You just got home from boot camp, you’re tired, and your muscles just got the best workout of their lives. So, you think to yourself “time to take a shower and eat a healthy meal,” especially since that Afterburn keeps working for you hours after you walk out the door.
However, you’ve missed a vital step when it comes to working out: stretching.
Ever feel like stretching is a waste of time? It’s hard enough finding the time to exercise, let alone stretch. But by skipping flexibility exercises, you’re missing out on a vital part of fitness. Stretching is about more than loosening up your muscles before a workout and reducing lactic acid after. It’s about improving performance, increasing circulation, preventing injury, easing stress, relieving muscle tension, and increasing flexibility.
Don’t miss out on the benefits stretching has to offer. For best results, include stretching as part of your everyday routine. Starting with your ankles and working your way up to your neck, here are 10 simple stretches that work every major muscle group in your body.
Remember to always do a few warm-up exercises before stretching. Unless stated otherwise, hold each stretch at least 15 seconds and repeat them each two or three times. Stretching should never hurt.
Your ankles bear the brunt of a lot of work. Loosen them up with this stretch: lie on your back on the floor and raise your legs up into the air. This will also help with blood flow in your legs. Slowly rotate each foot clockwise 10 times, then counterclockwise 10 more times.
To get a good calf (the muscle on the back of your lower leg) stretch, get in a push-up position on the floor, with your rear lifted high in the air. Hold this stretch, then slowly bend one knee at a time while pressing back on the opposite heel.
A great stretch for your hamstrings (the muscle on the back of your upper leg) is the sitting stretch. Sit on the floor with your right leg extended in front of you and your left leg bent. Bend forward until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg. You can also rotate your upper body to get the various muscles. Repeat on the opposite legs.
Your largest muscles aren’t your biceps. They’re your quads (the muscles on the front of your upper legs). Get a good stretch for these muscles by standing up straight, bending your left leg behind you, and grabbing your left foot with your left hand. Pull until you feel a stretch and hold. Repeat on the right leg. If necessary, hold onto a chair or wall for balance.
HIPS AND GLUTES
Get an effective hip and glute stretch with this exercise. Lying on your back, bend your left knee, and put your left foot on the floor. Then, take your right foot and rest it across your left knee. Take your hands and grab behind your left knee, pulling it toward your chest. If you can, use your right elbow to push your right knee down to the side. Repeat on the other side.
Your lats (upper back muscles) and external obliques (the muscles on your sides) will get a good stretch with this exercise. As you stand, hold your hands together and raise them above your head. Reach to the sky, then slowly bend your upper body to the right side and then the left.
CHEST AND BICEPS
Lengthen the muscles of your chest and biceps (the muscles on the front of your upper arm) by holding your hands together behind your back and straightening your arms. Then, lift your arms while keeping your back straight.
Stand up straight, raise your left arm, and place your left hand behind your head. Then use your right hand to grab your left elbow and gently press your left arm so your left hand reaches down your back. Hold and repeat on other side. You’ll feel the stretch in your tricep muscle (the muscle on the back of your upper arm).
Get a good stretch in your shoulders by reaching your left arm across your chest and using your right hand to gently press your left elbow against your chest. Hold, then switch arms.
Sit or stand in a relaxed position. Slowly bend your neck and bring your head down toward your left shoulder, toward the back, toward your right shoulder, and then toward your chest, giving your neck time to stretch in each position.