp your right knee with your left hand and gently roll it to the left. Try to get your knee as close to the floor as possible without your right shoulder leaving the floor.