Stretching For Dummies®


by LaReine Chabut

with Madeleine Lewis




About the Author

LaReine Chabut is a lifestyle and fitness expert, model, and mom. She’s the author of Exercise Balls For Dummies (Wiley) and Lose That Baby Fat! (M. Evans) and is a contributing fitness expert for Shape Fit Pregnancy magazine. LaReine has served as the lead instructor for America’s number one exercise video series The Firm (over three million copies sold worldwide) and has graced the covers of such high-profile fitness publications as Shape, Health, New Body, and Runner’s World. She has appeared on CNN, ABC, FOX News, EXTRA, Access Hollywood, Good Day LA, and KABC and is a premier trainer for Ipods (see along with Kathy Smith, David Kirsch, and other top trainers in their field.

As an actress, LaReine penned a sitcom with Meg Ryan entitled Below the Radar for the Fox Network and Castle Rock Entertainment. She has co-written and starred in two short films: Separation Anxiety, which broadcast on Lifetime Television, and Good Jill Hunting, which aired on the Sundance Channel. Her series regular and guest starring appearances include Linc’s, Nash Bridges, The Secret World of Alex Mack, USA High, The Single Guy, Strange Luck, Murder She Wrote, and Quantum Leap, to name a handful.

To read more about LaReine, check out her Web sites at or



To my newborn daughter Sofia Rose (who arrived on the first deadline of this book), her new big sister Bella, and my husband Bobby . . . you are my world. And to the many readers who purchase this book because they need a good stretch — I hope you get one!


Author’s Acknowledgments

Stretching For Dummies is my third book, and once again I have to thank Rob Dyer at Wiley for encouraging me to write in the first place. I certainly couldn’t have done it without his guidance. My literary agent, Danielle Egan-Miller, also deserves big thanks for pushing me to write this book, knowing that the birth of my second daughter was on the horizon (she’s a mom, too, and knows how hard it is to multitask). That being said, I have to give special thanks to Madeleine Lewis for all her help . . . I couldn’t have done it without her.

Writing a book such as this requires a lot of teamwork, so I’d like to thank the entire staff at Wiley, including Kristin DeMint, my project editor, who was very enthusiastic with the material and really made the book flow. Lindsay Lefevere, acquisitions editor, who couldn’t believe there wasn’t a For Dummies book on stretching and called me on Stacy Kennedy’s suggestion. Copy editor, Carrie Burchfield, for making my sentences flow smoothly, and photo editor Carmen Krikorian, who once again helped me produce such fantastic photos. The photographer, Tilden Patterson (who also had a new baby a few weeks after me), deserves a big thanks for making everybody look so good and for shooting 165 stretches in one day! You’re awesome, Tilden . . . And special thanks from Madeleine Lewis to Dr. Jerry Hizon MD, FAAFP, and to Denise Klatte, MPT, for sharing their knowledge and perspective.


Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration form located at

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Kristin DeMint

Acquisitions Editor: Lindsay Lefevere

Copy Editor: Carrie A. Burchfield

Technical Editor: David L. Walston, ATC; Assistant Athletic Trainer for the Indianapolis Colts

Senior Editorial Manager: Jennifer Ehrlich

Editorial Assistants: Erin Calligan, Joe Niesen, David Lutton, Leeann Harney

Cover Photos: © Tilden Patterson (

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Jennifer Theriot

Layout and Graphics: Melanee Prendergast, Heather Ryan

Anniversary Logo Design: Richard Pacifico

Proofreaders: John Greenough, Jessica Kramer, Susan Moritz, Techbooks

Indexer: Aptara

Special Help Carmen Krikorian

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director, Consumer Dummies

Kristin A. Cocks, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Michael Spring, Vice President and Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services




About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

What You’re Not to Read

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I : The Why’s, Where’s, When’s, and How’s of Letting Loose and Snapping Back

Chapter 1: Here a Stretch, There a Stretch, Everywhere a Stretch, Stretch

The Why’s of Stretching

The FAQs When It Comes to Stretching

Differentiating between Two Types of Stretches

When One Just Ain’t Enough: Stretching with a Partner

The Science of Stretching

Chapter 2: Preparing for a More Flexible You

Getting Your Stretch On: The How To’s of Stretching

Give Yourself Props! How to Personalize Each Stretch

Refraining from Hurting Yourself

Maintaining Proper Body Alignment

The Art of Breathing Correctly

Relaxing and Letting Go

Chapter 3: Testing Your Flexibility to Establish Your Stretching Routine

Coming to Terms with the Factors of Flexibility

Testing Yourself Before (and While, and After) You Go Gumby-Like

Putting Your Legs Where Your Head Is . . . Not: The Flexibility Self-Test

Flexibility Self-Evaluation Worksheet

Part II : Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes: Targeting Specific Areas

Chapter 4: Taking It from the Top: Upper Body Stretches

Before You Move, Contemplate Upper Body Anatomy

What a Pain in the Neck! Stretches to Keep Your Head Held High

The Hot Seat for Tension: Getting Your Shoulders to Chill Out

Stretches for Carrying Someone on Your Lats

Both Sexes, Take Care! The Kneeling Chest Stretch

Making Wiggly Muscles Firm: Stretches for the Dreaded Upper Arm

Helping You Hold Your Extra-Large Handbag: Wrist and Forearm Stretches

Chapter 5: Centering on the Core: Stretches for Your Middle

Active Stretches as Part of the Day-to-Day

Static Stretches for Your Core

Chapter 6: Soothing Your Lower Back without Paying for a Massage

Traveling Around the Lower Back

An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Pain-Free Mobility

Releasing Tension in Your Achy, Breaky Back

Chapter 7: From Your Knickers to Your Kickers: Stretches for your Bottom Half

Behind the Scenes: Hips and Buttocks

Tight End: Back of the Thigh

Forward Thinking: Front of Thighs

Becoming Master of Your Inner Thighs

Putting Your Best Foot (And Lower Leg) Forward

Chapter 8: Total-Body Stretch Routines

Getting to Your Whole Body in Just Ten Minutes

When You Just Can’t Get Enough: Ten More Minutes of Stretching

Part III : From the Daily Grind to Ways to Unwind: Routines to Fit Your Life and Needs

Chapter 9: When the Cock Crows and the Evening Wind Blows: AM/PM Stretch Routines

A Good Excuse to Stay in Bed: Stretches to Start the Day

A Midafternoon Pick-Me-Up

Winding Down before Heading for Dreamland

Chapter 10: Stretching Out the Workday: Stretches for Work and for the Road

Get Off Your Buttocks!

Stretches for the Professional Desk Jockey

Chapter 11: Basic Warm-Up and Cool-Down Stretch Routines

Easing into Your Workout

A Great Routine to Warm Your Body

Moving Out of Your Exercise Session: Why and How to Cool Down

Basic Cool-Down Routine

Chapter 12: My Favorite Stretches for Specific Sports

Guidelines You Don’t Want to Skip

Running and Hiking

Racquet Sports







Part IV : Getting Limber As You Live: Stretches for Various Life Stages

Chapter 13: What to Stretch When You’re Expecting . . . and After

How Stretching Can Help if You’re Pregnant

Stretches for the Pregnant Lady

Stretches for After the Bun’s out of the Oven

Chapter 14: Family Fun: Kid-Friendly Stretches

Enticing Children to Get Off Their Tushes

Creative Stretches for 4-to-8-Year-Olds

Sports Stretches for 9- to 12-Year-Olds

Chapter 15: Seventh Inning Stretch: Special Stuff for Seniors

Determining Your Limits and Recognizing Changes

A Stretch Routine to Help You Maintain Flexibility

Part V : The Part of Tens

Chapter 16: Ten Common Aches and Pains and Stretches that Can Help

Bursitis and/or Tendonitis

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome



Low Back Pain

Menstrual Cramps

Plantar Fasciitis



Tension Headaches

Chapter 17: Ten Surprising Around-the-House Stretching Accessories

A Big, Thick Book

A Chair

A Ceiling Beam in Your House or Garage

A Sofa

A Desk

A Doorway

Fireplace Tools

A Towel

A Porch Step

A Wall


Stretching is a hot topic these days — just take a look when you attend any sporting event and you can see multitudes of athletes doing side bends or stretching out their calves or some other body part. Yes, stretching is good for your body, plus it helps prevent injuries and manage day-to-day stress!

But what is stretching? Well, it really is best described as any movement that increases your range of motion and tests your individual flexibility. So for example, stretching can be as easy as turning your head from side to side or just touching your toes. In fact, some people call stretching flexibility training because you do just that — train your muscles to be more flexible through the use of simple movements.

Just think of all the little ways in your daily life that flexibility comes in handy: backing your car out of the driveway or reaching for something on the top shelf or bending over to tie your shoe! For those reasons (and many more), stretching keeps your muscles long and pliable and enhances your life to keep your movements pain free forever (or as long as possible).

About This Book

This book introduces you to various stretch exercises for everyone — no matter what your age or lifestyle. The chapters in this book can help you develop a regular, everyday stretch routine or just discover a few new moves to keep you feeling great! The stretches consist of yoga stretches, children stretches, sports stretches, and more. You also discover how to prevent workout boredom by adding a few new props, such as a foam roller, a strap, a block, or my personal favorite, the exercise ball. In addition, I cover simple stretches you can do at work and on the go or even when you’re simply sitting around.

This book also contains comprehensive stretching sections for special circumstances: pregnancy, lower back pain, and even aches and pains. Whatever your interest or age, you’re sure to get a good stretch and have some fun doing it! Here’s a sampling of some of the questions that you can find answers to:

bullet How long should I hold a stretch?

bullet What muscles am I using when I stretch a particular body part?

bullet Are you supposed to wear shoes when you stretch?

bullet What kind of changes can I expect to see in my body from stretching?

bullet How many days a week should I stretch?

bullet Is it safe to stretch during pregnancy?

bullet What are the best stretch exercises I can do for back pain?

bullet Can kids stretch too?

bullet Can I stretch out my core?

bullet Is it safe for senior citizens to stretch?

bullet Are there stretches I can do for menstrual cramps?

bullet Will the stretches be challenging enough for me if I’m already in shape?

bullet Are there stretches that can help relieve headaches?

Conventions Used in This Book

This book focuses on stretching in different situations while emphasizing safety and proper body alignment. Make sure to read the step-by-step instructions located next to the photo illustrations before you try out any of the stretches. By following that guideline, your stretches will be easier and safer.

Also keep in mind that most of the stretch illustrations are shown in two stages, labeled with the figure number and also with a and b, which demonstrate the beginning and end of poses.

Here are a few additional conventions:

bullet I use italics to point out any new terms or bits of jargon you should know.

bullet Web sites and e-mail addresses appear in monofont to help them stand out.

bullet The numbered sets of instructions for the stretches and the keywords in lists appear in boldface.

What You’re Not to Read

Although I feel that all the information in this book is important, the sidebars that appear in the gray boxes don’t contain information that you absolutely need to know in order to get a good stretch. However, these sidebars do contain great tips and information about your health, so I encourage you to read them at some point.

Foolish Assumptions

This book, like all For Dummies books, has a friendly and approachable tone that assumes you don’t know a whole lot about stretching — not that you’re an actual dummy! I also make a few other assumptions about you, the reader:

bullet You’re interested in stretching and want to make it part of your daily life.

bullet You don’t have much experience with stretching.

bullet You’re ready, willing, and able to find out more about stretching and how to do the stretches in this book.

If this sounds like you, then you’ve come to the right place!

How This Book Is Organized

Stretching For Dummies is divided into five different parts, each one with a unique focus. You can go directly to whichever part interests you the most or start at the beginning of the book to gather some information and a checklist of what you need to know before beginning each stretching chapter. In the following sections, I outline the different parts and what you can find in them.

Part I: The Why’s, Where’s, When’s, and How’s of Letting Loose and Snapping Back

If you’re new to stretching, Part I is a great section for you to read first. Part I covers all the important issues you want (and need) to know before you begin your stretch program:

bullet Who should stretch?

bullet How often you should stretch?

bullet What test stretches help you find your own individual flexibility?

bullet What props you can use when you stretch?

bullet What are the benefits of stretching?

In Part I, I also offer a worksheet (in Chapter 3) to help you determine your flexibility and chart your progress as you move through your stretching program.

Part II: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes: Targeting Specific Areas

Part II is organized in a very logical manner — Chapter 4 starts off with a series of upper body stretches, and then the chapters progress with stretch series that are illustrated for various individual body parts. Finally, Chapter 8 finishes with a total body workout to stretch your entire body.

Because I believe you should work out in a progressive manner (either from the top of the body moving downward or from the bottom of the body and working upward), I strongly encourage starting with the upper body in Chapter 4 and progressing through the chapters until you reach Chapter 8. These chapters concentrate first on the upper body, the core, the lower back, and finally your lower body.

Part III: From the Daily Grind to Ways to Unwind: Routines to Fit Your Life and Needs

Part III shows you a variety of stretches that you can adapt to your individual lifestyle. This part of the book may be the most useful part if you have an issue with stretching during the workday or if you have a particular sport you do and want to add a few new moves.

In Chapter 9, I tell you how to stretch in bed before getting up in the morning and offer you a few stretches you can do before turning in for the night. These stretches really get your day going and then help you wind down and get a good night’s sleep. Chapter 11 contains a basic warm-up and cool-down routine that can be added to any workout or used alone. You also find a few stretches for tension headaches in Chapter 10. Chapter 12 contains stretches for various sports that you may be involved in.

Part IV: Getting Limber As You Live: Stretches for Various Life Stages

Part IV is a fantastic section that focuses on stretching during the special circumstances in your life. If you’re pregnant, check out Chapter 13. This chapter contains photo illustrations of stretches and strengthening exercises that help prepare you for that big day.

Chapter 14 is a fun-filled chapter for stretching for kids. Whether your little ones are 4 years old (like my daughter Bella in the photos) or 14, they can do these simple and easy movements at home with their friends or brothers and sisters.

The last chapter of Part IV is Chapter 15. The chapter focuses on stretching for seniors. The exercises are both fun and practical and should keep you strong and flexible for years to come.

Part V: The Part of Tens

In every For Dummies book, you find The Part of Tens. Part V contains two chapters of top-ten lists of fun facts about the different ways you can stretch and what you can use to enhance your workout. Chapter 16 lists ten common aches and pains and tells you how stretching can help get rid of them. And in Chapter 17, I offer ten things you can find around the house to use as stretching accessories. Can you believe a fireplace tool is one of them?

Icons Used in This Book

As you flip through this book, you see a lot of different graphics in the margins. Those pics are called icons, and they give you useful information along the way. Reading the info in these icons before you try the actual stretches is helpful because many of them suggest easier or better ways of performing each one.

Here’s a list of icons used in this book:


The tip icon gives you useful information that (hopefully) makes your life easier as it relates to stretching and flexibility. I may point you to a specific chapter or resource or provide hints to modify an exercise to change the level of difficulty.


As you may have guessed, this icon points out really important information that you need to keep in mind. Very valuable information comes with these icons, so don’t skip ’em!


The warning icon highlights information that keeps you from hurting yourself. You should read the information next to this icon before you attempt each stretch. You’ll be glad you did!

Where to Go from Here

Stretching For Dummies is a reference guide for beginners and an introduction to performing stretches. You can start reading at the very beginning of this book to gather a little information first, or you can dive right in and tear out the yellow Cheat Sheet in the front of this book to take it with you as you’re running out the door to a stretch class.

If you’re not sure where you want to start, I suggest browsing through the table of contents to get a sense of exactly what this book covers and what topics interest you. You may find that you already know the basics but have always wanted to know how to use a stretching strap, so you can immediately flip to that chapter (which is Chapter 3).

If you fall into one of the special circumstances groups, you may want to go directly to that section to find which chapter covers your special needs. (Part IV is the section in question.) If you’re like me, you may just want to go directly to the workout chapters that pertain to you to figure out some new moves.

And if you already know a lot about stretching and just want to brush up on your technique a bit, you can turn to the index to find out which information pertains to you. No matter where you choose to start, it’s great that you’re here. Enjoy the journey to your new body!

Part I

The Why’s, Where’s, When’s, and How’s of Letting Loose and Snapping Back

In this part . . .

I know that you know stretching is good for you, but in Chapter 1, I cover why stretching is so good for you, and I answer all your stretching questions: When do I stretch? Why should I stretch? And how do I stretch? I also get into the science of stretching, which can lend some insight into what’s happening inside your muscles as they stretch.

Chapter 2 includes everything you need to know to get started stretching, including what props you might want to use and how much space you need. I also give you the basics of a safe stretching program, including exactly how each stretch should feel.

And finally, in Chapter 3, I show you how to test your present level of flexibility, so you can figure out your starting point for your new stretching program. I even help you understand what flexibility is and talk about what you can change (and what you can’t).