Magnificent Seven: Move Right – Flexibility

Flexibility is an important aspect of neuromusculoskeletal function.  If you find yourself grunting with effort to reach down and pick something up, or if you have trouble crouching back on y0ur heels…you need to work on flexibility.  You may find stretching routines that focus on your tight muscle groups and you may also find Pilates beneficial for stretching and strengthening.

Stretching exercises should be reserved for after your activities.  Many people can be found on the side of the basketball court slow stretching their muscles before a game.  This actually increases your risk of injury by inhibiting the very muscles that you need to have responsive during the game.  You should spend about five minutes warming up and getting your heart rate elevated, increasing blood flow and circulation and go into your activity.  Then afterwards spend about five minutes of cool-down which can include stretching at that time.

Below are just a couple sample stretches that you can incorporate into your daily routine.  Search on Google or Amazon from more resources on safe, gentle and effective ways to stretch.  You may also choose to purchase or rent a stretching DVD to help you get started.

Neck Stretch

This stretch is designed to relax and loosen up the muscles in your neck.

Sit or stand comfortably.  Drop your left ear lobe toward your left shoulder.  Gently stretch your right arm down and a few inches out to the side.  Repeat the stretch on your right side.

  • Keep your shoulders down and relaxed
  • Your ear may or may not touch your shoulder, depending on your flexibility

Back Expansion

This stretches and loosens your shoulders, arms, upper back, and lower back muscles.

Standing tall with your knees slightly bent and feet hip-width apart, lift your arms in front of you to shoulder height.  Clasp one hand in the other.  Drop your head toward your chest, pull your abdominals inward, round your lower back and tuck your hips forward so that you create a “C” shape with your torso.  Stretch your arms forward so that you feel your shoulder blades gently moving apart and you create an “opposition” to your rounded back.  You should feel a mild stretch slowly spread through your back, shoulders, and arms.

  • Keep your abdominal muscles pulled inward to protect your lower back
  • Keep your shoulders down and relaxed
  • Lean only as far forward as you feel comfortable and balanced

Standing Hamstring and Tibialis Stretch

This move is a great stretch for your hamstrings and shin muscles, as well as your lower back.  If you have lower back problems, do the stretch while lying on your back on the floor with one leg bent and extending your other leg upward.

Stand tall with your left foot a few inches in front of your right foot and your left toes lifted.  Bend your right knee slightly and pull your abdominals gently inward.  Lean forward from your hips and rest both palms on top of your right thigh for balance and support.  Keep your shoulders down and relaxed and don’t round your back.  Lower your left toes to the floor gently and hold for a count of 4, then lift your toes, hold, and repeat.  You should feel a mild pull gradually spread through the back of your leg.  Repeat the stretch with your right leg forward.

  • Don’t lean so far forward that you lose your balance or feel strain in your lower back
  • Keep your back straight and your abdominals pulled inward to make the stretch more effective and to protect your lower back

Stretching Tips

  • Hold stretch position for 5-7 seconds
  • Do not bounce when stretching
  • Do not force the stretch
  • Stretch all major muscle groups
  • Consider using a foam roller for increased stretching
  • Take 5 minutes to perform your daily stretching exercises

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