Stretching is really important and should form part of every workout routine. Not only does it help prevent injury and keep your muscles supple, it can help to ease delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and stiffness, helping your body stay primed and ready for the next workout.
A series of stretches regularly tagged on to the end of your workout helps to improve flexibility, increase range of motion, promote greater recovery and reduces needless injuries. It’s even great for calming the central nervous system and relieving stress, and so benefits both mind and body.
The good thing is that you really only need five to ten minutes tagged onto the end of your workout to feel the benefits. Here are some of the best total body stretches that will send your muscles some much-needed TLC all the way from your head to your toes.
Prime Your Body With These Nine Muscle-Loving Stretches
The Hamstring Stretch
Where it targets: Hamstrings and calf
How to perform it: Seated on the ground, extend your left leg out in front of you and position your right foot so it touches your left knee. Lean forward and hold your toes with your left hand so you feel a stretch and hold this for around 20 seconds. If you’re unable to touch your toes, get a towel and wrap it around your foot, making sure your back remains straight. Repeat on the opposite leg.
The Lying Glute Stretch
Where it targets: Glutes (butt)
How to perform it: Lie on your back and move your left foot so it’s over your right knee with hands wrapped around the back of your right leg. Gently pull your right leg in towards you to create an even deeper stretch, Hold this for around 30 seconds before repeating on the opposite side.
The Standing Quadriceps Stretch
Where it targets: Quads
How to perform it: From a standing position, use your left hand to grab your leftt foot and pull the heel in towards your buttocks, making sure you keep your knees together. Hold for around 20 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side. If you have trouble balancing, hold on to a door, wall or chair.
The Sumo Hold
Where it targets: Groin (adductor muscles)
How to perform it: Standing with your feet at shoulder-width apart and toes facing slightly outwards, lower yourself down into a squat position and, with your hands together, push your knees out with your elbows. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
The Arm and Shoulder Stretch
Where it targets: Shoulders (including deltoid, teres minor, supraspinatus and trapezius)
How to perform it: Standing with legs shoulder-width apart for balance, stretch your right arm out and across your body. With your left arm, tuck the elbow of your right arm in and pull towards you. Hold the stretch for around 20 seconds before repeating on the other side.
The Abdominal (Cobra) Stretch
Where it targets: Abdominals and hip flexors
How to perform it: Lying on your stomach, place your hands underneath your shoulders and gently push your upper body off the ground, keeping your pelvis on the floor. Slowly look over your left shoulder and then your right shoulder to help deepen the stretch into your side abs. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds in total.
The Upper Back Stretch
Where it targets: Shoulders and upper back
How to perform it: Get onto the floor on all fours, keeping your hips centred, and take your right arm down and through the space between the left arm and leg with the back of your right hand resting on the floor. You should feel the stretch in your upper back and rear of your right shoulder. Breathing deeply here will help to enhance the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds before repeating on the other side.
The Lower Back (Double Knee to Chest) Stretch
Where it targets: Lower back and pelvic muscles (erector spinae) and abdominals
How to perform it: Lying on your back, bend at the knees, hug your shins and gently pull your knees up to your chest until you feel a stretch in your lower back. Hold for around 30 seconds.
The Triceps Stretch
Where it targets: Triceps (back of the upper arm)
How to perform it: Standing with feet shoulder-width apart for balance, lift your arms overhead and then pull your left elbow behind your head with your right hand so you feel a stretch. Hold this for around 20 seconds before switching and repeating on the other side.
Time To Rest
These nine stretches should ensure you target every major muscle group in your body, encouraging blood flow to help soreness and stiffness after an intense session and helping tired muscles to heal more quickly. Incorporating these stretches into your post workout routine on a regular basis will help improve your flexibility and keep your body healthy and performing optimally both at the gym and with general day-to-day activities.
If you’d like more ideas for stretches that focus on your abdominal muscles, take a look at six of the best ab stretches you can do to help maintain a healthy and strong core.
Do you stretch at the end of your workouts, or do you tend to skip this part with excuses like ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘I’ll do it later’? Perhaps you have your own cool-down stretches that you swear by and would like to share. Whatever it is, comment below and let’s get talking, I’d love to hear from you!