We’ve all been there, it’s the end of your workout and all you want to do is go home...not spend the extra 5-10 minutes stretching. Or maybe you walk into the gym and the squat rank is open for once and you run to it to make sure you get it before anyone snags it, and you neglect your warm up.
Making excuses to avoid stretching is very easy, after all, stretching can’t be that important, right? Wrong. Stretching is very important not just to improve flexibility, but to increase your range of motion, to prevent injury, helps your joints stay strong and healthy, and it increases blood flow to your muscles.
What stretches should you do? Stretching is going to be slightly different at the beginning of your workouts versus the end of it. When you stretch at the beginning of your workout, you want to avoid static stretching. Static stretching is often times what comes to mind when you think of “stretching” (ex: touching your toes, holding your arm across your chest, etc.) The reason you want to avoid this type of stretching pre-workout is to avoid injury. You want your muscles to be warmed up before you do any type of static stretching, so how do you warm up?
- 5 min warm up on a piece of cardio equipment
- Myofascial massage (Aka foam rolling – I’ll write an entire blog post about this because it’s that important) – time frame doesn’t necessarily matter. I personally foam roll for 3-5 minutes for my warm up. I roll out my upper back, lower back, glutes, hamstrings and quads.
- The following is dependent of which muscle group you work
- If you’re working shoulders or arms, you want to make sure your shoulders are open and not tight. To help this, stand in between a doorway with your hands placed about shoulder height holding onto the doorway. Slowly put bodyweight into the stretch to really open up your chest and shoulders. Move your hands up higher and do that same stretch. Afterwards, I also use a PVC pipe to help open up my shoulders. I hold onto it wider than shoulder width, bring it above my head and bring it around to my hips and then I bring it back around. I do this 5-10 times.
- If you’re working legs or back (specifically dead lifts), it’s important to open up your hips if you’re not naturally very mobile. Do high kicks to open up your hips (left leg kicks to right hand) and do about 10 per side. Then, take a resistance band and place it around your knees. Stand straight and kick up and out, do about 5 per side. Then, go into a squat-like position and take 10 steps each way. All of these exercises help open up the hips and improve squatting and dead lifting form.
- This is the type of stretching that comes to mind when you think of stretching. Foam rolling post-workout is also wonderful!
- My personal stretch routine (you should use a yoga mat):
- Stand at the top of your mat with your arms stretched up above you and really reach (hold for 15-30 seconds)
- Take a deep breathe in, and when you exhale, come down and touch your toes (hold for 30-60 seconds)
- Walk your hands out to a plank position and hold
- Slowly lower yourself down with your arms extended out in front of you and reach (hold for 30 seconds)
- Bring your palms to your chest and press up into a “cobra” pose. Make sure your shoulders are away from your ears (hold for 30-60 seconds)
- Push back to child’s pose (hold for 60 seconds)
- Come up to your knees and put one leg in front of the other and really go into the stretch (15-30 seconds)
- Extend the forward leg until it is straight while keeping the other knee on the ground and with the leg that is extended, point your toes towards the ceiling (hold for 20 seconds) – do the same thing with the other leg
- Sit in a comfortable position and reach up towards the sky, then bring your arms behind your back and open up your chest (hold for 10-20 seconds)
- Bring one arm across your chest to stretch your shoulders and arms, try to not hold your arm at your elbow, but rather at your forearm or arm, do the same thing with the other arm (hold for 15-20 seconds)
- Bring your hand above your head to stretch your tricep, repeat on the other arm (hold for 15-20 seconds)