How to Stretch

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Introduction: How to Stretch

About: 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, I do enjoy reading. I'm a simple kid, it doesn't take much to keep me enterta...

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

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

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'

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...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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...

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!

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    42 Comments

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

    Thank You, this was very helpful. Great instructable!

    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.

    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.

    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 :)

    1 reply

    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

     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.

    1 reply

     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,
    Eric 

    great instructable. greetings from argentina, south america.

    I agree, great post. Stretching is very good.

    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

    8 replies

    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.

    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?

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

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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

    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.