10 Ways to Stretch Your Body for Your Next Workout
For many of us, we don’t have much time to spare and want every minute of our workouts to count. Too often individuals jump right into the brunt of their workout without taking the proper time to warm-up and stretch those muscles. If you always feel overworked afterwards or notice that you are not able to exert as much energy as usual during your workout, it could be that your muscles simply were not prepared for exercise. And while stretching is great for workout prep, it will also help improve overall mobility, flexibility, and may just help you sleep better at night. Here are some key, recommended stretches to maximize output without eating up too much of your valuable time.
(All stretches have a recommended hold period of 30 seconds to 2 minutes and can be repeated, as necessary.)
- Bent Hamstring Stretch
This tried-and-true hamstring stretch starts in a standing position, with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend at the waist and bring your torso towards your legs. You should feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings, or the back of your calves, knees, and thighs. If you feel this stretch is painful, you can modify this move by slightly bending your knees, relieving some of the tension. Your hamstrings are responsible for supporting your back and pelvis so definitely take your time to stretch these before you take off running on that treadmill!
- Butterfly Stretch
Perfect for squats and lunges, the butterfly stretch triggers your hips, glutes, inner
thighs, and groin. For those you who love to run, this move is recommended for you to reduce injury to the groin during your sprints. To start, sit with your knees outstretched to the sides and your feet together. Begin to lower your torso towards your feet. You can grab your feet to help pull yourself down or if you are new to stretching, press your knees to the ground rather than bending your torso. You should feel a strong stretch along your inner thighs.
- Active Balasana Pose (Active Child’s Pose)
Perfect for triggering back, shoulder, and neck tension, this pose is a staple position used in yoga and helps to improve the mind-body connection. If you feel fatigued or anxious, the calming properties of this pose may be perfect for you, even if you’re not preparing for a workout. To start, kneel with your knees together. Lower your bottom to your feet and place your forehead on the mat before you. Outstretch your arms in front of you and slowly lift your hips and bottom until you feel a slight stretch at your shoulder blades. Slowly lower your bottom to your feet and hold the position. You should feel a nice stretch along your spine and shoulders.
- Lunging Stretch
For those who spend most of their workdays sitting down, this is the stretch for
you. Hip flexors are responsible for the general movement of your lower limbs: walking, running, bending.. To keep these loose and ready to move, start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly bend one knee while the other leg extends backwards onto the ball of your foot. Remember to keep your hips square and do not bend your knee out further than your toes. You want this to be comfortable and without strain, so keep your core tight and refrain from locking your knee during the extension. Press your hips forward and raise your hands towards the sky, maintaining your weight in the center of the pose. You should feel a deep stretch in your hips, back, and abdomen. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat the movement on the opposite side.
- Twisted Back Stretch
Targeting your hips, glutes, and your back, this stretch works to improve the
overall mobility and flexibility of your hip muscles. These are located near the buttocks and work to keep your hip joint stable and ready for rotational movements of your legs. Start with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your knee and bring it over the top of your opposite leg. You will use your bent knee to relax your elbow and twist your torso in the opposite direction. You should feel a stretching sensation along your side and hip. If you ever have sciatic nerve pain, this move is recommended for you as well.
- Seated Bicep Stretch
You guessed it! This stretch targets your biceps and loosens up those muscles for lifting but can give you a nice stretch in your shoulders and chest as you lift your arms upward. To start, sit on the floor with your knees bent in front of you. Place your arms and palms on the floor behind you as you would if you were going to casually lean on your arms. With your fingers planted and pointed away from you, slowly lift your hips and move your body away from your arms. Only move as far as you are comfortable and hold it. Return to your seated position and repeat, as necessary.
- Standing (or Seated) Chest Stretch
This stretch focuses on the pectoral muscles and is recommended for those who
lift or plan to use machines that target the chest. The pectoral muscles aid in adduction of your arms, or the inward pulling motion. Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, clasp your hands behind your back near your bottom. Focus on maintaining a straight line throughout your spine and slowly raise your arms upward until you feel a stretch in your pectoral muscles. You can also do this move in a bent variation where you bend at the waist, following the same steps listed above, for a deeper stretch. If choosing to sit, follow the same movements but in your seated position.
- Triceps Stretch
This overhead stretch targets the triceps to improve flexibility and circulation. Your triceps are responsible for mobility and the stability of your shoulder in its socket, working together with your biceps. So stretching both groups are a must! To start, stand with your legs shoulder-width apart. Lift one arm, elbow bent, behind your head. With your free hand, gently grab your bent elbow and pull it inward towards the middle of your back. You should feel a deep stretch in the area between the shoulder and elbow. This stretch can also be done with a towel variation to provoke an even deeper triceps stretch.
- Seated Side Bend
For those who love cardio or heavy lifting, this stretch is for you. By elongating
your sides, you are expanding your rib cage and improving mobility in your torso. You are also allowing more space for your lungs to expand, improving your ability to breathe. Start in a seated position with one leg extended to the side. Bend the knee of the opposite leg and bring your heel towards your core. Lean your upper body towards the extended leg while the other arm reaches toward the bent knee. Another variation of this move is to keep both legs extended, rather than bending one. Try both and see what’s comfortable for you! You should feel a deep stretch along your side either way.
- Bhujangasana Pose (Cobra Pose)
A yoga pose designed for all the ab workout lovers out there! This pose targets
your core while flexing your spine and expanding your abdominal cavity. For those who suffer from asthma or other diseases that may limit breathing capabilities, the Cobra pose allows more room for your lungs to expand, improving overall breathing. To start, lay flat on your stomach. With both arms, hoist your upper body off the floor, while pressing your hips into the floor. You should feel a deep stretch in your core, but do not push so hard that it becomes uncomfortable. This move is meant to be calming, improving the mind-body connection.
Take some time to warm-up and get your blood flowing before stretching to achieve the best results. We recommend not stretching on cold muscles to prevent injury and overextension of your muscles. Now that you’re all stretched out, get out there and put your BodyBack into it!
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