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Stretching exercises for each body part

This is an excerpt from Competitive Taekwondo eBook by Yong Kil.

Plan on spending 30 to 60 seconds stretching each part of the body (neck, eyes, shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, calves, hamstrings, thighs, ankles, and feet). Use good sense when stretching if an injury prohibits certain exercises. In some dojangs the instructor will lead the warm-up and stretching. However, as mentioned previously, it is prudent to warm up and stretch before class in case there isn't time to cover all aspects of a good warm-up.

After warming up, you are ready for stretching. Begin with shoulder stretches. Raise your left arm and bend it behind your head, reaching for the back of your right shoulder. Grab your left elbow with your right hand and pull gently. Switch arms. Next clasp your hands behind your back and lift your arms as you bend forward at the waist.

After stretching the shoulders, move on to side stretches. Stand with your hands on your hips. Lift your left hand and lean to the right, reaching over your head. Switch directions, lifting your right hand and leaning to the left. Now stand and bend forward, touching the floor. This will stretch your lower back, hips, and hamstrings. Stand again and place your hands on your hips. Lean back at the waist.

You are now ready to stretch the legs. Begin with a standing, short-spread calf stretch. Stand with your right knee slightly bent and your left leg extended to the side. Gently lift the toes of your left foot. Squat into a low, long-spread leg stretch. Slowly squat all the way to the floor while stretching one leg to the side. Shift your body weight forward for balance.

Sit on the floor and perform a butterfly stretch. Bring the soles of your feet together. Grab your toes and lean forward about 45 degrees. To decrease pressure on the lower back, you can move your feet farther from your groin, or you can bring your heels close to your groin, place your hands on the floor behind your back, and straighten your spine.

While on the floor, perform the seated spinal twist for the waist. Extend your left leg. Bend your right knee and place your right foot on the opposite side of your left knee. Place your left elbow behind your right knee and twist to the right. Bring your right arm behind your back to facilitate the twist and support yourself. Switch legs and direction.

After the spinal twist, perform the ankle twist. Hold your foot and rotate your ankle in one direction and then in the other direction. Switch feet.

Remain on the floor for the hurdler's stretch. Stretch out your left leg. Bend your right knee and turn out your foot. Place your foot against the inside of your left leg. Reach for the toes of your left leg, leaning at the waist toward the outstretched leg. Repeat with the other leg.

Move into the side-kick stretch. Bend your right knee and bring your right foot toward your groin. Stretch out your left leg to the side. Lean toward your left leg and grab your foot. Switch legs.

Still on the floor, split your legs apart. Lift your arms overhead and stretch to the left. Return to the starting position and lean to the right. Now reach forward with both arms, bending at the waist. Attempt to touch the floor with your face or, if you are less flexible, with your elbows. This stretch can also be done from a standing position. To enhance this exercise, extend the stretch out on your heels as in a middle split. Bend forward and use your hands on the floor for support. Then turn the torso, split left, and hold the position for 15 seconds, and then reverse to a split right position and hold. Slowly return to a standing position and shake out the legs.

Next it's time to stretch the lower back, abdomen, and hips. Lie on your back. Lift your left leg, keeping the leg straight, until it is at a 90-degree angle with your upper body. Twist at the waist and hip and lower your left leg across your body to the right side. Hold your arms out to each side to keep your upper body flat on the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat with the right leg.

The next stretch can be done while sitting on the floor or while lying on your back. It stretches and relaxes the lower back and hips. Bring the knees up to the chest. Lower the knees to the left, lift them back to the chest, and then lower them to the right. To enhance this exercise, extend the arms at right angles to the body, arms flat on the floor. Raise your legs in a straight position and slowly lower them together to the left, using your arms for stability. Then slowly raise the legs straight up and lower them to the right. Repeat two or three times.

Still lying on your back, lift your legs. Move your feet in a cycling motion, first cycling forward and then cycling backward.

If you are extremely flexible and are comfortable bending backward, you may want to try a back-bend stretch. While lying on your back, place your hands on the floor next to your head. Push yourself up into a back bend, lifting your abdomen toward the ceiling and arching your back off the floor.

Lie on your abdomen again for a final stretch of the lower back and chest. Arch your back, lifting your head and chest off the floor. Slightly twist your upper body and look to the left. Gently twist the other way and look to the right. If your lower back is tender, injured, or restricted, bring one knee forward with the other leg outstretched. Raise your torso up on your arms and drop the hip of the outstretched leg to the floor. Hold the stretch for a few seconds and switch legs.

For the final stretch, do a running ready-stance stretch. In this stretch, you will look like a hurdler in the running blocks, waiting for the starting gun. Stand and step forward with one foot. Bend the front knee and straighten the rear leg. The front foot remains flat on the floor, but the toes of the back foot are bent.

More Excerpts From Competitive Taekwondo eBook