Let’s do some stretching. As stated earlier, the entire stretching routine before starting your exercises should take no more than 5 – 8 minutes. I like to start from the neck/shoulder area and work down.
Neck stretches can be done from a seated position using a straight back chair or they can be done while standing.
1. The first stretch is the neck rotation. This is performed by slowly turning your head as far to the left as you can until you are almost looking behind you over your left shoulder. Hold for a few seconds. Return your head to center (facing forward) for a second and do the same for the opposite side by turning your head to the right and holding for a few seconds. Return your head to center. This is considered one repetition. Do six repetitions, which will complete one set of this exercise. The movement is left – center –right – center.
2. The second stretch is the neck bend. To do this, bend your head slowly to the left as though you are attempting to touch your left shoulder with your left ear. You head should be facing forward throughout the movement. Return your head to center and repeat the same thing for the right side. Again the movement is left – center – right – center. Do six repetitions.
The next area to stretch is the chest and back region. Again these can be done either seated or standing.
3. While seated or standing, reach behind with both hands as though attempting to grab someone standing behind you. Hold stretch for a few seconds. Try to hold your abs or stomach muscles in and push out your chest. Do these six times.
Remember if you are going to exercise your chest muscles, do these stretches either before or after the exercises and not between sets. This goes for all stretches.
4. Next, raise your right hand from the side, over your head as if attempting to grab the back of your neck. While in this position, bend to the left as far as possible. You will feel the stretch in the right rib area. Hold for a few seconds. Repeat same procedure with your left hand while bending to the right side. Do six sets of these.
5. While sitting or standing, reach forward with both hands as far as possible. You can bend your shoulders forward until you feel the stretch in your upper back and shoulders. Do six to eight of these and move on to the next stretch.
6. The next stretch is the torso twist. I also list this as a back stretch because it’s effective in loosening the upper back muscles. While sitting or standing, reach your right hand across your chest to your left side as if touching someone to the left of you. Really try to reach as far as possible, and hold for a few seconds. Repeat the same movement for the right side. Do six sets of this exercise for both sides.
Another great back stretch is to grab your toes while sitting on the floor.
As with all back exercises . . . please use caution. Injury to your back can be painful and take some time to heal. Go slowly at first until you become comfortable with the exercise.
7. Before we do the lower extremities, let’s do one stretch for the shoulders. Rest your right elbow on the wrist of your left hand and try to pull your right arm across your face. You will feel this in the shoulder area. Do five to six on each side.
We will focus on the lower part of the body in the next series of stretches.
8. Touching your toes. For the back of your thigh, or hamstrings as they are called, there are several types of stretches. Let’s do two for now. You will need to stand for this one. Bend forward and attempt to touch your toes with your fingers. Don’t bounce. Hold each stretch as long as you can. If you can only touch or grab your calf, that’s fine. Over time, as you continue to do these, you will eventually touch your toes. Do five to six sets.
9. For the next hamstring stretch, you will need to lift your right leg and rest it on a stool or high chair while supporting your upper body. While in this position, lean forward in and attempt to touch your forehead to your right knee. This will feel uncomfortable and I don’t expect you to actually touch forehead to knee but go as far as possible. In time, you will get closer. Repeat for the left leg. Hold each stretch as long as possible and don’t bounce.
Remember to do all stretches in a slow and deliberate manner. You will cause injury if you rush and not use proper form, especially when just beginning an exercise program.
As with the hamstrings, there are several variations to stretching these muscles. Let’s focus on two of these. As you become more adept at doing these you will invent your own unique stretches.
10. First, while standing, grasp the back of a chair for support. Raise your right foot behind you and grab your ankle with your right hand. Gently pull on your ankle until you feel a slight discomfort in the thigh area. Hold this for as long as you can and return to the starting position. Switch to the left leg. Do as many sets as you are able.
The quad stretches can also be done while lying on the floor. Be careful to use proper form so as not to cause yourself any harm.
11. A second quad stretch requires that you kneel with both knees on the ground. Grab your right ankle with your right hand and pull up gently until you feel a little discomfort. Hold for a few seconds and then release. Do the same for your left leg.
12. For the last quad stretch get into a wide leg stance similar to a sumo wrestler’s starting position, and while supporting your upper body by holding onto a chair or leaning against a wall, do knee bends. You will feel these in your hips as well.
13. The one I prefer and that I get the most benefit from is the straight knee stretch. I especially like to do these after I exercise the calf muscles. To do this you will need a 2”x 4” piece of wood or a telephone book. Place the ball of your right foot on the wood or book and using a wall for support and keeping your right knee straight, bend forward until you feel the stretch in the calf. Hold for a count of four and switch to the left foot.
14. You can also do a seated calf stretch. While sitting with your feet extended in front of you, raise the toes of both feet and hold as long as possible. Do five to six sets of these and rest. These will be great for those suffering from peripheral neuropathy.
There are many variations to the above stretches. As you do them you will develop your own favorites. You will even come up with your own unique types. Just keep in mind the don’ts of stretching and you will be fine. Also, all these stretches can be done at home.
To a healthier you,