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Stretches for Flexibility

Quadriceps Stretch
The quadriceps (or "quads") are a group of four individual muscles – rectus femoris, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, and vastus intermedius, if you must know – that attract so much attention when you walk around in shorts. They work together to straighten the knee. The rectus femoris is the only muscle of the four that crosses the hip. Your quads are the workhorses in activities like running, stair climbing, squatting, and lunging.

To stretch these large muscles, do the following:

  1. Stand near a wall for support.
  2. Bend your right knee and hold the top of your right foot with your left hand, gently pulling your heel toward your buttocks. Make sure that your knee is pointing down toward the floor.
  3. Keep your hips and shoulders level.
  4. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
  5. Breathe deeply throughout the stretch and then switch to the other leg.
Quadriceps stretch: Muscles used.

Hamstring Stretch
The hamstrings are three individual muscles that oppose the quads – the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus for those of you scoring at home. They work as a group to bend the knee and to straighten the hip. Tight hamstrings, a condition so common that it sounds like the official name, can often contribute to low back pain. Keep them loose, and you'll feel like a new person.

Here is what you need to do to stretch your hamstrings:

  1. Sit and straighten the right leg.
  2. Place the sole of your left foot against the inside of the right thigh.
  3. Slowly bend forward from the hips toward the foot of the outstretched leg until you feel a gentle stretch.
  4. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
  5. Once the initial discomfort has diminished, bend forward a bit more.
  6. Hold for another 20-30 seconds.

Again, when the stretch becomes more comfortable, lean forward for the last time for another 20-30 seconds. Repeat this three-part move on the other leg. Remember to relax and focus on your breathing.


Excerpted from he Complete Idiot's Guide to Weight Training © 2003 by Deidre Johnson-Cane and Jonathan Cane. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide website or call 1-800-253-6476.

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