One of the most important – yet most often overlooked – elements in fitness is flexibility. When muscles have more tension than they should, an imbalance is created and the body’s movement is restricted. This makes any activity require more effort.
It is through lengthening (stretching) tense muscles and tightening (strengthening) weak muscles that the body is restored to a balanced state. The more balanced the body, the more efficient its movements and the less likely an injury is to occur. The following pages contain photos and descriptions of stretching exercises that help create a better balance of tension and thus contribute to flexibility.
Stretching exercises are often referred to as poses because the stretch puts the body into a pose that will bre help for a period of time. Holding a pose for 10 seconds is good, but maintaining it for 30 seconds to 1 minute allows more time for muscles to balance. Performing the stretch more than once can also bring better results.
If any stretch causes pain, stop immediately, and omit it from your workout program for the time being. As your body achieves greater balance, you will be able to reincorporate certain stretches that previously cased pain. Every body is different. Therefore, not all poses are effective for everyone.
The following stretches or poses are grouped into four categories: lying, kneeling, sitting, and standing. When creating your own flexibility program, choose a few stretches from each category in order to benefit a full range of muscles.
The photos and descriptions in this chapter are designed to familiarize you with the stretches and to serve as a reference once your started your training routine. Chapter 7 provides detailed workout programs that incorporate these various stretches.