Introduction: How to Stretch

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I am not a professional, however, I am an athlete. I have been running Cross Country and Track for over five years and have picked up many stretching techniques doing so. In this Instructable I will cover a good bit of the traditional stretches, and some the not so traditional stretches, here it goes...

Step 1: Warm-Up

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Before doing any physical activity it is a good idea to warm-up and stretch. Why warm-up? Warming-up helps prevent injury, and gets your body ready to go. By warming-up you begin to stretch, and loosen up many of your muscles. I usually do a half mile jog. Depending on the intensity of the activity you plan on doing your warm-up may be shorter or longer. A good rule of thumb is if you're sweating, you're warmed-up.

Step 2: Touch Your Toes

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Depending on your flexibility, you may be able to touch your toes, you may not. Touch Your Toes is only a generic term used to describe this stretch. When done, this will stretch your mid-back and hamstrings.

With both feet parallel to one another, slowly bend at the hips and try to touch your toes with your finger tips. To do this stretch properly and to get the most from it, don't bend at the knees, keep your legs straight. If this is painful to do, you may be reaching to far, just ease up a bit. It is important not to bounce when reaching for your toes.

Hold this stretch for 30-60 seconds and move on to the next stretch.

Step 3: Spread Um'

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Spread your legs. How far? As far as you can without hurting yourself. I usually spread my legs until I can put my hands flat on the ground when bent over. This will stretch your groin and inner thigh.

Again, hold for 30-60 seconds and carry on.

Step 4: To the Right...

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This is similar to the previous stretch, this one however only focuses on your right groin and thigh. After 30-60 seconds switch to the left side and hold.

Step 5: Butterfly

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Time to sit down. The butterfly is another stretch that will stretch your groin and inner thigh. If you noticed, there is a good bit of groin and thigh stretching. Each of these groin stretches are put in an order that will progressively stretch you a little more. It seems excessive, but it is important to do them all.

Sitting on your butt, put the bottoms of your feet together and pull your heels towards your groin.

Hold for 30-60 seconds and continue...

Step 6: Right Leg Out

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From the butterfly position, put your right leg out and with your left arm reach for your right toes. Hold, and then put your left leg back. Lean back, once more, depending on your flexibility, you may not be able to lean back all the way. Lean back as far as you can, hold for 30-60 seconds. Part one of this stretch will work your inner thigh and hamstring. The leaning back will stretch your quadriceps. After doing so, put your left leg out and repeat.

Step 7: Quads

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Standing on one leg, pull your left heel to your butt with your right arm. With your left arm brace yourself against something. If there is nothing nearby to help support you, staring at one spot on the ground will help you keep your balance. Hold and then stretch your right quad.

Step 8: Calf Stretch

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For this stretch I am going to cover two different techniques. They both work equally, however one is useful if there is nothing to brace yourself against.

Suppose you do have something to brace against; with you palms against the support, put one leg forward, and the other back. The leg that is further from the wall will be the one being stretched. You should feel a pull in your calf. Hold and then switch legs.

This next technique is similar to a push-up. This stretch is done when there is nothing to brace against. Get into to push-up position, and then simply rest one leg on the other. Hold and switch legs.

Step 9: Upper-Body and Neck

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The previous stretches have covered your lower body. These next few are equally important, however are not completely necessary if your intentionion is to go out for a run.

Step 10: Neck

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Tip your head back until you can feel it stretching. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Put your chin to your chest, and hold.

Rest your right ear to your right shoulder, hold for 10-30 seconds, and then switch to the left.

Step 11: Deltoids

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With your right arm across your chest, use your left arm to push your right elbow into your chest. Again, hold for 10-30 seconds, then switch to the left.

Step 12: Triceps

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With your right elbow straight up and your right hand dangling behind your back, use your left hand to pull your right elbow to the left. Hold, then switch to your left arm.

Step 13: The Good Morning Stretch

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I jokingly call this the Good Morning Stretch; most of us naturally do this stretch when we wake up. while standing, put your hands above your head and weave your fingers together. Pull your hands apart, and then lean to the right/left for 10-30 seconds and switch sides. This will stretch out your sides and or obliques.

Step 14: Get Out and Give It a Shot...

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Get out and try some of these stretches, even if you have no intention of doing any physical activity it's a great way to start your day. I hope you learned something new from my Instructable. And remember, it is equally important to stretch after physical activity as to not tighten and feel sore.

I am more than happy to answer any questions or comments you may have. Thanks for reading my Instructable!


jayanty3 (author)2016-03-02

find out similar article at here

abaneyone (author)2011-07-10

Thanks! This is great advice that I will surely follow!

DevotedShadow (author)2010-05-11

Thank You, this was very helpful. Great instructable!

duck_tape_ (author)2010-02-27

Its a good idea to do some dynamic stretches before you do static stretches (what you have shown).  Although running helps warm up your muscles it doesn't do it that well, so you can get micro-tears in in your muscles when you do static stretches after only running to warm up.  if you  exercise after this, you can enlarge those tears.  If you are not doing exercise after you stretch, doing just what you said is fine, but if you do some dynamic stretches, they help warm up your muscles much more fully, and greatly reduce the risk of you injuring yourself.

EAgle47 (author)2010-02-27

I approve of this instructable, I've been doing the exact same ones for a few years now, and I've never had any problem.

Darcy777 (author)2010-02-25

When I try and open the PDF I get an error.  When I tried again, nothing happens. Anyone else have this problem.  BTW, thank you for this instructable :)

cateddy (author)Darcy7772010-02-26

I had the same problem. I found out what the problem was. All the pictures took a long time to come in even with the fast connection that I have. I guess that you will just have to wait and see if it will come in that way. Hope that this helps. Chuck

ryanpriehl (author)2009-11-14

 Funny, I have a brother whose name is Eric too, and he's a runner also. He's gotten lots of leg injuries over the years even though he's faithful about stretching.

Earthy Eric (author)ryanpriehl2009-11-15

 That is a bit funny. I've experienced many injuries as well, and it makes you wonder if stretching helps, but then, I look at some of the guys who I run with that don't stretch. It seems that many of the guys that don't stretch get injured more frequently. So that gives me a little more incentive to continue stretching.
Thanks for the comment,

michel moltrum (author)2009-07-17

great instructable. greetings from argentina, south america.

suzukisuv (author)2009-06-06

I agree, great post. Stretching is very good.

Dannymo (author)2008-11-22

Hi Eric, I believe some runners will take exception to this post however if you take the time to read through it perhaps it will lessen your chances of incurring an injury. Starting out a run with static stretches as described and demonstrated by Eric is an outdated thoroughly antiquated method of warming up that can lead to an injury. A dynamic pre-exercise stretch warm up is safer than doing static stretching especially if you are getting ready to do any type of fast, explosive or power type of movement such as running. A static stretch relaxes the joint which predisposes it to injury if suddenly called upon to exert force. Having said I’ll continue with the rest of my comments. Step number two of your series shows a stiff leg toe touch stretch. This is a harsh one that is not good for your lower back and can contribute to back injury not to mention a pulled hamstring. Numbers three, four and five are equally bad stretches due to the muscles being forced to elongate when cold. Photo number six and seven are depictions of a knee injury waiting to happen. These stretches made me cringe; specifically the leg ones where you are placing your knee joint at risk by pulling dangerously off to the side and not straight up as is common practice for this type of stretch. The knee is a hinge joint and is not designed to be pulled off to the side as shown. It can cause damage to the medial and collateral ligaments. My suggestions for all of these (and I wouldn’t be doing any of them) would be incorporate them into the cool down phase after your run when the muscles are warm more amenable to the positive effects of a stretch. A warm up for a recreational runner begins with a slow jog that gradually makes the transition into a faster pace. If however you insist on spending time doing pre-run stretches then do dynamic ones at the get go. Start with gentle short range of motion leg swings fore and aft then side to side. Warm your shoulders up with wide arm swings clock wise followed by counter clock wise movements then start your run at an easy pace until you’re warm up and ready to go faster. Danny M. O’Dell, MA. CSCS*D

goatgirly (author)Dannymo2009-04-18

I'm in track at school and they have us run a mile, do some calisthenics, and then stretch. I wish we could do a few stretches at the beginning though.

Earthy Eric (author)goatgirly2009-04-18

Do you do plyometrics too? Like high knees and butt kicks? We usually do a warm up, about ten minutes of stretching, and then finish with plyometrics; it's a nice routine... What events do you run?

goatgirly (author)Earthy Eric2009-06-02

I don't know what plyometrics are but, I'm going to the dictionary now.

goatgirly (author)goatgirly2009-06-02

Are you sure it's a word? I just looked in my dad's 20 pound(literally) dictionary and it wasn't there. In fact there was only 5 words that even started with the letters ply.

Earthy Eric (author)goatgirly2009-06-03

Yup, it's a word. Google it, tons of stuff should pop up. I ususally do plyos along with stretching before practice... I do the 110m hurdles, 300m hurdles, mile, 4x400, and sometimes the two mile.

goatgirly (author)Earthy Eric2009-06-02

I ran(tracks done for the season at my school) the 200 meter, 55 hurdles, and did shot put. Now I'm in physical therapy for the shot put but, i'm still having fun running around. I'm so glad it's nice and warm out.

Earthy Eric (author)Dannymo2009-06-01

Thank you Mr. O'Dell, I really learned alot from your post. I will be sure to inform my fellow runners. We typically do a warm-up and these static stretches before practice; along with plyometrics. Would plyometrics be considered a dynamic stretch? If so perhaps only plyos before practice and finish with the static. Thanks, Eric

Dannymo (author)Earthy Eric2009-06-01

Hi Eric, Plyometrics take advantage of stored energy in the ligaments, muscles, tendons, and skin based upon the stretch-shortening cycle. These are for advanced athletes and not for the typical weekend warrior. Unless you are talking about skipping, bounding or other low order plyometric exercises. In answer to your question they would not be my first choice due to exposing the cold muscles and joints to injury. A good warm up consists of an overall body warm up that raises the pulse, breathing and elicits a slight sweat. This transitions into a general area warm up, i.e. upper, mid or lower torso and from there to the movement specific warm up. In the case of the runners this would be a gentle jog until the first requirement is met and then into the run pace. After the run is over do static stretches to the point of mild discomfort-not pain.

Maverchick (author)Dannymo2009-05-29

You really know your stuff. (I am in an undergrad program for exercise science. We're studying strength fitness right now, including static and dynamic stretches.) Everything you've said is dead on to what we're learning.

Earthy Eric (author)Maverchick2009-06-01

Thank you very much, I'm glad you liked my instructable. -Eric

Dannymo (author)Maverchick2009-05-29

The stretching errors identified in the original post are common throughout the industry with uninformed strength and fitness coaches or pseudo-coaches being the worst offenders. It is sad to see a person, especially a young impressionable one, stretching in the manner shown in this instructable. Unfortunately, these stretching myths are difficult to stop due to their overwhelming pervasiveness in our society.

Ladilola (author)Dannymo2009-03-11

I agree with Danny! Even as part of a cool down, the stretch in this photo is putting so much pressure on the knees, and not doing much for the groin, either. A better way would be to bend the right knee when leaning to the right, and drop the head, relaxing the neck. And go VERY slowly! In all forward bending stretches the knees should be kept relaxed, not cocked backwards like in this picture, and image the goal to be to get the chest to the thigh, not the hands to the toes.

wikidkaka (author)2009-04-24

Very useful instructions.. more so for me.. thanks!! Would try them for next couple of weeks as i have just started a fitness regime for myself..

Yerboogieman (author)2009-04-18

Remember to stretch before and after.

Earthy Eric (author)Yerboogieman2009-04-19

Good call, I'll edit that into my last step. Thanks, Eric

Ladilola (author)2009-03-11

I can appreciate your enthusiasm for physical exercise, but some of these stretches are not very safe because they will put stress on the joints rather than stretch the intended muscle if not done absolutely correctly and slowly! This is true if the person is already fit, but especially if they are just staring out. I think you need to include more instructions for doing the stretches slowly and gently, and to progress from day to day...

Ladilola (author)2009-03-11

Here is a much safer version of this stretch: Stand with both knees bent slightly. Bend one leg and reach with your hand BUT do NOT let the foot touch your butt and do NOT let the knee get in front of your hip. If you do not feel enough of a stretch in the front of your thigh, instead of pulling your leg back or your foot up, keep the knees in line and curl your pervis up and pull on the thigh muscle with your stomach muscles - imagine trying to get your crotch/belly button to your chest in a tight curl. You will feel a deep stretch in the front of your thigh withour risk of knee or groin injury!

Ladilola (author)2009-03-11

It helps to drop the head, too, and lean forward rather than back - it's a lot easier on the neck and reaches lower down the back legs.

sta2butler (author)2009-01-05

awsum stretches , I am getting back to running and forgot most of these , it was very helpful thank you

Earthy Eric (author)sta2butler2009-01-07

Thanks for checking out my instructable, I'm glad you found in helpful. I just started traning for track, I'm slowly getting back into the flow. Best of luck in your training!

Udon (author)2008-12-18

This is a very good instructable. I've always fannied around when it comes to stretching (bend this way. bend that way. touch feet. scratch ear. hold arm this way. hold it that way. okay I'm done.) I won't forget this guide. Good pics too.

chaidrocks (author)2008-12-07

That's a good list of stretches. We do about all of these before track everyday. I'm not very flexible though. Are there any exercises that can make you more flexible?

Earthy Eric (author)chaidrocks2008-12-11

There's a few different ways to increase your flexibility. You can continue to do static stretches as shown above, and with time you will become more flexible. You can start stretching with a jumpstretch band, or you can start doing yoga. All three will work, but it's probably going to take some time. I'm a personal fan of the jumpstrech band, it works well. They sale these bands at Dick's Sporting Goods, it's a just big rubber band. On ocassion it will come with a poster that shows different strectches you can do with it. It's been a while since I bought mine, but as I recall, it was around $20. It was well worth it. Thank you

chaidrocks (author)Earthy Eric2008-12-14

Thanks for the advice. I think i'll get one for the holidays.

jillg (author)2008-10-27

did you enter the burning questions round 6 contest? cuase this is really good.

Earthy Eric (author)jillg2008-10-27

Thankyou, I read your's too, it's really good. Yup, I entered round 6

mikeobtuse (author)2008-10-26

yay runners, do you two do Isometrics? if so what steps do you do. what are your 5k and 10k times?

Earthy Eric (author)mikeobtuse2008-10-26

I do plyometrics, but I think I might start doing some isometrics. As far as strength building goes, I do simple calisthenics just to build core strength. My 5k best is 17:51. Every year after our district cross country meet there is a 10k road race that I run. I only ever used it as a cool down though, finishing between 42-43 minutes... I hope to race it next year, I'm shooting for a 37:00. What are your 5k and 10k times?

Weissensteinburg (author)2008-10-25

Nice descriptions and pictures. I have a few problems that really come out when i'm running if I don't stretch...particularly my back and shins. Just a few minutes spent stretching before/after exercising really make a huge difference.

Thankyou, it's nice to hear from a fellow runner. I'm in the same boat, if I don't stretch I tend to get some aches in my back... A few minutes of stretching before a run definatley makes all the difference.

About This Instructable




Bio: My name is Eric. I like to run, hike, climb, be outside, build stuff, lately design furniture. I don't read a whole lot, however ... More »
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