You guys know I'm all about those super tough workouts. From Boot Camp to CrossFit to HITT, there's few things I love more than putting my body through a gruelling workout and that awesome can't-sit-down-or-climb-stairs muscle soreness I feel the next day. But as great as those intense workouts are, it's just as important to stretch out those sore muscles after a workout. In fact, for most people who work out regularly, chances are that stretching is the most important thing they’re not doing. Not only does stretching help your muscles recover faster, it improves our balance and range of motion, not to mention lowers our risk of injury.
It’s important to practice ‘safe stretch’ :) You don’t want to deeply stretch muscles too much without first warming them up a bit. That usually means at least some light activity beforehand (walking, jogging, skipping) to get the blood flowing. I personally prefer to stretch at the end of my workouts, so I know that my body and muscles are ready for whatever stretch/bendy/flexy goodness I’m about to throw at it. I also like to incorporate some stretching stretching and flexibility movements into my workout itself. Make sure to wear clothes that support your full range of motion. Try not to rush through the stretches and remember to breathe through them. Also, as with anything else, it’s important to know your own body. Know your limits and don’t try to go too deep.
Here are 5 great stretches that you can include into your workout routine and even do daily.
1. Couch stretch
This is a great stretch for your quadriceps (the large muscles at the front of your upper legs). These muscles are constantly shortened from all the sitting that we do, and that can eventually lead to hip or knees issues if they’re not stretched back out.
Make sure your knee is on a soft surface (like a yoga mat or carpet), put the other leg out in front to stabilize you and pull the heel of the back leg up to your glutes. Stay upright and hold the stretch. You can elongate the stretch in quads even further by pushing your hips forward a little.
2. Hip opener
Just like it says in the name, this is a great stretch to open up the hips ;)
First open up the knees as wide as you can and lean forward trying to rest your elbows or even your forehead on the ground in front. Take a nice deep breath in and press the hips down towards the ground. As your body gets closer to the ground you’ll feel the hips opening up. Hold this stretch for about 6-8 deep breaths.
3. Shoulder capsule stretch
This is a great stretch to release tension in the back of the shoulders and can even help alleviate some types of neck pain. Start in the tabletop position (on all fours) and extend one arm under & across the body, past the other arm. Lean into your shoulder and the weight of your body will give your shoulder a deeper stretch. You can move in and out of the stretch with the breath, pushing more weight into the shoulder as you exhale to get a nice deep stretch. Hold for 6-8 deep breaths and repeat on the other side.
4. Deep lunge with lateral reach
This is a such a great stretch for the entire front of the body as well as the obliques, especially for those of who slouch. This stretch helps open up the front body and helps with any tightness in the quads, hips and chest.
Get into a deep lunge position, either with your back knee resting on the ground or hovering off the floor. With the same arm as the back knee reach and stretch up, across and over the body leaning slightly to the opposite side of the body. If you need a bit of help with balance try resting the front arm on the front knee. Go for 6-8 deep breaths, bringing the arm back to your start position each time and reaching across with each exhale.
5. Shoulder 'Y' Stretch
We’re always hunching forward, whether it's on our phones, driving, on our computer, or leaning forward to play with our little ones. Our shoulders get rounded and closes up our body, slouching us forward. This is a great stretch to open and loosen up the shoulders.
Start seated on the ground sitting up nice and tall with your legs . out in front and knees slightly bent. Now slowly start walking your hands out behind you into a 'Y' formation. You will start to lean back, the wider and further you go the deeper the stretch. You'll definitely feel this in the front of your shoulders, that's a good thing! Go for 6-8 reps, starting at the top and walking your hands back each rep. You don’t have to go too deep to start. Hold it where you start feeling the stretch and then slowly work your way deeper.
Be sure to give these awesome stretches a try, incorporate them into your workout routines and be consistent. A little each day and you will start to see your body loosening and opening up. You will also notice how much more effective your workouts are, you'll be able to lift more, have better form and recover faster!
Yours in Health,