After you have warmed your muscles by jumping rope, jogging in place, or jumping jacks it's time to stretch. For safety, never stretch a cold muscle. It should take you no more than ten minutes to finish a full body stretching program. Stretching is used to enhance your range of motion and prevent injuries. Most girls can outstretch guys. Don't compare yourself to your cheerleader daughter who can touch her heels to the back of her head.
Those who stretch every day can maintain a high degree of flexibility. A multitude of factors can affect your flexibility. On warm days you can touch your toes; on cooler days you barely reach your knees. You can hold your stretch more comfortably in the afternoon than in the morning. Thirty years ago we bounced through our stretches. Bounce (ballistic) stretching can cause micro-tears in the muscles. Ten years later instructors emphasized slow and gentle lengthening of muscles. Another decade and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) was in vogue.
PNF, a technique where you flex a muscle moments before you stretch it, continues to be widely used today to stretch every skeletal muscle in the body. A new program called active-isolated (AI) stretching is also fashionable. AI stretching dictates that you contract the opposing muscle group moments before you stretch. Both PNF and AI allow the muscle and connective tissue to relax and lengthen. To loosen up your lower back, flex your abdominals first; then hold your back stretch for two seconds. To stretch your calf muscles, flex the muscles on your shins moments prior to stretching your calves. You can use your SportCord to help you achieve a deeper stretch. To begin, choose some of the stretches below.
Perform the following AI stretches by contracting the opposite muscle group moments before holding the suggested stretch for ten to thirty seconds. A slow, continuous lengthening is desired. Gracefully elongate your muscle until you feel tension. Then relax. Go for comfort. Settle into your pose. Exhale as you move into each position. Learn to hold your stretch at least ten seconds in order to fully relax the muscle. Add two seconds a week until you work up to thirty seconds. Within months you may stretch to a slight level of discomfort but never approaching pain.
Side Leg Stretch: Your supporting foot remains flat while you extend your other leg to the side. Flex your outer thigh for three seconds. Relax. Then stretch your inner thigh until you feel tautness. Hold the stretch for no longer than thirty seconds. Repeat with the other leg. Do just one repetition of each stretch.
Side Split: Spread your legs out as far as possible. Flex your hips and thighs for three seconds. Relax. Let your weight nudge you down until you feel pressure in your inner thighs. Hold for up to thirty seconds.
Side Split, Toes Up, Chest to Floor: Attempt a side split. Then lift your toes. Flex your thighs and hips for three seconds. Relax. Slowly bring your chest toward the floor. When you feel tension, hold for up to thirty seconds.
Front Split, Forehead to Shin: From the front split position, flex your front thigh and the muscles in the front of your shin by pulling your toes back for three seconds. Relax. Then point your toes, pull your chest toward your knee and your forehead toward your shin. Maintain a flat back. When you feel light pressure, hold for up to thirty seconds. Repeat with the other leg
Forehead to Toes: Sit with your back flat and the bottoms of your feet together. Pull your feet in as close to your groin as possible. Grab your toes. Flex your inner thighs for three seconds. Relax. Slowly bring your chest toward your toes and hold for up to thirty seconds.
Butterfly: From the forehead to toes position, grab your ankles and push your knees toward the floor with your elbows. Hold for up to thirty seconds. PNF Stretching with a partner can help you achieve optimum flexibility. Relax the muscle you intend to stretch. Then your partner pulls you slowly into a perfect pose. When you feel tension in that muscle instruct your partner to stop. Flex that muscle group for three seconds against your partner's resistance. Then your partner attempts to pull just a little further. He draws you once again to the point of tension, hold, and then relax. Be easy on your partner during PNF.
PNF Hamstring Floor Stretch: Lie on your back with your heels flat against the floor and both knees slightly bent. Press the back of your heels into the floor and hold for three seconds. Relax. Let your partner grab your right ankle and slowly lift it. When you feel tension, instruct your partner to stop. Pull from your right hamstring and press the back of your heel toward the floor while your partner resists for three seconds. Relax and repeat with your left leg.
PNF Hip Floor Stretch: Lie on your stomach with your knees slightly bent. Flex the front of your thighs by pressing them towards the floor. Hold for three seconds. Relax. Let your partner grab your right ankle and slowly lift it until you feel tension. Be sure the toes on your right foot point down. When you feel tension, remind your partner to stop. For three seconds pull from your hip toward the floor while your partner resists. Relax and repeat with your left leg.
PNF Inner Thigh Floor Stretch: Sit facing each other and spread your legs in a straddle position as far as possible. Flex your thighs and hips for three seconds. Relax. Place your feet against your partner's and push lightly until both of you feel a maximum stretch. Hold for up to thirty seconds.
PNF Hip Flexor Floor Stretch: Lie on your back with both knees slightly bent. Grab the bottoms of your feet with your hands and flex the muscles of your thighs and hips. Relax. Bend your right knee and let your partner push it toward the floor. Keep your left knee straight. Hold for up to thirty seconds, then repeat with your left leg.