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Stetching exercises

Why is stretching important?

Stretching is important to help lengthen and loosen your muscles. People used to think that stretching was the first thing you should do before exercising. Now we know that you should warm up for 5-10 minutes by doing some light exercises and then you should stretch. The reason for this is that stretching cold muscles can directly contribute to pulled and torn muscles.

Here are some different kinds of stretches you can do after you’ve warmed up with light exercise:

Illustration of deltoid stretch

1) Cross shoulder stretch
Stand up straight, with knees slightly bent. Place feet hip distance apart. Make sure toes are pointing forward. Keep shoulders even as you complete this stretch. Bend right arm at elbow joint, extend arm across chest. Place left hand on the right elbow to gently support the arm during this stretch. Feel the stretch in your right arm and shoulder. Inhale (breathe in) through your nose, and exhale (breathe out) through your mouth, as you complete this stretch. Hold stretch for a count of 8. Repeat this stretch on opposite side, using right hand to stretch left arm and shoulder.

Illustration of tricep stretch

2) Triceps stretch
Stand up straight, with knees slightly bent. Place feet hip distance apart. Make sure toes are pointing forward. Keep shoulders even as you complete this stretch. Bend right arm at elbow joint, lift arm next to your head. Position right fingers so they touch the shoulder blade area. Place left arm across top of head, and place left hand on the right elbow to gently support the arm during this stretch. Feel the stretch in your right triceps. Inhale (breathe in) through your nose, and exhale (breathe out) through your mouth, as you complete this stretch. Hold stretch for a count of 8. Repeat this stretch on the opposite side, using right hand to stretch left triceps.

Illustration of pectoral stretch

3) Chest Stretch
Stand up straight, with knees slightly bent. Place feet hip distance apart. Make sure toes are pointing forward. Keep shoulders even as you complete this stretch. Place arms behind your back. Clasp your hands together, extending your arms behind your back and hold this position. Feel the stretch in your chest. Inhale (breathe in) through your nose, and exhale (breathe out) through your mouth, as you complete this stretch. Hold stretch for a count of 8.

Illustration of quadricep stretch

4) Quadriceps stretch
Stand facing a wall, about 1 foot away from it. Keep yourself up by putting your right hand against the wall. Raise your left leg behind you and grab your foot with your left hand. Pull your heel slightly up toward your bottom, stretching the muscles in the front of your left thigh for 20 seconds. Keep your thighs close together to keep your knee aligned and stretch effective. Repeat the stretch with your right leg.

Illustration of hamstring stretch

5) Hamstring stretch
Lie down with your back flat on the floor, with both of your knees bent. Place your feet flat on the floor, about 6 inches apart. Bend your right knee up to your chest and hold onto your right thigh with both hands placed behind your knee. Slowly straighten your right leg, feeling slight stretching in the back of your leg. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, and then repeat the stretch with your left leg.

Illustration of groin stretch

6) Groin stretch
Squat down and put both hands on the floor in front of you. Stretch your left leg straight out behind you. Keep your right foot flat on the floor and lean forward with your chest into your right knee, then move your weight back to your left leg, keeping it as straight as you can. Do not move your right knee farther than your right ankle. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, and then repeat the stretch with your right leg behind you.

Illustration of calf stretch

7) Calf stretch
Stand facing a wall, about 2 feet away from it. Keeping your heels flat and your back straight, lean forward and press your hands and forehead to the wall. Make sure your knee does not move forward of your ankle. Do this slowly. You should feel stretching in the muscles in the back of your lower legs, above your heels. If you need a bigger stretch, move your back farther away from the wall. Hold this position for 20 seconds and then relax. Repeat.

After you exercise, you need to cool down for about 5 to 10 minutes by doing some of the stretches you did to warm up.

 

Content last reviewed July 24, 2013
Page last updated October 31, 2013

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.

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