Everyone wants to work out, but many people skip stretching exercises so they can get straight to the workout and get done in a short amount of time. However, stretching exercises are a critical part of any workout. Stretching exercises warm your body up for the strain and working out of your muscles.
Here are 12 stretches to incorporate in your warm-up routine.
1. Arm Circles
This is a simple stretching exercise that gets your blood flowing. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms out on each side. Start by moving your arms in small, slow, and controlled circles. Gradually make your circles bigger until you are making the biggest arm circles you are able to.
Go at your own pace. If you feel that you are straining your muscles too much then stop and regroup. This stretching exercise also has the added benefit of toning your arms. We suggest doing 2-3 minutes or until you feel you are warm. Feel free to go longer if 3 minutes is not enough.
2. Cross-Body Arm Stretch
This stretch is mainly to increase flexibility in your shoulder joint by stretching your shoulder muscles.
This can be done standing or sitting. Bring your right arm across your chest and with your left arm hold your right arm at the elbow or even a few inches higher. You should feel the stretch in your shoulder. Hold for around 10-15 seconds and then switch arms.
3. Tricep Stretch
Just as the name conveys, this stretching exercise is meant to stretch out your tricep, or the back of your upper arm.
Again, this can be done standing or sitting. Bring one of your arms up, bending it at the elbow, letting your forearm rest behind your head. With your opposite arm, hold the elbow of the arm that is up. Hold for 10-15 seconds and then switch arms.
4. Head Circles
Now that we’ve gotten your arms warm, let’s move onto your neck. Make sure you are not hyperextending your neck. Just roll it forward and to the sides gently and with control. Either standing or sitting, rotate your head in circles really focusing on getting a stretch in the muscles of your neck.
Rotate for about 20 seconds, or more if you would like, and then rotate the opposite way for the same amount of time.
5. Standing Toe Touch
This is a great way to stretch out your hamstrings which are located on the backside of your thighs. For this stretch, you will start standing upright, then slowly roll your body down until you touch your toes. If you aren’t a flexible person, I relate. Don’t worry about touching your toes if you can’t.
If you can’t then go as far as you can without straining any muscle. As soon as you feel pain in your muscles, stop, and bring it back a few notches until you feel a tiny stretch that is in no way painful. Stay bent down for about 10 seconds and then slowly roll your body back up until you are back to standing upright.
6. Standing Quad Stretch
Like the name suggests this stretch targets your quads which is the front part of your thighs. For this stretch, you will start standing upright. Take your right leg up behind you, bending at the knee, keeping your thighs in the same place they started. Hold your foot and gently stretch out your quads. Once you are done stretching repeat with the other leg.
When holding this stretch don’t pull too hard on your lower leg because it puts to much pressure on your knee cap. If you feel like something’s wrong, stop and regroup. We suggest holding this stretch for 10-15 seconds and then switching legs.
7. Lunge and Twist
This will be the last of our standing stretches. For this stretch, you will want to go down into a lunge. It does not matter which leg is forward first. If your right leg is forward, once you are down in your lunge position slowly and with control put your left arm down and twist your upper body so that it faces the forward knee. Make sure you are also putting your opposite arm up in the air. You would do the opposite when you put your left leg forward.
When doing this stretch don’t overstretch your spine. What I mean here is don’t force your upper body to rotate too much if can’t. Only rotate to what feels good for you. We suggest holding this for 10-15 seconds and then switching to the opposite leg.
Now let’s move on to our sitting stretching exercises. For this stretch sit down on the ground and bring your feet in, keeping your knees out. This stretch gets its name because your legs mimic the shape of a butterfly’s wings. Lean forward just slightly so you feel a pull in your leg muscles.
Don’t force yourself forward too much, you could risk straining your muscles. We suggest holding this stretch for 20-30 seconds.
9. Split Leg Sitting Toe Touches
This stretch really gets to the muscles on the inside of your thighs. For this stretch, sit down on the ground with your legs out in front of you like you are going to do a standard toe touch, but now move your legs out and apart from the other.
Lean first to your left side, reaching for your left foot. It’s okay if you can’t reach your toes—neither can I. Hold this stretch there for about 10 seconds and then lean down the middle. Reach out in front of you the best you can, holding for another 10 seconds and then leaning to your right side and reaching for your right foot. Again hold this position for another 10 seconds.
10. “Model” Stretch
This next stretching exercise one that also helps stretch out your back.
For this stretch sit down on the ground. Put your left leg straight out and then cross your right leg over it with your knee up. Turning your upper body, place your left arm on the right side of your right leg.
Hold this position for 15-20 seconds and then switch to your other side.
11. Single-Leg Laying Stretch
These last two exercises will be executed laying down. For this stretch, lay flat on the ground and bring one of your legs straight up. Locking your fingers together behind the knee of that leg, pull it forward until you feel a nice stretch in your hamstrings.
Hold that position for 10-15 seconds and then switch legs.
12. Laying Twist
This last exercise is one of my favorites. Laying flat on your back on the ground extend your arms out to the sides resting on the floor. Bring your right leg over to the left side of your body and rest it on the ground. Your leg that you bring over to the other side should be bent in a 90-degree angle.
Hold for as long as this stretch feels good for you and then switch sides.