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Stretching And Exercise

Stretching techniques to improve flexibility and lower risk of sports injury.
After a grueling workout, taking the time to stretch each muscle sounds less-than-appealing. But stretching exercises are a crucial part of any fitness routine. And the benefits are numerous: According to the American Council on Exercise, stretching releases muscle tension and soreness, increases range of motion, and lowers your risk of injury and aids physical and mental relaxation.

And doing it right is just as important. Check out these expert stretching advice and easy-to-follow stretches:

Stretching basics

"Stretching is easy to learn. But there is a right way and a wrong way to stretch," says Bob Anderson, author of Stretching. The right way, he explains, is a relaxed, sustained stretch with your attention focused on the muscles being stretched. The wrong way is rocking or bouncing, as it sends a signal to the muscle to contract rather than to extend.

Stretch slowly, holding each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds -- the time it takes for muscle fibers to relax and lengthen. Exhale as you ease into a stretch, and then breathe naturally throughout as you hold your stretch. "Your breathing should be slow, rhythmical and under control," Anderson points out.

Stretching, when done correctly, should never be painful. Pay attention to your body; if you experience pain, ease up -- you're stretching way too far.

To keep your body in balance, target muscles in pairs, paying equal attention to opposing muscles. For instance, stretching your hamstrings first and then your quads, biceps then triceps, and chest then back.

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