The Spine Rotation

As usual, contract the muscles you are about to stretch. If you are stretching clockwise, push against the chair in the opposite direction: counterclockwise.

Sit upright in a chair with a stiff back. Solidly plant your feet to anchor your hips. Consider wrapping your feet around the legs of the chair.

Open your chest and turn your torso around your vertical spine. Hold on to the chair.

As usual, you shall contract the muscles you are about to stretch. If you are stretching clockwise as in the photo, push against the chair in the opposite direction: counterclockwise. Use your waist muscles; the arms just pass on the force. Unlike the previous stretches that respond to one-second contractions nicely, this drill usually calls for a longer time under tension— usually around five to ten seconds. Obviously you should not be holding your breath this long; breathe shallow.

Release the tension and air and increase the stretch by rotating further with the help of your arms. Do not slump over.

Keep at it, then switch sides. Your grand reward will be an increased rotational mobility in your spine. If you are a golfer, feel free to express your gratitude by putting me in your will.

6. The Lateral Neck and Trap Stretch

Sit in a chair and grab it underneath the seat with your left hand.

Slowly lean your head and your body to the right. Keep your left arm straight. Yo u should feel a stretch along the left side of your neck.

Place your right hand on the left side of your head as shown in the photo.

Push your hand and your head against each other for a while, anywhere from a few seconds to a minute if your neck is really tight. Breathe shallow.

Do not strive to increase your range of motion by a lot; just concentrate on releasing the tension in your neck and shoulders

Exhale and relax. Your neck will stretch further.

Repeat a few times. Do not strive to increase your range of motion by a lot; just concentrate on releasing the credit card tension in your neck and shoulders.

Repeat the drill on the other side.

If you have a muscle pull on, say, the left side of your neck, go easy on stretching the opposite, or right, side. When you stretch one muscle, its opposite number has to shorten. That's not a big deal unless the antagonist is injured; then it is likely to spasm. This rule applies all stretches. For example, if you have an injured hamstring and you ambitiously stretch your quad and hip flexor, the hammy will cramp and make you holler for your mommy.

7. The Headache Buster

If you have a pull in a muscle, go easy on stretching its antagonist, or pay with painful spasms.

This variation of the previous stretch is the mother of all tension headache busters.

Turn your head a little to the right side as if trying to touch your collarbone with your chin. The left arm may be in any comfortable position. Better yet, place it behind your shoulder blades. Ideally, grab the right upright of the back of the chair if you can reach that far.

Apply the tension in the plane that crosses your left shoulder and right knee. Naturally, do the drill on both sides, always finishing with the tighter one.

8. The Anti-Slouch Neck Stretch

Before tackling the following stretch check with your doctor, especially if you have high blood pressure or neck problems.

If you work with a computer or work at a desk, chances are the muscles in the front of your neck have shortened and given you a slouched posture.

This will also be the case if you do the dumbest ab exercise of all, the crunch. Say no to crunches and get on the Bullet-Proof Abs program! And do not forget to stretch your neck.

Before tackling the following stretch check with your doctor, especially if you have high blood pressure or neck problems. It is a great drill for some and bad news for others. This neck move has been my pet stretch since I got rear-ended by a semi and walked away alive, but without a neck curve. Thanks, Carl.

Lie on the edge of a bench or a sturdy table so your head hangs off the edge.

Inhale and tighten up your neck as if bracing for a punch.

Hold the tension and air for a second and release. Your head will drop a little. Repeat a few times as long as you do not experience discomfort. When you relax between the contractions try to decompress and elongate your cervical spine.

As an option, you may lift your head up a little, or till your chin touches your chest, on the inhalation. Then lower your head on a passive exhalation. Obviously, although you should be relaxed on the way down, exercise control so your head does not drop and whiplash!

9. The Head Turner

Here is the stretch for the comrades who have a hard time looking over their shoulders. Again, if you have an overly tight muscle on one side of your neck take it easy stretching the other side.

Sit in a chair as in the Headache Buster and turn your head as far as you can. Do not tilt your head! Just rotate it.

Apply pressure against your head with your hand. Hold the tension for some time without holding your breath.

Release and turn your head further. Use your neck muscles rather than your arm strength.

Perform the drill on both sides.

Do not tilt your head! Just rotate it.

10. The Chest Opener

To stretch your pecs and open up your chest, stand inside a doorway and place your hands slightly below shoulder level. Instead of using a door you can have your training partner hold your wrists.

Your palms should be facing forward and your elbows must be slightly bent for the duration of the stretch. Carefully 'fall' forward and load your pectoral muscles. Be certain to lean with your whole body rather than just fold at the hips.

Inhale and build up the pressure against the doorway or your partner's hands. Exert the force as if you are trying to bring your palms together in front of you.

Your elbows must be slightly bent for the duration of the stretch.

Be certain to lean with your whole body rather than just fold at the hips.

Hold the tension for five to ten seconds and breathe shallow.

Release the tension and drop forward on a passive exhalation. Drop your whole body rather than just your torso!

Repeat a few times. You rarely need to do more than one set of this stretch.

You can vary the stretching effect around your shoulder girdle by adjusting the height of your hand placement.

11. The Overhead Reach

Here is a crucial stretch for weightlifters and track & field athletes.

Get down on your knees and place your hands on an elevation, for example a chair, a kitchen counter, a power rack pin. Keep your elbows locked.

Press down against the chair. You should feel tension in your armpits and in the back of your arms.

Hold steady tension without holding your breath. Compared to other upper body stretches, this one may require a long time under tension, say 15-30 sec. Some comrades, especially those with well-developed shoulder girdle muscles, may need additional loading. Have your training partner apply steady pressure with his hand against the middle of your back.

Release and drop down. Gently increase the stretch even further by opening your chest and pushing it down.

Start with a very wide grip and narrow it to the shoulder width over a period of weeks and months.

12. The Biceps and Shoulder Stretch

Do not be overly ambitious. The shoulders are easy to overstretch!

Do not be overly ambitious. The shoulders are easy to overstretch!

Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your arms behind you as shown. Keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the stretch.

With some weight on your palms apply pressure forward. It should feel like you are performing a biceps curl and are raising your arms in front of you at the same time. If you are a bodybuilder, imagine you are doing the Arnold curl.

Release. Your body will drop down and you will feel a stretch in your biceps and shoulders.

Carefully scoop your butt toward your feet and repeat the drill.

It should feel like you are performing a biceps curl and are raising your arms in front of you at the same time.

Do not be overly ambitious. The shoulders are easy to overstretch! If you feel pinpoint soreness in front of your shoulders the day after this stretch you have gone too far

13. The Shoulder Blade and Lat Stretch

This awesome stretch will loosen up the tight muscles between your shoulderblades and stretch your lats—the muscles that fold like wings, downward from your armpits. Arnold Schwarzenegger used to do a variation of the following stretch to stimulate growth in his latissimus.

With your hands close together, hold on to a sturdy object at waist level. The doorknob on an open door is an option, if you are certain the door will not collapse under your weight. Face the edge of the open door and hold on to the knobs on both sides of it. Your feet should straddle the door under your hands.

r

Pull against the door

with your arms nearly

straight. Think of

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flexing your armpits.

Stick your butt out and hang on the door while keeping your arms nearly straight, your head down, and your back rounded. Your knees should stay slightly bent throughout the drill.

Spread your shoulder blades before tensing up. Hump your back and imagine that you are pushing away from the doorknob.

Spread your shoulder blades if you can. By humping your back and imagining that you are pushing away from the doorknob you should make them kick out in a short time. If you have done it right you should feel a pleasant stretch between your shoulder blades. Do not get bummed out if it takes a few weeks. Proceed with the rest of the stretch.

Pull against the door with your arms nearly straight! It is tricky but not impossible. Think of flexing your armpits.

Hold the tension and breath shallow for awhile.

Release! You should feel a pull from your armpits along and across your back. Kick out the shoulder blades again, or at least try to, before the next contraction.

14. The Upper Back Loosener

This weird stretch will loosen up the muscles between your shoulder blades from a different angle and stretch out a tight upper back.

Hold on to the doorway or your training partner with one hand. Fold your free arm over the busy one. Keep your feet almost under your holding hand. If you do it right you will feel out of balance.

For an even greater knot-releasing effect, have your partner apply a steady pressure with his knuckles against the spot on your back that feels most tight. Have your comrade increase the pressure when you are tensing and ease up when you relax into stretch

Lean away over and away from the holding hand. Experiment with the direction of the bend and the height of the holding hand. You will notice that by changing the loading angle you can stretch any spot on your upper back with great precision.

Pull with a straight arm against the doorknob or your assistant's hand.

Release and feel the stretch where you have never felt it before!

For an even greater knot-releasing effect have your partner apply a steady pressure with his knuckles against the spot on your back that feels most tight. Have your comrade increase the pressure when you are tensing and ease up when you relax into stretch.

You can stretch any spot on your upper back with great precision by changing the loading angle.

15. The Wrist Flexion

Get down on your knees and place your hands in front of you, fingers pointing towards you as much as possible. Keep your elbows locked for the duration of the stretch.

Gently shift some weight on your hands until you feel a pull on the inside of your forearms.

Apply pressure against the ground as if trying to straighten out your wrists. Since your forearm muscles sport good endurance, hold the tension for a relatively long time, at least ten seconds.

The angle between your hands and your arms will increase when you have released the tension.

Be careful not to overdo this stretch! It is way too easy to damage the wrists. My arm-wrestling buddies, stay the hell away from this stretch!

Be careful not to overdo this stretch! It is way too easy to damage the wrists.

16. The Wrist Extension

Assume the same position as in the last stretch, except rest on the backsides of your palms. Keep your elbows locked for the duration of the stretch.

Experiment with the direction where your fingers point; turn them slightly in and then out and note the effect on your forearms.

Contract the muscles on the outside of your forearms, as if trying to stand up on your finger tips.

Release, and increase the stretch by gently shifting your body back.

17. The Good Morning Hamstring Stretch

Bending forward with a barbell on your shoulders is one of the key exercises in weightlifting and powerlifting. For some mysterious reason, it is called 'a good morning'. As my friend and powerlifting champion, Marty Gallagher, has wondered: "Why does such a manly drill have such a 'hearts and flowers' name?"

This stretch closely mimics the Barbell Good Morning which makes it the first choice for an iron rat's hamstrings.

Even if you do not lift anything heavier than your laptop, make this your first hammy stretch because it will finally teach you the difference between stretching your back and stretching your hamstrings. Few comrades get the difference, hence many overstretched backs and overly tight hams.

Stand normally, your feet shoulder width apart and pointing forward. Start by placing the edges of your hands into the creases on top of your thighs. I learned this neat trick from a friend of my wife's, dance instructor Kathy Foss Bakkum. Press your hands hard into your 'hinges'and stick your butt out while keeping your weight on your heels. Your knees should be slightly bent.

Keep your chest open, your lower back arched, and your chin pointed forward throughout this and other hamstring stretches! If you do not, your hammies will remain forever tight.

As you are folding, you will feel a pull right underneath your butt—or a hand's width above your knees. If you do not—read the manual again! Once you have understood what a hamstring stretch is supposed to feel like, reach your arms forward for balance and finally get to work!

Your hamstrings meet their tendons a few inches above your knees. If you feel a pull in the back of your knee during a hamstring stretch, you are loading the ligaments rather than stretching your hammies. Bend the knee as much as necessary to unload the ligaments and refocus the stretch on the area between your glutes and a hand's width above your knees.

Flex the spots where you feel the pull. At the same time squeeze your butt and imagine that you are trying to paw the ground with your heels or push your heels through the floor.

When you release the tension your body will fold like a jackknife. Appreciate the difference between folding like ajackknife and bending forward!

Naturally, you cannot completely relax with the Good Morning stretch because your back must stay straight and your chin up.

After this relative relaxation increase the stretch even more by sticking your butt even further back and, if you know how, contracting your hip flexors—the muscles in the front hinges you have pushed against with your hands. It does not hurt to have a spotter in case you overbalance and keel over. Holding on to something for balance and/or having a wall behind you to break the fall, is another option

If you are still afraid to do the drill standing, you may practice it sitting on the edge of a very sturdy chair. Sitting on the floor will not give you the necessary leverage unless you are already super flexible.

To avoid creating a flexibility imbalance in various muscles on the back of your legs, do not let your feet roll out but point your toes straight ahead or up. There's nothing to it with the Standing Good Morning, because your feet are anchored. But if you choose the Seated Good Morning, you will have to pay attention.

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