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Cooldown

Quadriceps Stretch

show me an exampleThis excellent stretch should be a regular part of your cool down. Strength training exercises such as squats, step-ups, and knee extensions focus on strengthening the quadriceps muscles. This stretch will help these muscles relax and make them more flexible.

  1. Stand next to a counter or sturdy chair with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your knees straight, but not locked.
  2. With your left hand, hold a chair or counter for balance. Bend your right leg back and grasp your right ankle in your right hand until your thigh is perpendicular to the ground. Make sure you stand up straight—don't lean forward. (If you can't grasp your ankle in your hand, just keep your leg as close to perpendicular as possible and hold the bend, or place your foot on the seat of a chair.) You should feel a stretch in the front of the thigh.
  3. Hold the stretch for a slow count of 20 to 30 seconds, breathing throughout.
  4. Release your right ankle and repeat with the other leg.

Make sure you:

  • Breathe throughout the stretch, concentrating on relaxing.
  • Stand up straight and look straight ahead.
  • Don't lock your supporting knee.

Hamstring/Calf Stretch

show me an exampleIf touching your toes with straight legs seems an impossible task, you're not alone. Many people have tight hamstring and calf muscles in the back of the leg. This stretch will give these muscles more flexibility and make it easier for you to bend over.

  1. Sit forward in a chair with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Extend your right leg in front of you, placing your right heel on the floor, and keeping your ankle relaxed. Don't lock your knee. Slowly lean forward at the hips, bending toward your right toes, trying to keep your back straight.
  3. Hold the stretch for a slow count of 20 to 30, breathing throughout.
  4. Sit up straight again and flex your right ankle so that your toes are pointing up toward the ceiling. Again, lean forward at the hips, bending toward your right toes and hold the stretch for a slow count of 20 to 30, breathing throughout.
  5. Release the stretch and repeat with your left leg.

Note: You should feel the first part of this stretch in the back of the upper leg and the second part in the calf.

Make sure you:

  • Breathe throughout the stretch, concentrating on relaxing.
  • Keep your back straight and head lifted as you lean forward toward your toes.
  • Don't push the stretch too far—it shouldn't be painful.

Chest and Arm Stretch

show me an exampleThis simple reaching stretch will improve the flexibility in your arms and chest and in the front of your shoulders.

  1. Stand with your arms at your sides and your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Extend both arms behind your back and clasp your hands together, if possible, retracting your shoulders.
  3. Hold the stretch for a slow count of 20 to 30, breathing throughout.
  4. Release the stretch and repeat.

Make sure you:

  • Breathe throughout the stretch.
  • Keep your back straight and look straight ahead.

Neck, Upper Back, and Shoulder Stretch

show me an exampleThis easy stretch targets another group of muscles particularly vulnerable to tension and stress—the neck, back, and shoulders. Do it often—after strength training, and during any activity that makes you feel stiff, such as sitting at a desk or at a computer. You'll find it rejuvenating.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees straight but not locked, and your hands clasped in front of you.
  2. Rotate your hands so that your palms are facing the ground; then raise your arms to about chest height.
  3. Gently press your palms away from your body. You should feel a stretch in your neck and upper back and along your shoulders.
  4. Hold the stretch for a slow count of 20 to 30, breathing throughout.
  5. Release the stretch and repeat.

Make sure you:

  • Breathe throughout the stretch.
  • Don't curve your back or arch it.

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