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Fitness

Flex Time: Stretching Guide to Loose and Limber Muscles

Follow our quick stretching guide to test your tight spots and loosen up your knots.
Rules for Stretching

Warm Up
Get moving for five to 10 minutes prestretch to make cold muscles more pliable.

Match the Occasion
The stretches shown here fall into the static category, in which a muscle or group of muscles is gradually stretched to the point of limitation. You should feel a mild, even tension and hold it for 15 to 30 seconds. Save these moves for your cool-down. Preworkout, try dynamic stretches, like slow, high-knee marches and jumping-jack arm swings, to rev your muscles into action.

Renounce Bouncing
Ballistic, or bouncy, movement is a no-no when you're holding a stretchy pose.

Don't Press Your Luck
Stretch only to the point of tension. If your muscles start to tremble, you're pushing too far. Overstretching can cause muscle strains, which are actually injured fibers.

The Flex Experts Who Helped Create These Tests and Rx's
Brent Feland, PhD, professor of exercise sciences at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah
Lynn Millar, PhD, professor of physical therapy at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan
Gina Norman and Stan Woodman, owners of Kaia Yoga Complete Wellness Centers in Connecticut
Michele Olson, PhD, professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery, Alabama, and FITNESS advisory board member
Vonda Wright, MD, orthopedic surgeon at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and FITNESS advisory board member

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, September 2010.

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