Stretching exercises are an integral part of any teen girl’s physical activity program. Stretching prepares your body for further exercise, reduces your risk of injury from everyday activities, such as lifting a heavy book bag, and improves your flexibility during athletic events. Focus on stretching all areas of your body to get in a well-balanced workout.
Upper Body Stretch
To do a stretch for your arms, chest and shoulders, stand near a wall a bit farther than arm’s distance away and spread your feet shoulder-width apart. Lean forward with your arms extended from the height of the shoulder and place your palms flat on the wall. Slowly crawl your hands up until both arms are over your head and you feel a nice stretch. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds, walk your palms down to shoulder-height and repeat three more times. If you’re doing this exercise alongside a friend who can reach higher, this may be because she’s taller or is currently more flexible; don’t stretch past your comfort level in an attempt to catch up or you risk injuring your still-developing muscles.
Lying with your back and head on an exercise mat, bend your knees with your feet on the mat and extend both arms to the left at shoulder-level. They should comfortably lie on your left side. Gently twist your torso to lower your knees to the mat on the right, forming a “Z” with your body. Hold for about 30 seconds as you feel a gentle stretch in the left side of your stomach. Turn your torso the other way to stretch your right midsection.
Lower Body Stretch
Stand upright with your feet spread hip-width apart and your toes pointing in front of your body. Take one large step back with your left foot so that you are in a lunging position and your left knee is almost touching the ground. You should feel a stretch in your left upper and lower calf muscles. Hold a comfortable stretch for 30 seconds, return to standing up straight and repeat stretching on the right side.
Two full-body flexibility exercise forms that offer classes for teen girls are Pilates and yoga. Pilates and yoga help strengthen your torso muscles and improve your posture in addition to boosting your flexibility, according to the Nemours Foundation. Both practices call for you to focus on your breathing patterns as you move your body into a variety of poses. Yoga has an added component of mental relaxation exercises if you are looking for a way to reduce stress.
Avoid stretching so far that you can’t comfortably hold a position for at least 10 to 30 seconds. Holding it for any less time won’t properly lengthen your muscle. Also avoid bobbing or bouncing into a stretch or you risk injuring your muscle. Additionally, stay focused on stretching both sides of your body equally, regardless of whether you are right-hand or left-hand dominant. If you participate in an after-school activity such as ballet or basketball, ask your instructor to show you stretches that will improve your flexibility for improved performance in that area. For example, if you are a ballet dancer you may want to focus on lengthening the muscles in your thighs and calves.
A Flexible Life
In "A Woman's Lifeline," Nora Isaacs reported that teen girls can benefit from a discipline like yoga which not only ensures that young women keep the natural flexibility of their youth, but to become more disciplined and less stressed. Flexibility is about stretching beyond your current limitations, and for young women who are growing into adulthood, this ability will serve them well.