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Note: This article was originally published in the May 2006 issue of the Denver publication Community News.
Hello again, everyone, and welcome to spring!
In my previous articles, I introduced you to the benefits of weight training, gave you exercises for the upper and lower body, and described numerous stretches. For this article, I've picked out an assortment of my favorite exercises that increase flexibility.
For the exercises with dumbbells or ankle weights, I recommend a starting weight range. Weights listed are per dumbbell or ankle weight. DB = dumbbell.
This is for the legs and lower to mid back.
In loose, comfortable clothing, sit on a carpet or exercise mat, legs apart in a wide V. Relax your feet; don't point the toes. Stretch torso out over right leg, back flat, aiming face toward foot. Hold for a steady stretch of 8-10 seconds, or do very gentle, pulsed bouncing, as you prefer. Then stretch far to the front for another 8-10 seconds, hands on the floor to support your lower back. Then stretch over the left leg. Swing raised arms up and over your head, and stretch again over the right leg. Repeat sequence as desired.
This excellent abdominal exercise can be done with or without light ankle weights. If using ankle weights, both men and women start with 1-2 lbs. per leg. Heavy shoes, such as hiking boots, will also add weight and difficulty.
Lie on your back on a carpet or exercise mat, hands behind head, legs in the air. Start legs moving in an exaggerated pedaling motion, bringing the knee close to the chest each time, then pushing the foot fairly far out. This is harder the closer you have the legs to the floor. Do slowly or fairly fast, as desired, for as long as desired. Rest and repeat.
These are for the inner and front thighs, plus the lower abdominals. Start with 1-3 lbs. per ankle weight.
a) Scissors: Lie down as for Exercise #3, but with legs straight up in the air, so they form a right angle with the flat torso. Smoothly bring straight legs wide apart and then cross them at the ankles: apart, cross, apart, cross, etc., alternating which leg crosses in front. Do 20-30 times, as desired.
b) Bend and Straighten Exercise: This is for the front thighs and abdominals. With legs still straight up in the air, bend one leg completely, then reverse. Bend, straighten, bend, straighten, alternating which foot is up. Then do some of these making the feet move up and down together. Work until front thighs are tired.
This exercise is a favorite among my students. It strengthens the shoulders, arms, and upper back, and stretches the shoulders, midsection and sides. Here, the arms work separately. Women: Start with 2-4 lbs. per DB. Men: Start with 5-8 lbs. per DB.
a) First variation: Stand tall, straight arms down, palms toward fronts of thighs. Pull straight right arm to the front and then up over the head, stretching as high as possible, then smoothly lower weight to front thigh. Then lift left arm high and lower. Breathe in for lift, out for lowering. Repeat for 16-20 lifts total.
b) Second variation: Start as above, but with palms turned in, toward outer thighs. Lift dumbbell high overhead, as above, but keep palm turned inward. Alternate arms as above, always pulling high overhead. This variation shifts some of the emphasis to the biceps. It also works the shoulders and midsection.
This is a great anytime tension reliever.
Stand a few feet back from your kitchen sink, so that you can barely grasp the edge of the sink with your hands. With hands a few inches apart, back flat, arms straight, head down between arms, and legs almost straight, let your torso sag down as far as possible. Feel the stretch in your shoulders, chest, back, and back thighs. Hold for 10-15 seconds; don't strain. Repeat with hands a little wider apart.