* These stretches will help prevent injury
* Add these to your routine as an active warm-up/cool-down
* Simple movements that will limber you up
Most of the time people will go straight into their workout without taking a second thought about stretching. The last time a lot of us had to stretch was in high school PE class. Turns out that gym teacher was right.
Stretching before and after a workout does tons of great things for your body long term and short term. It immediately warms the muscles up that you are about to use and promotes blood circulation. Making stretching a habit will have long-term benefits too, like giving you better posture and coordination. It is widely recommended to include stretching to any type of training or rehabilitation program.
We picked out our favorite stretches to do before and after a workout, so next time you’re headed off to the gym, write some of these down or pull this article up on your phone and follow along.
Obviously you want to focus on stretching the muscles you will be training for that day. Thus, we will walk through both upper and lower body stretches. Feel free to only stretch the muscles you will be targeting for the day, but I always encourage stretching everything out as it makes for good habits and it won’t kill you to spend another two minutes hitting the rest of the body.
A strong core and lower body is the foundation for any athlete, so that’s where we will start. You’ll want to start by getting into a push-up position. Take one foot and put it on top of the other. Push the heel of your foot that’s on the ground back and raise your hips. This will stretch your calf. Hold for 15-20 seconds and switch to the other foot.
After you’re done, remain in the push-up position and take one foot and place it just outside of your hand on the ground. This will promote range of motion in your hip as well as stretch your hamstrings and glutes, all while keeping your core engaged. Hold this position for 15-20 seconds on each side.
Next, we want to stretch your quads. Depending on your flexibility there are a few ways to do this. If you don’t have much flexibility, then get into a lunge position with one foot on the ground in front of you and the opposite knee on the floor. Both legs should be bent at a 90 degree angle. Simply push your hips forward and you will feel the stretch in your quad of the leg that has the knee on the ground.
If you need more of a challenge, then find a chair or bench to set the top of your foot on and get into the same lunge position. Try to find a surface that’s not too tall so you can still touch your knee to the ground. The leg that is on the chair or bench should be feeling the quad stretch from a static hold. Still, push your hips forward to feel the muscle stretch even more. Spend 15-20 seconds on this for each leg.
Moving on to the upper body, I prefer to use either a piece of flexible PVC pipe or a resistance band. Grip the band or pipe a little wider than shoulder width apart. Raise it over your head and see how far back behind your head you can push it leaving your arms straight. This will stretch your chest and work on the range of motion in your shoulders. This is not a static stretch, meaning you don’t want to just hold it in one spot. Spend 20-30 seconds bouncing between the over head position to the behind your head position, stretching a little further each time. More range of motion will come with repetition in this stretch.
Next, using that same band or PVC pipe, hold onto one end and place that hand behind your head with the rest of the pipe or band hanging down your spine. Grab the other end near you butt with the opposite hand and pull down. This will stretch your tricep and lat for the arm that is behind your head. Pull until you feel the tension and rotate your torso to the left while stretching your right arm/lat, and rotate to the right while stretching your left arm/lat. Again, this is not a static hold. You should try to rotate your torso right to left and feel the stretch deeper each time. Do this for 15-20 seconds on each side.
Now you’re ready to get to your workout and you should feel rather warmed up. Repeat the same stretches after your workout to help with muscle soreness and overall recovery time.