A total fitness program has to have more than simply aerobic training and strength building.
To really get the maximum benefits of an exercise program, you need flexibility training.
Not only can flexibility training help your body get ready for exercise, it is an essential and often overlooked part of recovering from aerobic activity.
All exercise sessions should begin and end with stretching.
To get the most out of your flexibility training, just follow these simple guidelines:
- Warm up before you stretch. If you try to stretch cold muscles, you can injure yourself.
- Always stretch slowly and gently. Breathe with your stretch to avoid tension. Relax and hold each stretch for between 10 and 30 seconds.
- Never, ever bounce when you are stretching. This leads directly to injury.
- If you feel pain, decrease the amount of your stretch, breathe deeply and relax. You should feel a stretch, but stretching should never hurt.
Here are some quick stretches for your major muscle groups:
- Quadriceps, or front of thigh: While standing, grasp your left foot with your right hand. Gently pull your left heel toward your buttocks. Do not force your leg or stretch to the point of pain. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat with opposite leg.
- Hamstrings, or back of thigh: Sit on the floor with your legs out flat in front of you. Bend your right knee and place it against your inner left thigh. Keeping your left foot upright with toes pointing toward the ceiling, lean forward from your hips and reach toward your left foot. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, and then repeat with opposite leg.
- Upper body: From either a standing or sitting position, interlace your fingers. Turn your palms outward and left your arms slightly up and back. Hold between 10 and 30 seconds, and then slowly relax.