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How to Stretch

In this Article:Article SummaryStretching ExercisesWhen To StretchCommunity Q&A

Stretching correctly will increase your flexibility and reduce the risk of injuries caused by lesions of the connective tissues (such as the periosteum) and other nasty things. This guide shows a variety of techniques with the goal of revamping or establishing your stretching routine. Use the tips that suit your needs for the activities you do. If you are injured, do not stretch without the help of a physical therapist. Doing so may result in further injury.

Part 1
Stretching Exercises

  1. 1
    Stretch your shoulders.
    • Place the back of one hand in the small of your back.
    • With your opposite hand, grab your elbow, gently pull forward, and hold.
    • Repeat with opposite side.
  2. 2
    Stretch your triceps.
    • Reach up with one arm.
    • Bend your elbow and put your forearm down behind your head and between your shoulder blades.
    • With your opposite arm, reach up and grab your raised elbow.
    • Pull your elbow toward your head.
    • Repeat with other arm.
  3. 3
    Stretch your biceps.
    • Put your arms straight out to your sides with your thumbs facing up.
    • Rotate your arms so that your thumbs face straight back, then rotate them forward until your thumbs are facing straight down.
  4. 4
    Stretch your wrists.
    • Hold one arm out in front of you with your elbow bent (and close to your body) and palm facing up.
    • With your opposite hand, grab your fingertips and slowly pull them all the way down until that hand is now facing the floor.
    • Continue to pull on your fingertips, now in an upward direction since your palm is facing down.
    • Repeat with other hand.
  5. 5
    Stretch your quadriceps.
    • Stand up and pull one leg behind you (flamingo position).
    • Once holding onto your foot, continue to apply upward pressure.
    • Repeat with other leg.
  6. 6
    Stretch your calves.
    • Place one leg in front of the other (split stance) with your hands on your hips.
    • Lean slightly forward as you begin to straighten your back leg, ideally bringing your back foot all the way flat against the floor.
    • Repeat with other leg.
  7. 7
    Stretch your hamstrings.
    • Sit on the floor with both feet out in front of you.
    • Reach out with both arms, ideally grabbing onto your toes and holding.
  8. 8
    Stretch your hips.
    • Lie flat on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
    • Get into a figure four position by placing one ankle on your opposite knee.
    • Reach through and around your knee, clasp, pull it toward you, and hold.
    • Repeat with opposite side.
  9. 9
    Stretch your groin.
    • Sit on the floor.
    • Press the soles of your feet together (butterfly position).
    • Pull your feet as close to your body as possible.
    • Put your hands on your ankles to where your elbows are lined up with your knees.
    • Push against your elbows trying to close your legs. (This contracts your groin muscles to help you get a deeper stretch.)
    • Push your knees down.
  10. 10
    Stretch your upper back.
    • Clasp your hands together and reach your arms forward directly in front of your chest as far as possible.
    • Allow your upper back to become round and your chin to drop toward your chest.
    • Hold this position for 15-30 seconds.
  11. 11
    Stretch your chest.[1]
    • Stand approximately 2 feet (61 cm) back from the interior corner of a wall, facing the corner. Position your feet to be about shoulder-width apart.
    • Place one forearm on each wall with your elbows resting just above the height of your shoulders.
    • Lean forward as far as you comfortably can. Hold in this position for 30-60 seconds.
  12. 12
    Stretch your neck.
    • Incline your head forward, but do not roll your head from side to side as this can be harmful. Instead, stretch your neck to the left, right, forward and back, but always return to center first!
    • Tilt your head with the ear toward the shoulder and hold the tilt for 20-30 seconds. Focus on your breathing and relaxing your neck and shoulder muscles during this time.
    • Be sure that while your head is tilted back, you keep your jaw relaxed and even let your mouth fall open just a bit.
  13. 13
    Stretch your jaw.
    • Incline your head back, rest your chin on your palm, and pull your jaw open.
    • Say "Ah!" (you can mime it).
    • Grab your chin with your thumb, index and middle fingers.
    • Stretch it left to right. This exercise will help if you have been hit to the jaw (e.g., knocked-out in boxing).

Part 2
When To Stretch

  1. 1
    Never stretch before you warm up. The only reason it feels good to stretch even when you're cold is because your body sends out natural painkillers. To protect your tissues, you need to raise your cardiac pulse in order to fill them with blood. The only way to do this is by working out.
    • Swimming is the safest way to raise your cardiac pulse. Water reduces shocks to the body because it reduces the felt effect of gravity on your body.
    • Jumping rope can also be effective, but it may damage your tibia's periosteums, which is the membrane enveloping your bones (except at junctions) that allows the blood to flow from your heart to your muscles connected by the tendon.
    • Swimming pools are sometimes inaccessible, so an efficient and safe way to raise cardiac pulse would be by cycling (except if you have knee problems).
  2. 2
    Stretching before your workout will put your Central Nervous System (CNS) to sleep to increase your range of motion. It will result with less gain than improvement on the muscle part. The CNS naturally provides resistance by stimulating antagonists muscles when you flex a muscle to prevent it from being too stretched and tear your conjunctive tissues. Never stretch prior to workout, and always do it after.
  3. 3
    Always stretch after you work out. Stretching will ensure you have an optimal circulation of body fluids throughout your system and an adequate flexibility which will prevent your connective tissues to pop when you contract your muscle.

Community Q&A

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  • Question
    Can stretching help me with splits?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Stretching increases flexibility in your joints which can make it easier to do the splits.
  • Question
    Can we do stretching before breakfast?
    Top Answerer
    Sure, there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it will help start your metabolism because it gets the blood flowing, giving you a healthy appetite and making you ready for the day.
  • Question
    How do I become flexible?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    It is best if you stretch daily, and as you stretch, try to push yourself a little further every day. For example, if you are working on your sideways splits, try to spread you legs a little further every day. But do not stretch so far that it begins to hurt. Doing so can cause tissue scarring, higher resting muscle tone, etc.
  • Question
    Can I stretch without working out before?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes, but it is advisable to do a warm up before, even if it's just running on the spot for two minutes. This can help you avoid injury as your muscles are warm.
  • Question
    Can I do all the stretching after I wake up?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes, doing stretches in the morning is a great way to start the day.
  • Question
    How long should you hold each pose?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Each pose requires a certain amount of time, but the average is 15 seconds.
  • Question
    Why does it hurt when doing a butterfly stretch?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    It hurts because your muscles are stretching. It probably means that those muscles are tight or not flexible for you.
  • Question
    Should I stretch before bed?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes, you should always stretch before going to bed, it helps me relax my muscles so I can go to sleep much easier.
  • Question
    Do I have to increase my heart rate before stretching?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    No. As long as you are a normal healthy person is no reason to increase your heart rate before stretching.
  • Question
    How long should I stretch for?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Stretch for at least 15 minutes and warm up 10 minutes before and after doing all the stretches.
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    Tips

    • Stretch every day in order to become flexible more quickly.
    • Try not to stretch too hard if you are a beginner you need to get used to stretching so you can be flexible, if you start out by stretching too much that will cause injury.
    • Create a daily stretching routine.
    • All stretches should be held, without movement, for 15-20 seconds. This surpasses the myotatic reflex which prevents any muscle from stretching for the first 10-12 seconds.
    • Perform the exercises slowly to prevent injuries.
    • Wear stretchy clothes.
    • Do not bounce or bob when you stretch - this is not effective and may lead to injury.
    • You should stretch as far as you are comfortable when inhaling, and when exhaling, go a little farther than comfortable. This increases flexibility when used as a daily routine.
    • If some stretches are difficult at beginner level, you might want to use a wall for support, or the assistance of a friend.
    • Exercise Carefully to avoid injury
    • Breathe in a natural rhythm, and stay calm. Don't stretch if you are injured.
    • Learn to love the 'pain' of stretching.
    • Remember that you shouldn't feel pain when stretching, just the stretches of the muscles. If you feel pain, stop, rest for a moment, then continue, but be more careful.
    • Eat healthy. This will help when you are stretching.
    • Don't exercise to much. it will cause injury.
    • Stretch so you can feel it, but stretch comfortably, never force a stretch or you will injure yourself.
    • Stretch as much as you can before a sport! Remember, you can never be too loose.
    • Stop a stretch immediately if it hurts. At most, stretching should cause mild discomfort, never significant physical pain.
    • Listening to calm music will help you to relax and do your stretches more easily. Try classical music; it's very soothing.

    Warnings

    • Each individual possesses her or his own physical limitations when exercising. Be sure that you acknowledge your physical restrictions while stretching, ensuring that you do not induce injury in your efforts to exercise. Remember, your well-being is at the center of each exercise activity.
    • Never stretch when you are injured.

    Article SummaryX

    To stretch your back, start by clasping your hands together and reaching your arms out directly in front of you. Then, round your shoulders, drop your chin to your chest, and hold for 30 seconds. If you want to stretch your legs, sit on the floor with both of your feet out in front of you and reach for your toes with your hands. You can also stand up and pull one of your legs up behind you, hold, and then repeat with your other leg. To learn how to stretch other parts of your body, like your shoulders and arms, keep reading!

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    Article Info

    Featured Article

    Categories: Featured Articles | Warm Ups Stretching and Flexibility

    In other languages:

    Italiano: Fare Stretching, Español: estirarse, Português: Se Alongar, Deutsch: Sich dehnen, Français: s'étirer, Nederlands: Je spieren rekken, Русский: растягиваться, 中文: 做拉伸运动, Bahasa Indonesia: Melakukan Peregangan, العربية: أداء تمارين التمدد, 日本語: ストレッチ, ไทย: ยืดเหยียด, Tiếng Việt: Kéo giãn cơ, 한국어: 스트레칭 하는 법

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