If you’ve ever felt sluggish and off balance during a workout, incredibly sore the day after working out, or have gotten injured while exercising, you learned your lesson the hard way. Stretching and warming up before exercising, as well as cooling down and stretching afterwards, are very important aspects of any fitness routine. Anyone who leads an active lifestyle knows just how big of a role stretching plays in how you feel during and after a workout, and if you want to make sure you’re body stays healthy and working properly, you need to make a habit of it.
Stretching before a workout is essential for flexibility and performing with a full range of motion. There are certain stretches that you should use no matter what kind of workout you’re about to do, because they help to effectively prepare the body for exercise. These are 7 of the best stretches help to increase joint movements and loosen up your muscles. Hold each stretch for 10-15 seconds and repeat twice on both sides:
1. Hamstring Stretch
This stretch is a great way to warm up the muscles on the back of your thighs that are often tight. To perform this stretch, sit on the ground with both legs extended out, or one bent in and one leg stretched out. Reach toward your foot on one side as far as you can and feel the back of your leg stretch out. Stretching should feel somewhat uncomfortable, but not too intense.
2. Butterfly Groin Stretch
The groin area is another part of the body that is often tight. To perform this stretch, sit on the ground and bring your feet together so you’re sitting in the butterfly position. Increase the stretch by using your elbows to press down your legs. The closer you bring your feet to your body, the more intense the stretch will be.
3. Quad Stretch
This useful stretch can be performed laying down or standing up and is very important for one of the largest muscle groups in the body. To stretch your quadriceps efficiently, bring your foot toward your butt and hold it with your hand behind you. The further you bring your knee backwards, the more intense this stretch will become.
4. Calf Stretch
Stretching your calves is particularly important for people who do high volume cardio. You can perform this stretch by pushing against a wall, or simply by pushing against the ground. Step back and press your heel into the ground, playing around with the angle of your foot against the floor to feel a greater stretch.
5. Shoulder Stretch
Almost any exercise you do will include using your arms, so you want to make sure you stretch them before working out as well. A simple shoulder stretch requires you to cross an arm over your body in front of you and pull your opposite elbow toward your opposite shoulder. This engages both the inside and outside of your shoulder and will loosen you up.
6. Triceps Stretch
The other important arm stretch to do before a workout is the triceps stretch that targets all three heads of this muscle. Bring your arm behind your head, reaching your hand down your back and pulling your elbow down with your other hand. To make the stretch more intense you can try to keep your hand need your shoulder while pressing down your elbow.