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Stretching - The Essentials

Stretching is crucial for every sport or fitness activity, and too many people neglect this part of their workout. Stretching will not only increase your flexibility and minimize your chances of pulling or tearing muscles, but it will also improve your performance. A flexible muscle reacts and contracts faster, and with more force, than a non-flexible muscle. Flexibility also increases your agility and balance. Stretching exercises should be performed only after you done your warm-ups like running slowly or moving and jumping around if space is limited. Never stretch if your body is stiff and cold as the chances of injuries are higher.

The following is a list of stretching exercises you can incorporate into your workout. Hold each stretch for 10 seconds and do not bounce. Relax and repeat the stretch would be better. For warm-ups, you can stretch from head-to-toe. To warm down, stretch from toe-to-head.

Neck Rotation
Tilt your head to the left as far as possible without hurting yourself and hold. Repeat by tilting to the right and to the front. Avoid turning your head in a clock/anticlockwise manner as done traditionally.
Shoulder Stretch
Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Raise one arm overhead and stretch as far as you can without bending the torso. Repeat with opposite arm.
Arm Rotation
Swing your arms forward in a whirling manner. When you arms pass your head, brush them past your ears. Repeat by swing your arms backward in the same manner.
Forearm Stretch
Extend your right arm straight out in front of you, palm downward. With the left hand, grasp the fingers of the right hand and pull back gently, stretching the wrist and forearm. Repeat with the left arm.
Tricep Stretch
Raise one arm straight up, so your upper arm is near your ear. Bend at the elbow and let your hand fall to the back of your neck. With the other arm, reach behind your head and place your hand on top of the bent elbow. Gently pull down and back on the elbow. Repeat with other arm.
Trunk Stretch
Stand with your feet a little more than shoulder width apart. Reach your left arm overhead and bend to the right at the waist. Repeat on opposite side.
Torso Twist
Stand with your feet a little more than shoulder width apart. Keeping your feet planted to the ground, turn your torso to the left twisting from the waist as much as possible and hold. Face front again and repeat the motion this time to the right.
Chest Stretch
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Clasp your hands behind your back and gently press your arms upward, keeping your arms straight.
Back Stretch
Lie on your back and bring one knee to your chest. Hold the knee with both hands and gently pull in. Alternate knees and repeat.
Lower Back Reach
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Reach forward toward your toes, keeping your chin up and lower back slightly arched. Try not to round the back or tuck the chin in - this decreases the effectiveness of the stretch.
Butterfly Stretch
Sit on the floor, bend your knees out to the sides and bring the soles of your feet together. Place your hands on your knees and gently press the knees toward the floor. Keep your back straight.
Lateral Hip Stretch
Sit on the floor with both legs straight in front of you. Bend your left leg and place the left foot over the right knee. Place your right hand on the outside of the left knee and gently pull the knee toward your right shoulder, twisting the torso to the left, until you feel the stretch in your left hip. Repeat with opposite side.
Hamstring Stretch
Stand with legs shoulder width apart and the left leg slightly in front of the right. Shift your weight to the back leg (the right) and bend the knee, turning the knee and toe to the right. Extend the left leg and place the heel on the floor, toes in the air. Keep the back straight and bend forward at the hips until you feel the stretch in the hamstring of the left leg. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Standing Hamstring Reach
Stand with one foot crossed over the other. Bend at the hips, reaching toward the floor and keeping the knees slightly bent. Repeat with the opposite foot crossed in front.
Sit on the floor with your legs extended to either side so they form a "V". Bend forward, grasp your toes or ankles, and stretch your chest toward the floor. Try to go a little lower each time you perform the stretch.
Leaning Calf Stretch
Stand about 2 1/2 feet from a wall. Place your hands on the wall and lean in, gently pushing your hips forward. Keep your legs straight and heels flat on the floor.
Standing Calf Stretch
Stand with your feet together. Extend one leg in front of you and place the heel on the floor, toes in the air. Keeping the back straight, bend forward at the hips until you feel the stretch in the calf. Repeat with opposite leg.
Quadricep Stretch
Lie face down and reach back with your right arm to grasp your right ankle. Pull your foot toward your buttocks. Be sure to keep your hips and pelvis on the floor. Repeat with left leg.
Standing Quad Stretch
From a standing position, reach back to grasp your right ankle with your right hand. Pull your foot toward your buttocks. Place your other hand on a wall or chair if you need balance support. Repeat with left leg.