If you’re pretty active, chances are you already do some sort of stretching at least a couple times a week. That said, not all stretches are created equal and the stretches you’re doing may not be the best options for your health.
Obviously, you want to be doing the stretches that are the most effective, but how do you know what those are? After doing some research, we found some answers about how to get the very most out of each and every workout and stretching session.
#1: Shoulder Rolls
Definitely the easiest stretch on our list, shoulder rolls can be done any time and in any place, and are perfect for loosening up those upper back and shoulder muscles. They also work well for releasing tension in throat muscles (yes, throat muscles!) and help to improve posture. Therefore, we recommend doing shoulder rolls multiple times a day.
To get the most out of your shoulder roll exercises, breathe in as you roll your shoulders up to your ears, and breathe out as you roll them back down. Repeat 10–15 times before changing the direction of your rolls and doing them all over again.
#2: Butt Kicks
Best done just before a workout as a warmup and stretch, butt kicks are an easy and highly effective exercise. Begin by holding your arms at 90 degrees from your body (i.e. straight out in front of you). Next, jog in place, kicking your butt each time you take a step and always landing on the balls of your feet. If you’re more comfortable, you can hold your arms at 90-degree angles at your sides and swing them gently as you would when you’re jogging.
The goal is to get going fairly quickly and maintain a strong, tall posture.
#3: Hip Flexors Stretch
Once you’ve finished your workout, it’s always a good idea to stretch your hip flexors if you find they tend to be tight. This stretch – sometimes known as the “pigeon stretch” – is just the thing.
Start on all fours, aligning your shoulders with your hands and your knees with your hips. Pull one knee forward and rest that heel under the opposite hip. The second leg should be stretched out behind you and your toes should be tucked under as if you were in a lunge position. Your hips should remain squared ahead – don’t twist your torso! This aligns your hips nicely, giving you the opportunity to drive them into the floor.
Can’t seem to get it right? Try checking out this video.
#4: High Knees
Another jogging-style stretch/warmup best done before your workout is the “high knees” exercise. Essentially, you’ll be jogging in place while bringing your knees up as high as you can at your front.
Remember to maintain good posture for this one. Additionally, you’ll probably only want to perform this exercise for about 30 seconds before taking a 10-second break, after which you should move onto another exercise.
#5: Lower Back
Many active people complain of lower back pain. This is due to tension caused by weight-bearing exercises. Fortunately, regular lower back stretches should take care of the problem.
To stretch your lower back, try lying flat on your back on the floor. Bend both knees, bringing them to your chest and pulling them in with your hands until you feel a decent stretch. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds, release for a few seconds, and repeat several times.
#6: Walking Lunges
The walking lunge is a popular exercise that’s perfect for building strength while also giving you a good stretch, plus it’s great for warming up before a workout.
Unfortunately, it’s also often done incorrectly and can lead to injury. If you do walking lunges, be sure you’re doing them properly.
Take one large step forward, ensuring the heel of your leading foot remains on the ground and the majority of your weight is shifted to that heel – do not push your weight into your leading foot’s toes. Next, kneel to the ground, placing your back knee on or near the ground and ensuring your leading leg’s shin is completely vertical. Using leg and abdominal strength, push your body to a standing position by pulling the extended back leg forward. Repeat the exercise with the opposite leg so that you are “walking” forward. It’s okay to turn around if you don’t have much space!
Here’s a helpful video if you need a better visual.
The walking lunge is a functional exercise that’s great for building strength in the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. However, two common mistakes people make are improper foot and knee placement.
Here are a few tips to stay safe while doing walking lunges:
Don’t push on your toes because this won’t give you the full benefit of the exercise.
Your leading foot should be completely flat on the ground, pushing mainly from your heel, which you will feel in your quadriceps. You then squat down with both legs, where your back leg should come close to or touch the floor.
Keep your back straight and chest up. Slouching or leaning over can cause excess strain in your back or cause you to pull a muscle in your legs.
#7: Calf Stretch
Often referred to as the “runner’s stretch,” this stretch is great for everyone. It stretches the calf, which in turn gives you better range of motion in the lower body.
To carry out the stretch, stand an arm’s length away from a wall. Rest your hands on the wall and place one foot a step back from the other. Lean forward, but make sure the heel of your back foot remains on the ground. You should feel a stretch in the back of your back calf. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side. Alternatively, you can turn one foot up and rest it against the wall to get a more significant stretch.
Adding these stretches to your workout regimen and doing them on a regular basis is sure to give you some good results. Go ahead and throw them into the mix today so you can see those results as soon as possible!
Need a little more than a stretch? Schedule your next massage with Cloud 9! Our massage therapists will help you work soreness from your muscles and give you some time to relax.