Common Stretching Exercises
The following exercises improve flexibility when performed slowly, regularly, and with gradual progression. Static, passive and PNF stretches are shown.
CAUTION Some of these exercises may be difficult or too strenuous for unfit or medically limited soldiers. Common sense should be used in selecting stretching exercises.
Assume all stretching positions slowly until you feel tension or slight discomfort. Hold each position for at least 10 to 15 seconds during the warm-up and cool-down. Developmental stretching to improve flexibility requires holding each stretch for 30 seconds or longer.
Choose the appropriate stretch for the muscle groups which you will be working.
Passive stretching is done with the help of a partner or equipment. The examples in this chapter show passive stretching done with a towel or with a partner. When stretching alone, using a towel may help the exerciser achieve a greater range of motion.
Soldiers can do PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) stretches for most major muscle groups. PNF stretches use a series of contractions, done against a partner’s resistance, and relaxations.
Obtaining a safe stretch beyond the muscle’s normal length requires a partner’s assistance. The following four steps provide general guidance as to how PNF stretches are done. Both the exerciser and partner should follow these instructions:
- Assume the stretch position slowly with the partner’s help.
- Isometrically contract the muscles to be stretched. Hold the contraction for 5 to 10 seconds against the partner’s unyielding resistance.
- Relax. Next, contract the antagonistic muscles for 5 to 10 seconds while the partner helps the exerciser obtain a greater stretch.
- Repeat this sequence three times, and try to stretch a little further each time. (Caution: The exerciser should not hold his breath. He should breathe out during each contraction.)
Several examples of PNF stretches are provided below in a stepwise fashion. The numbers given above for each step correspond to the general description listed below.