Whether you are a professional athlete or an aspiring weight-lifter, these stretches are for you! These stretches will help you maintain your overall health as you strive to become the best version of yourself.
1. Runner’s Stretch
This stretch is a great way to target your upper leg muscles. If your hip flexors and hamstrings are sore, this stretch will help release the tension. It is one of my favorite stretches!
If you want to test your balance, you can keep your body upright, like in the picture. You can also stretch deep into your front leg and try to rest your elbows on the ground. This is an advanced move for someone more flexible.
This pose may look funny, but it is one of the few stretches that target your back muscles. You will have problems if you are constantly building muscle and never allowing your body to relax. This is one of the best ways to reduce lower back pain from tight muscles.
If your neck and back are tight, this stretch might be painful at first. But stick with it! You can start by laying on your back and pushing your legs straight above you. As you balance on your upper back and neck, you will feel the tension in your back start to release. Once you feel comfortable, you can flip your legs over your head for the whole stretch.
3. Calf Stretch
This calf stretch targets a frequently forgotten muscle group. We wouldn’t be able to do most activities without our calves, yet they get the least attention when we stretch! As you end your workout routine, stretch and massage your calves so your muscles can relax.
There are several varieties of calf stretches, but this is my favorite one. Start by sitting on your knees and putting one leg straight in front of you. Keep that foot flexed. Lean forward over your extended leg as far as you can go. Once you start to feel a burn in your leg, stop. Grab the bottom of your foot and pull it back towards you. This stretch may hurt at first, but stick with it! You will feel so much better when you are done.
4. Side Lunge
This stretch targets your inner thigh muscles. It can also help with your balance and mobility. Depending on how low you can go, you can also stretch your hip flexors and calves.
If your muscles are very tight, you may need to stay upright like the man in the picture. Start by bending one knee to the side while keeping your other knee straight and your feet flat on the ground. If you are very flexible, you can squat until you are almost sitting on the floor. If you can bend that low, try to keep your hands in front of you to test your balance. You can also shift from side to side to boost your hip mobility.
5. Pretzel Stretch
This stretch targets multiple muscle groups. If you love full-body stretches, this is the one for you! The pretzel stretch targets your outer leg muscles, oblique muscles, and back muscles.
There are a few different variations to this stretch. The most basic version is the one pictured below. If you want a more challenging version that targets more muscles, follow these steps:
1. Cross your right leg over your outstretched left leg.
2. Curl your left leg under you.
3. Wrap your left arm around your right leg, and put your arm through your leg.
4. Slide your right hand behind your back, and try to interlock your right and left hands.
These steps will help you stretch your side (oblique) muscles while stretching your outer leg and other upper body muscles.
6. Watch Yoga Videos
If you need guidance on how to stretch, search for a stretching video on YouTube! You can find different variations of stretches that target different muscle groups. Yoga videos are one of the best ways to learn new stretches. I recommend following yoga and fitness instructors on social media since they will provide the best tips on stretching and overall fitness.
If you choose to purchase workout videos, check out P90X. You can subscribe to their workout videos through any streaming platform. Each workout video is led by a licensed fitness instructor, including the warm-up and stretching videos. My favorite video is the cold start warm-up. It is the perfect combination of stretches and exercises to prepare my body for any workout.
7. Buy These Accessories
There are so many options for workout accessories! It can be hard to know which accessories to add to your collection. Below, I have listed my top 6 workout accessories that everyone should have!
Resistance Band: A resistance band is perfect for stretching and working out. I like to use resistance bands to stretch my calves. I will hook the band around my flexed feet and gently pull back to feel a stretch. Resistance bands are easily the most versatile workout accessory.
Foam Roller: A foam roller is perfect for releasing tension in cramped muscles. I like to roll my outer thighs and calves on my foam roller. This helps to work out any kinks and prevents cramps while I exercise.
Tennis Ball: If you are prone to getting cramps in your arches, a tennis ball will be your new best friend! I frequently used a tennis ball to massage my arches while I danced. Whether you are a runner, dancer, or walker, you need a tennis ball to stretch your arches.
Muscle Massager Gun: This electronic muscle massager is a game changer. If you have a tight or cramped muscle, this massager provides almost immediate relief. You can find a link here to get one for yourself.
Ankle Weights: Ankle weights are a great way to challenge yourself as you run, walk, and work out. You can find ankle weights that double as wrist weights to level up your fitness game.
Yoga Mat: If you are exercising or stretching on a hard surface, you need a yoga mat! The mat will protect your joints if your workout is high-impact. You can find affordable yoga mats here.