Although many acknowledge the value of stretching, it tends to get skipped when time is short. After all, the results of stretching aren’t as visible as those from HIIT workouts or an intense session of pumping iron.
However, stretching is just as important to maintain your fitness and mobility. As the muscles contract repeatedly during workouts, stretching lengthens them, along with tendons and ligaments, and helps prevent soreness and stiffness – which ultimately can reduce the risk of injuries.
Furthermore, because stretching maintains muscle health, it contributes to improved physical performance and can enhance coordination and posture. And of course, stretching relieves stress and ultimately feels good – even if it causes temporary discomfort.
Here is a list of some of our favorite stretches that you should aim to do daily or every other day – after a workout, first thing in the morning, while watching TV or even bed. If you can’t do them all, just try a few. Hold each stretch for 15-60 seconds, breathe, relax and don’t bounce.
- Standing hamstring stretch (hamstrings, glutes, back): With feet hip distance apart, fold the torso forward to bring the chest toward the thighs. Loosely hold the legs with your arms.
- Calf stretch (calves): Standing close to a wall, place right foot on wall vertically, with toes on wall and heel on floor; with hands on wall, lean torso forward. Switch sides.
- Shoulder squeeze (deltoids, chest): Standing with feet hip width, reach behind your back to clasp fingers, then lift arms up to open chest and shoulders. Option: hinge forward from hips with hands clasped behind back to have gravity pull you down.
- Side bend (lats, obliques): Standing, reach left arm overhead toward right side of body while resting right elbow on right thigh, bending right knee. Extend through shoulder and ribcage, and repeat on other side. Option: in bent position, turn torso to face the floor to extend stretch into your back.
- Downward dog (hamstrings, lats, shoulders): From all fours, lift your hips with your feet hip distance apart, push your heels to the floor and pull up and back out of your shoulders and wrists. Relax your head and neck.
- Runner’s lunge (hip flexors): Lunge forward with right leg and bend right knee while stepping back with left leg. Hinge forward to place hands on right thigh or on floor flanking right foot. Push left hip forward and tuck tailbone. Repeat on other side.
- Cat-cow (lower back): From all fours, arch your back to drop belly toward floor and lift tailbone toward ceiling. Then round spine and hollow out chest and belly while dropping crown of head toward floor.
- Child’s pose (back, glutes, shoulders): From all fours, drop your hips back to your heels while extending the arms forward and resting your forehead down.
- Side-lying quad stretch (quads): Lying on one side with legs extended, bend your knee on the top leg and reach back with top hand to pull heel toward glute while pressing hips forward. Switch sides.
- Figure 4 (hip abductors, glutes, lower back): Lying on back with knees bent and feet on floor, cross your right leg over your left knee, then loop your hands around left hamstring to pull both legs toward chest.
- Supine twist (lower back, glutes): Lying on back with knees bent and pulled into chest, drop legs to right side, while turning head to left and opening arms in an airplane/T-shape.
- Reclining angle (groin, hips, inner thighs): Lying on back, place soles of the feet together and drop knees open toward the floor.