One of the safest and most beneficial types of flexibility exercises is static stretching. Static Stretches are slow, controlled movements through a full range of motion. The term "static" means the stretch is held at the end of the joint's range of motion. These static exercises are considered safe and effective because they stretch the muscles and connective tissue without using fast movements that will be resisted by the muscles. These exercises can be done actively (e.g., you contract the opposing muscle group to stretch the target muscle group) or passively (e.g., you use a towel to stretch the muscle). Incorporate the static stretches in Table 9-1 in your exercise program. These exercises target the muscle groups shown in Chapter 7, Figure 7-2. Select at least one stretch for each muscle group. Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds then rest 10 seconds. Repeat each stretch 2-5 times. Muscle balance also applies to stretching, so stretch opposing muscle groups (e.g., stretch hamstrings and quadriceps). Remember: static stretches should be performed slowly and held for 10 - 30 seconds.
A second type of flexibility exercises is dynamic stretching (Table 9-2). Dynamic Stretches are controlled muscle contractions through a joint's range of motion. These stretches should be used to enhance the performance of an activity that immediately follows the stretch; i.e., swinging your racket prior to a tennis match. This type of stretching warms the muscles. Dynamic exercises are safe as long as you do not use momentum to force a joint through a greater range of motion than it is capable. Also, avoid bouncing movements.
Table 9-1. Static Stretches
Standing on a step, place the ball of the right foot on the edge of the step. Bend left knee and gently drop right heel. Stretches the right gastrocnemius. Variation:To stretch the ankle, slightly bend the right knee after dropping your right heel. Switch legs and repeat.
Lie on stomach with both legs extended. Slowly bend left knee. Gently grasp left ankle with right hand and pull toward body. Keep back straight. Stretches the quadriceps. Switch legs and repeat. Variation: Perform stretch when standing, holding on to a stationary object to keep your balance.
Lie on back with both legs extended. Bring left leg to chest and grasp left thigh with both hands. Gently pull left leg toward chest. Stretches left hamstring and right hip flexor. Switch legs and repeat.
Modified Hurdler's Stretch
Sit down, extend right leg and place left foot against inner right thigh.
Gently bend forward from the hips, toward toes. Stretches the hamstring. Switch legs and repeat.
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