What follows are suggested stretches that can be added to your home fitness program. It will take about 5 minutes to complete the routine after you’ve learned the stretches. I have included more stretches than you may be able to complete during each session, and if you spend more than 30 seconds on any stretch, you may have to cut out a few to keep your stretching to 5 minutes. If you have time, stretch for a few minutes longer or repeat several of the stretches. Your body will appreciate it. I believe that the more stretches you learn, the more you’ll enjoy stretching. Eventually, you’ll wonder how you lived without it.
Sitting Groin Stretch
- Starting Position: Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet together; hold onto your toes and feet.
- Movement: Gently pull forward, bending from the hips; hold for 10 to 30 seconds; do not bounce, and breathe slowly and deeply.
- Muscles Emphasized: Lower back and groin.
- Starting Position: Stand slightly away from a wall or other stable object and lean on it with forearms, your head resting on your hands; place your right foot in front of you, leg bent, and your left leg straight behind you.
- Movement: Slowly move your hips forward until you feel an easy stretch in the calf of your left leg; keep your heel flat and your toes pointed straight ahead; hold for 10 to 20 seconds; do not bounce, and do not hold your breath. Repeat on the other side.
- Muscles Emphasized: Calf and Achilles tendon.
Opposite-Hand, Opposite-Foot Quad Stretch
- Starting Position: Stand slightly away from a wall or other stable object and place your right hand on the wall for support.
- Movement: Standing straight, grasp the top of your right foot with your left hand, pull your heel toward your buttocks, and hold for 10 to 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- Muscles Emphasized: Thigh.
- Starting Position: From a kneeling position, move one leg forward until the knee is directly over the ankle and place the knee of the other leg behind, resting on the floor. Avoid the common mistake of hyperextending the knee past the ankle, as shown in the photo below.
- Movement: Lower the front of the hip directly downward until you feel an easy stretch; hold for 10 to 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- Muscles Emphasized: Front of hip (iliopsoas) and lower back (excellent for the lower back).
- Starting Position: Lie on the floor and bend your left knee, keeping your foot flat; keep your lower back flat on the floor.
- Movement: Lift right leg straight up from the hip and then lower it; hold for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.
- Muscles Emphasized: Hamstrings and calf.
- Starting Position: Interlace your fingers above your head, palms facing upward.
- Movement: Push your arms slightly back and up and breathe easily; hold for 10 to 20 seconds.
- Muscles Emphasized: Arms, back, and shoulders (excellent for slumping shoulders).
Upper Arm Pullover
- Starting Position: Keep your knees slightly flexed while standing or sitting with your arms overhead, and hold your elbow with the hand of the opposite arm.
- Movement: Gently pull your elbow behind your head as you slowly lean to the side until a mild stretch is felt and hold for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- Muscles Emphasized: Back of arms, top of shoulders, and waist.
- Starting Position: Stand with your hands on your hips; keep your knees slightly bent.
- Movement: Gently twist your torso at the waist until a stretch is felt and hold for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- Muscles Emphasized: Middle of back.
- Starting Position: Lie on the floor; extend your arms overhead, keeping your legs straight.
- Movement: Reach your arms and legs in opposite directions. Stretch for 5 seconds and relax.
- Muscles Emphasized: Shoulders, arms, hands, feet, and ankles.
- Starting Position: Lie on the floor with your legs straight or with one leg bent (option).
- Movement: Gently pull your left knee to your chest and hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then relax. Repeat with the other leg.
- Muscles Emphasized: Lower back, hips, and hamstrings.
Flexibility training should be a fundamental part of any balanced exercise program. Emphasis should be placed on proper body position, form, and execution of each stretch. When done correctly and regularly, stretching can be very enjoyable and relaxing. With so much attention now being paid to designing programs that enhance the interaction of mind, body, and spirit, flexibility training is an integral part of your fitness program.