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Getting Started With Flexibility and Stretching

Overview

Flexibility means being able to move your joints and muscles through their full range of motion. As you become more flexible, you will find it easier to reach things on high shelves, look under a bed, or even tie your shoes. You will also have a better sense of balance and coordination.

It's best to warm your muscles a bit before you stretch them. Walk or do some other light aerobic activity for a few minutes, and then start stretching.

  • Stretch all your major groups of muscles.

    These include the muscles of your arms, your back, your hips, the front and back of your thighs, and your calves.

    When you stretch your muscles:

    • Do it slowly. Stretching is not about going fast or making sudden movements.
    • Don't push or bounce during a stretch.
    • Hold each stretch for at least 15 to 30 seconds, if you can. You should feel a stretch in the muscle, but not pain.
    • Breathe out as you do the stretch. Then breathe in as you hold the stretch. Don't hold your breath.
  • Start slowly, and increase your efforts bit by bit.

    You can measure your progress with flexibility by noticing how much farther you can do each stretch. Can you stretch farther each day than you could when you started? If so, your flexibility is getting better.

How do you do the exercises?

Side stretch (hands clasped)

slide 1 of 6
slide 1 of 6, Side stretch (hands clasped),
  1. Sit or stand up straight. If you're standing, keep your feet about hip-width apart.
  2. Hold your arms above your head, and clasp your hands together.
  3. Pull upward with your left hand while leaning straight over toward your left side. If you're sitting, keep your bottom flat on the chair. You should feel the stretch along your left side.
  4. Hold 15 to 30 seconds. Then switch sides.
  5. Repeat 2 to 4 times for each side.

Triceps stretch

slide 2 of 6
slide 2 of 6, Triceps stretch,
  1. Stand or sit up straight. If you're standing, keep your feet about hip-width apart. Reach your affected arm straight up.
  2. Keeping your elbow in place, bend your arm and reach your hand down behind your back.
  3. With your other hand, apply gentle pressure to the bent elbow. You'll feel a stretch at the back of your upper arm and shoulder. Hold about 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat 2 to 4 times.
  5. It's a good idea to repeat these steps with your other arm.

Calf stretch (back knee straight)

slide 3 of 6
slide 3 of 6, Calf stretch (back knee straight),
  1. Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall. You can also do this with your hands on the back of a chair, a counter, or a tree.
  2. Put one leg about a step behind your other leg, with your toes pointing forward.
  3. Keeping your back leg straight and your back heel on the floor, bend your front knee and gently bring your hip and chest toward the wall until you feel a stretch in the calf of your back leg.
  4. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat 2 to 4 times for each leg.

Quad stretch (lying on side)

slide 4 of 6
slide 4 of 6, Quad stretch (lying on side),
  1. Lie on your side with your affected leg on top. You can use your hand or a pillow to support your head.
  2. Bend your top leg, and reach behind you to grab the front of that foot or ankle with your other hand.
  3. Stretch your leg back by pulling your foot toward your buttock. You will feel the stretch in the front of your thigh.
  4. Hold the stretch for at least 15 to 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat 2 to 4 times.
  6. It's a good idea to repeat these steps with your other leg.

Groin stretch

slide 5 of 6
slide 5 of 6, Groin stretch,
  1. Sit on the floor and put the soles of your feet together. Do not slump your back.
  2. Grab your ankles and gently pull your legs toward you.
  3. Press your knees toward the floor. You will feel the stretch in your inner thighs.
  4. Hold 15 to 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

Hamstring stretch (lying down)

slide 6 of 6
slide 6 of 6, Hamstring stretch (lying down),
  1. Lie flat on your back with your legs straight. If you feel discomfort in your back, place a small towel roll under your lower back.
  2. Holding the back of your affected leg, lift your leg straight up and toward your body until you feel a stretch at the back of your thigh.
  3. Hold the stretch for at least 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat 2 to 4 times.
  5. It's a good idea to repeat these steps with your other leg.

Credits

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

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