Stretching before and after a workout is sometimes just as important as the workouts themselves. These routines help your body acclimate to and recover from exercise, so it’s vital that you plan your stretches the same way you would plan a workout. To help get you started, here are a few ways that you can stretch before and after your workouts.
Please note that stretches can cause injury if not done properly. Do plenty of research on the proper ways to stretch before trying these without a professional trainer.
Before Your Workout
You might be tempted to engage in static stretching before your workout, but these stretches should actually be reserved for after. Instead, you will get the most benefit from dynamic stretching to warm up your muscles before you put them to work. This type of stretching can increase your range of motion and help prevent injury, as injuries often happen when we put our muscles under strain that they aren’t ready for.
Here are a few dynamic warm-up stretches that you can add to your pre-workout routine:
- Jumping Jacks: To get your muscles warmed up, try jumping jacks! If you’re looking for a calmer exercise, step your feet out one at a time instead of jumping.
- Light Jogging: Especially if you’re going for a run, you might want to start with a light jog that is much slower than your normal pace.
- Jumping Rope: This classic kids’ favorite is also a great warm-up exercise before a workout. Try a light jump-rope session to warm up your arms and legs.
- Rotating Your Hips: For this stretch, place your hands on your hips and feet hip-width apart, rotating your hips in a circular motion.
- Swinging Your Legs: This stretch is exactly how it sounds. Stand with your hands on your hips or brace yourself on a wall or banister and swing one leg at a time, forward and backward, to feel a great stretch.
- Knees to Chest: Lie down on your back and bring one knee at a time to your chest with light pressure. This stretch can loosen up your hips and lower back muscles.
After Your Workout
Now that you’ve completed your workout, it’s time for static stretching. These types of stretches slow your heart rate down and help your body begin to recover, as it brings blood flow to the muscles you used.
Here are a few static stretches that you can add to your post-workout routine:
- Arm and Shoulder Stretch: Cross your left arm across your body and pull it toward you with the right arm. Repeat on the other side.
- Wrist Stretch: Especially if you work at a computer, this stretch is wonderful for your wrists. Extend both arms straight out in front of you. One hand at a time, gently bend your wrist back until you feel a stretch throughout your forearm.
- Neck Stretch: Place your left hand on the right side of your head, gently pulling it toward the left side until you feel a stretch. Repeat on the other side.
- Side Stretch: Stand hip-width apart, lift one arm straight up, and stretch that arm toward the opposite side. Repeat on the other side.
- Groin Stretch: Sit down with the bottoms of your feet touching, hold your toes, and gently lean forward as you bend from your hips until you feel a stretch.
- Hamstring Stretch: Sit in a butterfly position, similar to the previous groin stretch, and extend one leg out in front of you with your knee bent slightly. Lean forward at your waist until you feel a stretch in your hamstring.
Note: It is important that you never force a stretch, as this could lead to a muscle injury. Listen to your body as you try these stretches and see what feels good for you.
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