Stretching: Get Some Movement

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by David Grisaffi

I've been in fitness arena most of my life. I've
watched many fitness enthusiasts go from lifting weights
and running on a treadmill out the gym door to go home
without even a simple stretching session to cool down.
This is a strategy that leads to injury. I've trained
hundreds of clients from world champion boxers to
grandmothers, all have been educated and encouraged to
follow a properly designed stretching program. I can go
into the all the physiological details from length-tension
relationships to joint articulation, but simply we all
need to understand stretching and flexibility is a very
important component of our well being.

Because of our sedentary lifestyles we have been
engaging in for the last 20 years or so our bodies have
changed. We sit on our butts watching TV, working at our
desks and lack physical movement. We develop poor posture
that leads to a lack of flexibility and increase in muscle
and joint injuries. Our ancestors did not have the problem
that we have because they worked hard all day everyday!
They stayed strong and healthy through constant vigorous
work. As we have become less active we begin to lose
strength and natural movement.

So you ask what does stretching have to do with all of
this? Stretching is the link between active movement
and subtle movement. Stretching teaches the muscles to
prepare for movement. It also aids in the daily transition
from inactivity to vigorous activity without injury. To
make my case, picture a computer programmer sitting at his
or her desk for 7 to 10 hours a day five days a week. This
position breeds poor biomechanical alignment and shortened
musculature. So after 7 to 10 hours in a chair looking at
a computer he or she gets up and runs to the gym for a
30-minute treadmill workout. You start to see the

What I see here is a person on a crash course to injury
and fatigue. The component that can help this computer
programmer is not the 30-minute treadmill workout, but
a 20-minute flexibility\stretching program followed by
10-15 minute session on the treadmill. Ah, you say I
need more cardio!

No, you do not...Did our ancestors run 10 miles a day? no,
they did not. They sprinted after food and walked to get
around the food! Stretching when done correctly feels
good. It calms the bodies' nervous system and then prepares
it for work. Stretching should be tailored to your
particular musculature, resting tension and flexibility.
The object is to reduce muscular tension. By reducing
muscular tension in our bodies we promote freer movement.

Again stretching exercises can benefit you in many ways. It
reduces muscular tension and makes the body feel more
relaxed increases range of motion, develops body awareness,
promotes circulation, and helps in coordination of the
body. You not need to obtain extreme range of motion
stability get the benefits from stretching. Going after
extreme range of motion reduces joint stability and often
leads to injury. Everyone should participate in a daily
stretching program. You do not need to be a top athlete or
even in great physical condition to begin a stretching

When to stretch is up to you. Your schedule will
dictate the proper time in your day to stretch. I will
advise you to stretch after you have warmed up your body.
Some good times to stretch are in the morning before you
start your day, the workplace (I advise this to everyone)
or at various other times during day. For safeties sake do
not stretch when your muscles are cold. The importance of
stretching after a strengthening training has been clearly
shown in the Swedish study: in strength training of the
legs without subsequent stretching exercises, the range of
motion of the major joints of the lower extremities remain
restricted for two to three days. However, if the muscles
in question were stretched immediately after the strength
training, the range of motion remained normal. (moller 1981)

I've read numerous books and articles on
stretching/flexibility and all contain vast amounts of
information. I have put together some new twists on how to
make stretching easy and fun. To get started with exercise
programs can be complicated and intimidating but a
flexibility program is easy. There is no need for any
equipment, special clothing or complicated maneuvers.
Simply sit back was uncomfortable close in space to unwind
and you ready to begin. Following four stretches are
formulated to involve all major muscle groups.
Waiters bow:

Muscle Group: hamstrings and low back

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Keep your legs
straight and stick your buttocks out until you have an arch
in your low back. As you bend forward from the hips,
Tightest not let your low back round out. Keep the arch in
your back at all times. Then for until you feel comfortable
stretch on your hamstrings. The stretch may be felt behind
the knee or below the buttocks depending on where you are
the tightest. Hold the stretch position for 20-30 seconds.
Relax and come to an upright standing position for a second
or two then repeat the stretch. This process should be
repeated at least three times.

Quadriceps stretch
Muscle group: quadriceps

Stand about six inches behind his dirty chair with feet a
little less than shoulder width apart and knees straight
but not walk. Gently hold the back of the chair for balance
or any other sturdy object with your left and. Banding your
right knee, lift your right ankle toward your buttocks out
keeping your upper leg inline with your lower body, and
grass your right ankle in your right hand. Make sure to
maintain good posture and slight band in the supporting
leg. You'll feel the stretch in the front of your upper leg
(quadriceps muscles). Read normally holds stretch for 20 to
30 seconds, and then repeat the stretch with the opposite
leg. Repeat the stretch two more times to each leg.

Upper back and shoulder stretch
Muscle group: wrist flexors, rear deltoids, rhomboids and
middle trapezes.

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, your knees
straight but not locked out, your hands clasped in front of
you. Rotate your hands so that your calms are facing the
ground in then raise your arms to chest height. Slowly and
gently press your calms away from your body you'll feel a
good stretch in the upper back and shoulders read normally,
the stretch for the allotted 20-30 seconds and then repeat
two more times.

Arms and back stretch
Muscle group: pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, anterior
deltoid and wrist extensors.

This is a very important stretch to help reduce rounded
shoulders and forward head posture. Stand with your arms at
your sides in your feet about shoulder width apart. Extend
both arms behind your back and grasp at your wrist with the
opposite hand. You may interlock your fingers if possible.
Then slowly rotate your elbows back and gently stretch the
chest, arms, and shoulders. Breathe normally; hold the
stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat two more times.

Frontal Plane side stretch:
Muscle group: Internal/External Oblique, Quadratus
lumborum, latissimus Dorsi, Tensor fasciae latae

Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Raise your arms above
your head. Grasp your hands together. Gently lean to the
right and hold the position for 20-30 seconds and repeat to
the other side. Breathe normally and repeat two more times.

These are simple and basic stretches for your enjoyment.
Give them a try, either at work, watching TV or at the gym.
Just remember you should never feel pain, rather it should
feel like a gentle pull. Breathe normally throughout the
stretch and hold your stretches for 20 or 30 seconds.

Start out with the basic five stretches above and any of
you wish to have a more in-depth look at flexibility and
stretching I have made available to you a fantastic
educational report on stretching and flexibility. The
report contains all the essentials for a successful
stretching/flexibility program. The report goes into more
detail then this article. The report contains common
mistakes, ten guidelines for great stretching, special
situations, individual stretching, partner stretching,
length/tension relationships and dozens of stretches for
all parts of our bodies.


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