Flexibility Exercises

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 en Cr»

Calf Stretch

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.

Quadriceps Stretch

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.

Hamstring Stretch

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.

Hamstring Stretch

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.

Hip Stretch

Lie on back with knees bent, feet flat on the deck. Place right ankle on left knee. Grasp left thigh with both hands and gently pull it toward chest. Switch legs and repeat. Stretches hip extensors.

Pretzel Stretch

Sit with both legs straight. Bend the left knee and cross left foot over the right shin. Turn torso left and place right elbow just below the left knee. Turn as far left as possible. Stretches hip abductors, lower back, and iliotibial band. Switch legs and repeat.


Sit with legs bent and bottoms of feet together. Wrap hands around ankles and gently lean your torso forward, keeping your back flat. Do not pull on ankles or press knees down with elbows. Stretches hip adductors.


With feet side by side, take a large step forward with left foot. Bend your left knee until it is directly over left ankle. Gently press your hips forward and down, keeping your back straight. Stretches hip flexors. Switch legs and repeat.


Lie face down, palms on the deck under your shoulders. Gently lift torso with arms and lower back muscles. Lift only until your pelvis is off the deck. Stretches the abdominals.

Lower Back Stretch

Lie on back, bring knees to chest and grasp knees with hands (arms may either be below or above lower legs). Gently pull both knees toward chest. Lift chin toward chest. Stretches the lower back.

Kneeling Back Stretch

Kneel down with knees shoulder width apart. Sit back on your heels. Lean forward so your chest rests on your thighs. Extend arms over head. Stretch arms and chest as far forward as possible. Stretches lower back.

Upper Back Stretch

Clasp hands together in front of chest, palms facing out, arms extended. Press through palms until back and shoulders are rounded. Stretches back and shoulders. Can do seated or standing.

Posterior Shoulder Stretch

Bring left arm across chest. Use right hand to gently push upper left arm toward chest. Stretches shoulders. Switch arms and repeat.

Triceps Stretch

Bring left arm up and back until left palm is between shoulder blades and left elbow is above left ear. Gently grasp upper left arm with right hand and push left arm behind head. Stretches the triceps. Switch arms and repeat.

Chest Stretch

Clasp hands behind lower back, thumbs pointed down. Gently pull arms up toward ceiling. Stretches chest and shoulders. Can do seated or standing.

Neck Stretch

Clasp hands behind back. Bend neck so right ear moves to right shoulder. Gently pull left arm. Stretches neck. Switch arms to stretch the right side of the neck.

Table 9-2. Dynamic Stretches

Neck Stretch

Begin from a standing position. ^ Count 1: slowly roll the head to /^s one side, Count 2: slowly roll the /In head to the front, Count 3: slowly liLW roll the head to the other side, \ T Count 4: slowly roll the head to rjn the front again. Repeat. Do not roll the head back. Stretches the neck muscles. Variation: Turn your head to look over your right shoulder then slowly turn your head to look over your left shoulder. Repeat.

Begin from standing §L position with arms at \j sides. Count 1: slowly r\ * M ^ bring both arms WW nn forward and upward. U L U U Count 2: slowly bring <90 00 both arms down and jg back. Count 3: slowly move both arms M forward, up, back, and Wy around to complete a y\ full circle. Stretches ¿j[, the shoulders, chest, and back.


Begin from a f)

fists at chest L^ ¿Tj elbows out to UJ UJ Count 1:

gently pull elbows back and release. Count 2: repeat count 1. Count 3: slowly extend arms and pull them back. Stretches the chest and shoulders.

Trunk Twisters

Begin in a seated position with legs C^^^F?

crossed and hands x^SrV

head. Count 1:

slowly turn your torso, at the waist, to the right and pause.

Count 2: slowly turn your torso to the left and pause. Repeat. Stretches abdominals and obliques.

Standing Toe Pointers

Start from a standing position with body weight over the Jj! heels. Flex and extend the feet and toes. Stretches both the calf muscles and the muscles in front of the shins. J7\ Variation: walk on the heels J4 L with toes pointed upward. ^o

Four-Way Lunges

Begin from a standing m position. Count 1: lunge forward with right leg, JO/

distributing body weight fr^, across both legs. When H ^^

lunging forward, the knee ^

should not extend beyond the toe of that leg. Count 2: & A

using the right leg, push off and return to start position. /s

Repeat this movement & ^

using the same leg but lunge to the side. Perform exercise with the left leg. Stretches the leg muscles.

Table 9-1 and Table 9-2 were adapted from The Navy SEAL Physical Fitness Guide.

Table 9-1 and Table 9-2 were adapted from The Navy SEAL Physical Fitness Guide.

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