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Simple Stretch Exercises

PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2006 9:03 am
by patoco
Simple Stretch Exercises

Lymphedema People


Simple Stretch Exercises

Stretching is an important component of muscular fitness for beginning and advanced trainers alike. Good flexibility allows your muscles to work in a greater range of motion, can prevent injury, can ease muscular pain, helps speed recovery and is also a good way to cool down after weight training.



·When stretching before the workout, do it only lightly as the muscles are not warmed up yet and therefore not as pliable.

·Immediately after your workout, when your muscles are warm and limber, is the best time to stretch for improving your flexibility.

·Hold stretches for 2 to 3 sets of 20 to 60 seconds to get the full benefit. Holding for less than 20 seconds will give you a temporary increase in range of motion while stretching for 20 or more seconds affects the plastic, permanent aspect of the muscles and connective tissue.

·Do not stretch past the point of pain and do not do stretches that are dangerous or cause pain.

1. Back

Hold onto a rail, pole, bar, etc., with one hand. Rotate your body inwards towards that hand then allow your weight to fall backwards.

·You can adjust where the stretch affects in your back by standing more upright or bending over more.

·Staying more upright will target the upper/middle back while leaning over will hit the lower side and back area.

2. Chest

Stand beside a vertical pole or wall with your arm straight out to the side and holding on. Bend your elbow slightly then rotate your body away from your hand. Keep your shoulder back and your chest puffed out.

3. Front Thigh - Quadriceps

Kneel on the floor on one knee with your front leg and your back leg bent at 90 degrees. From this position lean back somewhat, pushing your stretching-side hip forward and leaning your upper body back.

·You should feel the stretch in your back leg from your hip flexors (the muscles that are located around your hip bone which bring the thigh up towards the abdomen) right down to your lower quads by your knee.

4. Hamstrings - The Back of the Thighs

Put your foot up on a bench or raised surface that you are standing in front of.

·Hold onto something for balance if you need to.

·Lean over and try to touch or grab your foot.

·Keep your lower back arched as you lean over for the greatest stretch.

5. Shoulders

Pull your arm straight across in front of your chest and push it into your chest with your other arm.

·This stretch affects the rear and side aspects of the shoulder

6. Biceps - Front of the Upper Arms

Put one hand on a wall or pole with your arm straight out to the side, then rotate your body away from your arm like in the chest stretch. To affect your biceps more, keep your arm straight and bend your wrist back a little.

7. Triceps - Back of the Upper Arms

Raise one arm overhead then bend it down at the elbow as though trying to scratch your back. Use your other arm to push your stretching arm backwards slightly.

·Be careful with this stretch not to pull your upper arm past vertical behind the head to the other side. This overstretches the shoulder joint

8. Calves

Stand on one foot on a wood block or other raised surface (the calf machine is good) on the balls of that foot.

·Rest all your weight on the one foot in the stretch position (heel down)

·Keep your knee as far back and locked out as possible (you may wish to push on it with your hand or with your other leg crossed over in front).


Easy exercise program for low back pain relief

* Editor's note - I am including these because so many of us have back problems associated with carrying around such extra fluids in our body and these will help the back pain, and they are safe. - Pat *

Exercise advice for pain relief

In order to live a comfortable life in retirement, millions of Americans sacrifice now by putting money into their 401K and other retirement plans. One question to consider is: What good is it to have this nest egg when my hips and back hurt so badly that I can’t enjoy it? Like a financial plan, ensuring a future without low back pain and activity restrictions requires regular and consistent diligence.

This article outlines an exercise program that is simple and easily done at home—without requiring exercise equipment or access to a gym or fitness facility.

Exercise program to stretch the back and legs

The following are some stretches that aid in pain relief by helping take stress off the low back and hips and may greatly reduce the advancement of arthritis in the spine. These exercises should be performed in a pain free manner. If pain is experienced, it is best to discontinue the exercises and consider being evaluated by a licensed physical therapist that specializes in treatment of the spine. If one already has low back pain or other health condition, it is advisable to first be evaluated by a physician and, as appropriate, receive guidance on how to do the following exercises by a spine specialist.

Piriformis muscle stretching exercise

The piriformis muscle runs from the back of the femur (thigh bone) to the sacrum (base of the spine). Tightness in this muscle has been linked to sacroiliac joint dysfunction and even sciatica-type pain along the sciatic nerve. To stretch the piriformis, lie on your back and cross the involved leg over the other. Gently pull the other knee toward your chest until a stretch is felt in the buttock area. See Figure 1.

Hold 30 seconds
1-2 times per day

Psoas Major muscle stretching exercise

The Psoas Major muscle attaches to the front portion of the lower spine (from thoracic segment 12 through lumbar segment 5) and can greatly limit low back mobility when tight. It often is one of the sources of low back pain in patients who have difficulty standing for extended periods or kneeling on both knees. This muscle can be stretched in a half kneeling position (kneeling on one knee). Rotate the leg outward and tighten the gluteal muscles on the side you’re stretching. Next, lean forward through the hip joint rather then bending through the lumbar spine. A stretch should be felt in the front of the hip that the patient is kneeling on. See Figure 2.

Hamstring muscle stretching exercise

The hamstrings run from the back of the ishial tuberosity (pelvic bone) to just below the back of the knee. They are responsible for bending the knee and assisting the gluteal muscles to extend the hip. These muscles are very important to stretch because, when tight, they make it nearly impossible to sit up straight. People who do not sit with an erect posture run the risk of early onset of degenerative disc disease and neck pain. Tight hamstring muscles are also associated with low back pain. One way to gently stretch hamstring muscles is to lie on the back and grasp the leg behind the knee with the hip flexed to 90 degrees and the knee bent. Attempt to straighten the knee with the toes pointed back toward you. See Figure 3.

Hold 30 seconds
1-2 times per day

Hold 30 seconds
1-2 times per day

Strengthening exercise program for low back pain relief

The next few exercises are examples of some basic stabilization exercises that aid in low back pain relief. Having strong midline support is critical to decreasing the stresses placed upon the lumbar spine (lower back) and pelvis. It should be noted, however, that often muscles that appear to be weak may actually be inhibited by an antagonist muscle (muscle on the opposite side of the joint) or by faulty lumbar facet joint mechanics. Generally, an inhibited muscle will not respond to resistance training. Therefore, if low back pain or hip pain is being experienced, it is important to first see a spine therapist in order to screen for muscle inhibition. Attempting to strengthen an inhibited muscle may cause a substitution pattern that only reinforces a painful movement pattern. In general, it is advisable to see a spine specialist who specializes in back pain prior to beginning any exercise program.

In addition, unlike stretching exercises, it is important to take a few days off per week from strengthening exercises to allow the body to rest and build strong muscles. A licensed physical therapist can help design a strengthening exercise program to fit an individual’s specific needs and help with pain relief. In general, a spinal stabilization exercise program usually includes strengthening the abdominal muscles in the front and the gluteal muscles in the back.

Transversus Abdominis muscle strengthening (abdominal exercise)

Many people think of performing abdominal crunches or situps to strengthen the abdominal muscles. While “six pack abs” look nice to some, it is more important to work the Transversus Abdominis (TVA) through abdominal exercise to achieve spinal stability. When retraining the TVA, it is important to maintain a neutral lumbar spine (don’t try pushing the back all the way into the floor). The back is most often in a neutral spine position, so it makes less sense to strengthen the back in a flexed or extended position. Lie on one’s back with the knees bent. Knees and feet should be shoulder width apart. Draw the belly button toward the spine while maintaining a neutral spine. Upon exhalation, reach toward the ceiling as if trying to grab a trapeze overhead. Then raise the head and shoulders off the floor, just to the point where the shoulder blades are barely touching the floor, and hold 1-2 seconds. Inhale upon return and repeat at the end of the next exhalation. Continue until it is not possible to maintain a neutral spine or when fatigued. See Figure 4.

Hold 1-2 seconds
Repeat until fatigued
1 time per day
4-5 days per week

Gluteus Maximus muscle strengthening (buttock exercise)

To strengthen this muscle, lie on the stomach with the hips and legs off the end of a table or bench. Tighten the buttock on one side and extend the leg up toward the ceiling while maintaining a neutral spine. Movements should be slow. Initially, it is common to only be able to perform a few repetitions at a time. See Figure 5.

Hold 5 seconds
4-10 repetitions per side
1 time per day
4-5 days per week

Gluteus Medius muscle strengthening (hip abductor exercise)

This muscle (the hip abductor) is used to raise the leg laterally at the hip and also supports the pelvis when standing on one leg (single leg stance). If this muscle is weak or inhibited, the opposite pelvis will drop when single leg stance is performed. Functionally, single leg stance is performed whenever someone walks. A weak gluteus medius will result in the opposite hip dropping during the gait cycle and can cause an increase in low back pain and hip pain with walking. To strengthen the gluteus medius, lie on one’s side with the back against the wall. Draw the belly button in while maintaining a neutral spine. Raise the upper leg with the toes slightly pointed toward the ceiling and the heel maintaining contact with the wall. Perform slowly with a 2 second hold at the top.

10 repetitions per side
1 time per day
4-5 days per week

Optimizing exercise programs for pain relief

As with all exercise programs, these low back stretching and strengthening exercises should be preceded by warm-up and followed by cool-down activities, such as walking and gentle stretching. It is advisable to always consult a medical professional prior to beginning any exercise program, and if pain, such as low back pain or leg pain, is felt or aggravated, it is best to consult a spine specialist and/or physical therapist that specializes in these types of exercise programs.

By: Robert J. Daul, MPT
June 27, 2005 ... ise01.html