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The Basics: Stretch Your Fitness Limits

In the quest for fitness, don't overlook flexibility

The Stretches

Below are some basic stretching exercises that target all the major muscle groups. Do the whole workout, or stretch a particular part of your body that's feeling tight. And don't forget to follow the safety tips above!

Neck: Standing straight with feet shoulder-width apart, drop the right ear toward the right shoulder and hold. Roll the head forward, stopping to rest the chin at your chest, than continue until the left ear is over the left shoulder. Lift the head and repeat starting on your left side.

Chest: Lying face-down with arms by your sides and palms facing down, tighten the abdominals to support the low back, than slide the shoulder blades down and together (like a "V") as you float your hands off the floor and lift your upper spine slightly off the floor.

Side/Back: Standing straight with feet shoulder-width apart, interlace the fingers and reach the arms overhead (do this only if you have no shoulder limitations). Lift up and out from your waist as you bend to each side, being careful not to shrug your shoulders.

Hamstrings: Lying face up, wrap a towel around the arch of the right foot, extend your leg and pull toward you gently, keeping hips and back on the ground. Strive to hold for at least 30 seconds. Repeat on the left leg. The knee can remain slightly bent during this exercise if the hamstrings are tight.

Quadriceps: Standing straight with knees, hips, and shoulders aligned and abdominals tight, bend the right knee, drawing the right heel toward your buttocks. Reach the right hand around to hold the top of the right foot (use a towel or strap if necessary). Strive to hold for at least 30 seconds. Repeat on the left leg. (You can also do this stretch lying on your side or stomach.)

Inner thighs: Sitting, place the soles of the feet together, and pull up slightly on the feet, hinging your body forward.

Calves: Using a wall for balance, step the right foot as far behind you as you can with your leg straight and the heel down. Lean forward, slightly bending the left leg. Repeat with your left foot behind you.

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Reviewed on October 01, 2009

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