Many people don’t like to stretch because it is uncomfortable and it takes time, but stretching is extremely important because it prevents injury - when your muscles are loose and stretchy, they are less restricted, which allows you to maintain a full range of motion. For example, greater range of motion in your hips and knees will allow you to sink deeper into a squat. Ultimately, being flexible means you are able to do more exercises and can also do them properly.
In addition, as our bodies get older, we lose a small amount of flexibility as a result of the normal aging processes. You might find it harder to bend down to tie a shoe, walking upstairs, picking your kids up from the floor, or even just getting up off the couch. Improving your flexibility will make these daily activities easier.
Here are some stretching exercises you can try at home or in the gym after your workout.
1. Standing Hamstring Stretch
- Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, arms by your sides.
- Exhale as you bend forward at the hips, lowering your head toward the floor, while keeping your head, neck and shoulders relaxed.
- Wrap your arms around back of your legs and hold anywhere from 45 seconds to two minutes.
- Bend your knees and roll up when you're done.
Target area: Neck, Back, Glutes, Hamstrings, Calves
2. Lunge With Spinal Twist
- Start standing with your feet together.
- Take a big step forward with your left foot, so that you are in a staggered stance.
- Bend your left knee and drop into a lunge, keeping your right leg straight behind you with your toes on the ground, so you feel a stretch at the front of your right thigh.
- Place your right hand on the floor and twist your upper body to the left as you extend your left arm toward the ceiling.
- Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
- Repeat on the other side.
Target area: Hip flexors, Quads, Back
3. Triceps Stretch
- Kneel, sit, or stand tall with feet hip-width apart, arms extended overhead.
- Bend your right elbow and reach your right hand to touch the top middle of your back.
- Reach your left hand overhead and grasp just below your right elbow.
- Gently pull your right elbow down and toward your head.
- Switch arms and repeat.
Target area: Neck, Shoulders, Back, Triceps
4. Butterfly Stretch
- Sit tall on the floor with the soles of your feet together, knees bent out to sides.
- Hold onto your ankles or feet, engage your abs, and slowly lower your body toward your feet as far as you can while pressing your knees toward the floor.
- If you're too tight to bend over, simply press your knees down.
- Hold this stretch for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
Target area: Hips, Glutes, Back, Thighs
5. Seated Shoulder Squeeze
- Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Clasp your hands behind your lower back.
- Straighten and extend your arms and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Do this for 3 seconds, and then release. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
Target area: Upper back
Stretching may not be the most exciting part of working out, but it is just as important as strength and cardio work. Incorporating some stretching exercises into your workout schedule will help you improve flexibility, reduce tightness, and ultimately, make your workouts more efficient and safe.