Unless you're a competitive athlete, you probably focus your stretching on the legs first, arms second and trunk a distant third.
But those who understand body mechanics start with the buttocks and hips. That's where the power and rotation live.
Any stretch can be done as a "dynamic" or "static" stretch. The principal difference is how long you hold the stretch. Dynamic stretches are done prior to exercise, as another way to warm up the muscle and get it ready for work. You hold the stretch only for a couple of seconds — it will look like you're doing an exercise in slow motion.
The static stretch is done at the end of your workout and is more to cool down the muscle, get it ready to relax and increase your overall flexibility. Hold static stretches for 15 to 20 seconds.
The following five stretches prepare the buttocks and hips before an event or workout. Do two reps on each side.
Stretch 1: Sit upright on the floor with hands behind your hips for support and your legs extended. Bend your left leg, cross your left foot over your right leg and slide your left heel toward your buttocks. Reach over your left leg with your right arm, and place your right elbow on the outside of your left knee. Exhale and look over your left shoulder while turning your trunk and pushing back on your knee with your right elbow.
Stretch 2: Lie flat on your back with knees bent and hands clasped below your head. Hook your left leg over your right leg (your left heel will be outside your right shin). Exhale and use your left leg to press your right leg to the floor while keeping elbows, head and shoulders flat.
Stretch 3: Lie flat on your back with knees bent and arms out to the sides. Exhale and slowly lower both legs, knees together, to one side while keeping elbows, head and shoulders flat on the floor.
Stretch 4: Stand upright with hands at your sides. Extend your left leg as far behind and to the right of your right leg as possible. Exhale, slowly rotating your trunk to the right so that your shoulders are 45 degrees or more in relation to your legs. Try to touch the heel of your left leg with both hands.
Stretch 5: Stand upright with your feet together and your side about arm's length from a wall or other structure. Place your left hand on the wall and the heel of your right hand on the back of your right hip joint. Keeping your legs straight, tighten your buttocks and rotate your hips slightly forward and toward the wall. Holding that position, push your hips laterally toward the structure.
Bob Thomas is director of the Navy Wellness Center in Pensacola, Fla. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.