Some people consider a workout to take place in three distinct sessions, which includes the warm-up, the workout, and the cooling down session. Others consider the stretches that need to be done before and after a workout as separate from the workout itself.
Whichever camp you happen to fall into, these five stretches are outstanding choices to help warm up your muscles before the more intense workout begins and to help cool them down in the aftermath of a great workout.
Why are Stretches Essential for a Safe and Productive Workout?
Stretching before you begin exercising accomplishes a variety of important things for your body, including the following:
- Reduces your risks of injury during the workout.
- Prepares your nervous system for the rigorous pace that’s coming.
- Improves stability and balance.
- Maximizes flexibility throughout your workout.
Engaging in stretches after your workout also accomplishes very specific things.
- First, it suppresses the central nervous system that has been effectively amped up by pre-workout stretching and the workout itself.
- Second, it relaxes the muscles reducing the likelihood of post-workout soreness in key muscle groups.
- Finally, it aids in your post-workout recovery – helping to restore energy and reduce fatigue.
While you may be concerned that it is hard to make time for exercises on their own, much less the time it takes to do pre and post workout stretching, the bottom line is that failing to do them could cost you more time and set your workout, fitness, and weight loss goals back even further.
Pre-Workout Stretches You Can’t Miss
Try these stretches on for size as they will help prepare you for the full force of your workout while giving your body a burst of energy.
1. Butt Kicks
Bend your right knee so that you can grasp it behind you with your right hand. Gently pull the heel toward your butt and hold for 30 seconds. Switch legs.
2. Hamstring Targeting Leg Stretches
The hamstrings are pivotal for moving your knee. Hamstring stretches help to prevent injuries during normal exercise routines and are excellent before and after your workout – instructions are listed below.
3. Cobra Stretches
These stretches target your abs, or abdominal muscles. Lie on your stomach. Places your palms on the ground beneath your shoulders and straighten your arms while breathing out. Your torso should be off the ground while your legs and pubis remain on the ground. Hold for 10 to upwards of 20 seconds and slowly lower yourself back to the ground.
4. Arm Swings
Stretch your arms to your sides and make one-foot circles with them. Continue doing so for about 20 seconds.
5. Walking Lunges
These are much like the name implies, walk around taking exaggerated steps and lunging before taking the next step. Maintain an upright posture and keep your front knee above the front foot.
These stretches help target specific muscle groups you’re likely to use during the course of your workout. Failing to do these could result in injury or pain sufficient to kill the mood elevation the average workout generates.
Post-Workout Stretches You Need to Try
Once the vigorous part of your workout is complete it is time to cool down and let your body unwind from the rigors of your exercise pace. These stretching exercises will help you do just that.
1. Figure Four
Lie on your back with feet on the floor. Move one flexed foot to the top of your knee, so that your legs make the number four. Switch legs holding each stretch about ten seconds.
2. Hip Bridge
Lie on your back with feet flat on the ground and hip-width apart while your knees are bent. Flatten your back to the floor then life your hips until you feel a slight pull in your lower abs, groin, and hip flexors. Hold the pose for ten seconds and release for five reps.
3. Hamstring Stretch (with a Rope or Towel)
Using a rope or towel, lie on the floor with your knees bent. Place the towel or rope on the bottom of one of your feet, then straighten that leg gently until you feel your hamstring stretching. Hold this position for 30 seconds then gently lower to the ground. Do four reps on each leg.
4. Thread the Needle
Begin on all fours positioning your wrists right underneath your shoulders and your knees below your hips and hip-width apart. Breathe out while sliding your right arm under your left arm (palm facing up) until your shoulder comes in direct contact with the mat or floor. Rest your right ear and cheek on the mat then look left. Avoid letting your head bear the brunt of the weight centering it on your left arm instead. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds (you can extend this length as you become comfortable with the stretch) then repeat with the opposite side.
5. Downward Dog Stretch
This exercise relieves pain in the lower back. When doing the downward dog, begin on your hands and knees. From this position, push your hips up to the sky (ceiling if you happen to be inside), while straightening your arms and drawing your shoulder blades in and flexing your feet toward the ground or floor.
Getting a great workout is a healthy choice to make. Adding pre and post-workout stretches, like these, to your routine is even better.