Best stretches to try before and after your workout
Stretching is absolutely vital and no fitness program is complete without it. Always make it a point to limber up before any kind of exercise so that your muscles are ready for action.
And then give yourself a good stretch again immediately after. This will ease any post-exercise soreness and stiffness and help prevent injury.
I’ll be sharing some of the best stretches to try out before and after your workout below.
The best Stretching to do before your workout is dynamic stretching.
This type of stretching is done to prepare the body for movement. Unlike static stretching (which we will get to shortly) where you hold the pose for a certain amount of seconds, you will be moving your body to resemble the movements you are about to do through exercise.
You do these slowly and with control to warm up the muscles, ligaments, and joints and prepare them for movement. Some light holds are ok but save the longer holds for after your workout!
Here’s why you need to do dynamic stretches before your workout:
1. To warm up your muscles
Stretching before you get started with your run, exercise routine, or training session will warm up your muscles and get them ready for performance by increasing blood flow.
2. To improve flexibility
A good stretch improves flexibility and gives you a bigger range of motion. At the same time, less stiffness means a smaller chance of pulling a muscle or tendon. You wouldn’t want that to cut your workout short!
3. To improve the quality of your workout
Limbering up will set you up for optimal performance. Keep your muscles happy and they’ll literally take you that extra mile.
4. To reduce the risk of injury
This is another big reason to make it a point of taking the time to stretch!
How to stretch
Take at least 10 minutes to stretch and warm up before a workout. Focus on the muscles you’ll be using. If you’re a runner, speed walker, or if you’re working on improving your lower body strength, the best stretches will focus on your hamstrings and quads. These are the muscles you’ll be engaging most — they deserve some TLC!
The best stretches to do before a workout:
If you’re stretching for cardio activity, dynamic stretches will give your body the preparation it needs. These are gentle but active movements that rev up your muscles before high-intensity exercise.
Some of the best dynamic stretches you can try out include:
While standing on one leg, gently swing the other leg in small circles. Switch legs and repeat.
Stretch your arms out to the side and rotate them in wide circular motions.
Standing on one leg, swing the other back and forth. This one’s great to open the hips and stretch your hamstrings.
Squat to calf raise
This one will get your heart rate going… With both feet parallel, squat towards the floor before springing back up and pressing high up on your toes. This move will help prepare you for higher intensity moves like jump squats!
Dynamic movements are also ideal when stretching for strength training and will help increase your flexibility and range of motion.
If strength is your game, try out these best stretches for strength training.
After your workout it’s time to do a few static hold stretches. These are best after a workout when you are completely warmed up, the workout is done and you are ready to cool down and elongate on the contracted muscles. Here you can settle in to the stretches a little more and hold the poses.
Reasons to be good to your body and do static stretching AFTER a workout:
1. Stretching afterwards gives your body a chance to wind down
A few easy stretches will ease blood flow to your tired muscles and bring your heart rate back to normal. At the same time, endorphins are released, giving you that heady post-workout high!
2. The buildup of lactic acid is reduced
Lactic acid is not your friend… this builds up during strenuous activity and is the cause of muscle aches and soreness. Stretch to eliminate this pesky acid and keep the aches away!
3. A gentle stretch lengthens and eases tight muscles
After a prolonged physical activity, your muscles will contract and shorten, giving you that unpleasant tight feeling. Avoid this by giving them the good long stretch they crave immediately after you complete your workout.
4. It also reduces sore muscles and prevents injury
Tight, overworked muscles can lead to soreness and an increased chance of injuries. You can bounce back quicker after a strenuous workout by, yes, s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g.
Best stretches after a workout:
The best way to cool down is with easy static stretches. Try holding each of these for 10 to 25 seconds. Rinse. Repeat. Relax.
Basic runner’s lunge
Lunges are a runner’s best friend. This is a basic stretch that targets the hip flexor muscles. While lunging forward, keep your upper torso “tall” while engaging your abdominal muscles. Work to press your hips forward until you feel a deep stretch in your quad and hips. Your glutes, hamstrings and calves will also get a satisfying stretch.
Deep runner’s lunge
If you already have some flexibility in these areas, give the deep lunge a shot. This is a variation of the basic lunge and will open up your hips even more.
Try taking the lunge as far as you can, maybe even taking your knee to the mat using a wall for support if needed. To go even deeper into the stretch, lean your upper body forward. You’ll feel it in all the right places!
This classic yoga pose stretches not only your hamstrings and calves but also provides relief to your lower back. In this pose you can bend one knee while keeping the other straight to deeply stretch your calf muscles.
Interlace fingrers behind your back, straighten arms completely and lift them away from your body opening your chest muscles. You will stretch your chest and frontal shoulder muscles. Take deep breathes and feel the energy from this stretch. This one is a great one to finish with and start your day.
Hold the pose for 20 to 30 seconds. Relax and repeat.
Reach out to me for personalized guidance
To get the most out of your stretching routine, it should be personalized to suit your preferred activity or sport, target your weak spots, and move you towards your fitness goals. Runners will need to focus on different stretches compared to tennis players, for example.
You’ll want to make sure you’re doing your stretching exercises in the right way to avoid muscle strain or injury.
As your vegan certified personal trainer, I can create the ideal stretching and exercise routine for you by tailoring it to your specific needs.
Schedule a free 15-minute consultation to get started!