" Health Article Five...
Stretching and Flexibility! "

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Stretching and Flexibility

by Tony Wilden
April 2nd 2009

Lots of people have heard that I have been studying health for 30+ years, and that many of my insights are explained in my New ebook collections.

Some of the most common mistakes made when stretching are... improper warm-up, inadequate rest between workouts, overstretching, performing the wrong exercises, and exercising in the wrong order.

Warming up is the process of raising your core body temperature. A proper warm-up is divided into three phases... general warm-up, stretching, sport-specific activity.

General Warm-Up

The general warm-up should begin with joint-rotations, starting either from your toes and working your way up, or from your fingers and working your way down. This helps joint motion by lubricating the entire joint with synovial fluid, which allows your joints to function better.

You should perform slow circular movements, both clockwise and counter-clockwise, until the joint seems to move smoothly. You should rotate the following... fingers and knuckles, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, trunk/waist, hips, legs, knees, ankles, toes.

Then do at least five minutes of aerobic activity, such as jogging. This raises your core body temperature and gets your blood flowing. Increased blood flow in the muscles improves muscle performance and flexibility and reduces the likelihood of injury.

Warm-Up Stretching

Immediately following your general warm-up, you should engage in some slow, relaxed, static stretching. Start with your back, followed by your upper body and lower body, stretching your muscles in the following order... back, sides, neck, forearms and wrists, triceps, chest, buttocks, groin, thighs, calves, shins, hamstrings, instep.

Then do some some light dynamic stretching... leg-raises, and arm-swings in all directions. You are "warming up" for a workout that is (usually) going to involve a lot of dynamic activity. It makes sense that you should perform some dynamic exercises to increase your dynamic flexibility.

Sport-Specific Activity

The last part of your warm-up should be devoted to performing movements that are a more relaxed version of the movements that you will be performing during your athletic activity. Such sport-specific activity is beneficial because it improves coordination, balance, strength, and response time, and may reduce the risk of injury.

Cooling Down

After you have completed your workout, the best way to reduce muscle fatigue and soreness is to perform a light warm-down. This warm-down is similar to the second half of your warm-up (but in the reverse order).

Ideally, you should start your warm-down with about 10-20 minutes of sport-specific activity. In reality however, you may not always have 10-20 minutes to spare at the end of your workout. You should, however, attempt to perform at least 5 minutes of sport-specific activity in this case. The sport-specific activity should immediately be followed by stretching: First perform some light dynamic stretches until your heart rate slows down to its normal rate, then perform some static stretches.

Sport-specific activity, followed by stretching, can reduce cramping, tightening, and soreness in fatigued muscles and will make you feel better. If you are still sore the next day, a light warm-up or warm-down is a good way to reduce lingering muscle tightness and soreness even when not performed immediately after a workout.


Massaging a muscle, or group of muscles, immediately prior to performing stretching or strength exercises for those muscles, will increased blood flow, relax muscles, and remove metabolic waste.

Because of these benefits, you may wish to make massage a regular part of your stretching program... immediately before each stretch you perform, massage the muscles you are about to stretch.

Duration, Counting, and Repetition

One thing many people seem to disagree about is how long to hold a passive stretch in its position. Various sources seem to suggest that they should be held for as little as 10 seconds to as long as a 1-7 minutes.

A good common ground seems to be about 20 seconds. Holding the stretch for about 7-10 seconds should be sufficient for children. Some people like to count while they stretch.

Breathing During Stretching

Proper breath control is important for a successful stretch. Breathing helps you to relax your body, increase blood flow, and remove waste.

You should be taking slow, relaxed breaths when you stretch, trying to exhale as the muscle is stretching.

The proper way to breathe is to inhale slowly through the nose, expanding the abdomen, hold the breath a moment, then exhale slowly through the nose or mouth.

As you breathe in, the diaphragm presses downward on the internal organs and their associated blood vessels, squeezing the blood out of them. As you exhale, the abdomen, its organs and muscles, and their blood vessels flood with new blood. This rhythmic contraction and expansion of the abdominal blood vessels is partially responsible for the circulation of blood.

Also, the rhythmic pumping action helps to remove waste products from the muscles in the torso. This is important during stretching because increased blood flow to the stretched muscles improves their elasticity, and increases the rate at which lactic acid is removed from them.

Tony Wilden
Aikido Health Centre

Tony Wilden is the author of the Aikido Success Blueprint, the Aikido First Aid Kit, and the Optimum Health Secrets. You can sign up for his free monthly Harmony ezine at http://www.aikido-health.com

Copyright © 2009 by Tony Wilden. All rights reserved.
You may forward this in its entirety to anyone you wish.

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