It’s easy to skip stretching when you’re rushed after a workout, but you should never nix it from your routine. When you do, you increase the risk of injury and chances of developing tight, tense muscles. By performing post-workout stretches, you can actually increase muscle tone and speed up the recovery process. This means your muscles will be capable of working harder the next time you hit the gym. To reap the full benefits of a good workout, add these seven stretches into your cool-down to lengthen, ease, and strengthen your muscles.
1. Cobra stretch
The cobra pose is a yoga stretch that’s especially effective after an abdominal workout. It not only stretches your abs but also lengthens your spine and helps improve your posture, according to Active.com. Begin by lying on your stomach. Place your hands on the floor by your shoulders, then push up until your arms are straight and your pelvis hovers just above the ground as you lift your head toward the ceiling. Engage your back muscles by keeping your shoulder blades down. Hold this pose for as long as you need.
2. Butterfly stretch
You’ll want to make sure to incorporate this one into your cool-down routine, especially after a lower body workout because it’s great for your inner thighs, lower back, groin, and hips. Livestrong.com says to begin by sitting on the floor with the soles of your feet pressed together. Hold them together with your hands and use your elbows to gently push your knees toward the ground. Then, keeping your back straight and shoulders down, slowly lean your body forward to stretch your muscles even more. Try to avoid hunching your shoulders and back as you do this.
3. Modified hurdler stretch
The modified hurdler is great for loosening up tight hamstrings, calf muscles, and stretching your middle and lower back. You’ll work one leg at a time and begin by sitting on the floor. This is great because it means both legs will get an equal amount of stretching. It’ll also help you recognize any flexibility discrepancies you may need to address.
The American Council on Exercise says to extend both of your legs straight out in front of you, then to bend so your left foot is touching the inside of your right thigh. Keeping your back flat and shoulders back, place your hands on top of your right thigh, then lean your body forward, leading with your hips, as you crawl your hands toward your ankle. Once you feel tension, stop, then hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Switch sides.
4. Standing forward bend
Begin by standing with your feet together. Slightly bend your knees, and then lean forward, hinging at your hips, to bring your head toward the ground. If you can, place your hands on the floor. If you’re not quite there, you can also grasp your legs or hold each elbow with the opposite hand. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.
5. Standing quadricep stretch
The standing quadricep stretch is a simple move you can do anywhere. Healthline says it will help you develop and maintain flexibility in those upper leg muscles. All you have to do is stand on your left leg as you bend your right leg, catch your right ankle with your hands, and gently pull your right foot toward your butt. The goal is to stretch, not strain, so be gentle. Hold the pose for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
6. Cross-over arm stretch
If you frequently find yourself with tight shoulders, you have to try this move. New York Road Runners demonstrates how. Standing with your feet hip-width apart, extend your right arm in front of you, then cross it over to the left side as far as you can. Use your left arm to gently press your right arm toward your body until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
7. Overhead tricep stretch
Our triceps can become really tight from exercises like push-ups as well as everyday activities, so Livestrong.com says stretching them is crucial for minimizing the risk of injury. For this stretch, raise your right arm up above your head, then bend your elbow until your right-hand hovers just above your left shoulder blade. Grasp your right elbow with your left hand, then gently push back until you feel a stretch. Hold this pose for 10 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.
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