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Stretch It Out

January 31, 2022

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Stretch It Out

Our 10 favorite pre-and-post-workout stretches for boosting performance.

Whether you took a holiday hiatus from the gym or just signed up for a new workout class, the most important thing you can do for your body pre (and post) workout is to give it a good ole stretch sesh. Not only will stretching prepare you to crush your workout, but it will warm up the muscles to avoid injury, boost flexibility, enhance overall performance, and – it may just help you with all that tech-neck & back pain you’ve been experiencing. 

For starters, it’s important to note the difference between static and dynamic stretches. According to Anne Rex, DO, dynamic stretching “mimics the activity or the movement that you’re going to do in whatever sport or activity you’re about to start.” This, in turn, boosts blood flow to the muscles, which can increase flexibility, coordination, and overall power in your workouts. 

Once your workout is complete, it’s best to follow up with some longer, static stretches to let your body relax and recover. According to Dr. Rex, static stretching is most beneficial post-workout as these poses are great for preventing muscle stiffness and promoting overall relaxation.

Although these poses are best for recovery, you can still incorporate some static stretching into your pre-workout routine, but just keep this in mind: “the longer you stretch, the more there’s going to be a negative impact on performance. So if it’s part of a complete dynamic warm-up, you’d hold the stretch for around 15 to 30 seconds, not 60 to 90 seconds,” says Dr. Rex.

With this in mind, let’s get right into some of our favorite pre-and-post-workout stretches to get you moving.

Pre-Workout Dynamic Stretches:

  1. Cat-Cow

Start on all fours in a tabletop position with your wrists stacked over your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Take a slow, deep inhale, and as you exhale, round your spine upwards as you drop your neck and tailbone. Pull your belly button up with you as though a string is pulling it inwards. You are now in cat pose. 

As you inhale, drop your spine, and lift your neck and tailbone towards the ceiling, arching your lower back. You are now in cow pose.

Repeat 3 times through, with slow, controlled breaths.

  1. Donkey Kicks

Start on all fours in a tabletop position, with your wrists stacked over your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Engage your core.

Keeping your knee bent into a 90-degree angle and your left foot flexed, slowly raise your left leg towards the ceiling and pause at the top. Then bring your knee back to the ground. Be sure to keep your spine in a neutral position and remain in control as you lift, to avoid overarching or injury. Try not to use momentum. Repeat 5x and then switch legs.

  1. Bird-Dog Crunch

Start on all fours in a tabletop position, with your wrists stacked over your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Engage your core. 

Extend your left arm forward and right leg back. Be sure to keep your back flat (no arching!) and your hips in line with the floor.

Draw your left elbow and right knee in to meet near the center of your body, being sure to engage your abs as you do so. Reverse the movement back to where you started for 1 rep. Do this 3x through and repeat on both sides.

  1. Down Dog to Runner’s Lunge

Start on your hands and knees. Spread your fingers out wide as you stack them under your shoulders and place your knees under your hips. Push yourself into the down-dog position, lifting your hips and tailbone to the sky as you press your lower body back. Keep your legs straight as you press your heels gently toward the floor, and be sure to keep your back flat. Your head should remain between your arms, facing your knees as you lift.

Next, shift your weight forward as you bring your left foot to the outside of your hand. Assume a lunge position to complete your first rep. Repeat 3x and then switch sides.

  1. Squats

Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart. Engage your core and lower your body down, as if about to sit in a chair. Be sure to keep your knees behind your toes as you lower. Slowly lift yourself back up to a standing position for 1 rep. Repeat 10x through.

  1. Lunges

Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart. Step forward with your left leg and slowly bend both knees, until your back knee is just above the floor. Place your weight in your left heel and be sure your left thigh and leg form a 90-degree angle. Use your left leg to push you back up into a standing position. Repeat 5x then switch legs.

Post-Workout Static Stretches:

  1. Toe Touch

Start in a standing position. Flex your feet and raise your arms overhead. Take a deep inhale. Slowly exhale as you bend at the hips and reach your arms towards your toes. Hold for 60-90 seconds, slowly deepening your stretch with each exhale.

  1. Shoulder Stretch

Start in a standing position. Relax your shoulders and raise your right arm across your chest. Softly pull your right arm towards you with your left hand to deepen the stretch. Hold for 5 seconds and then switch arms. Repeat 5x through.

  1. Butterfly Stretch

Start in a seated position, with your legs bent and your feet touching one another at the center. Engage your core and keep your back and shoulders straight as you drive your knees into the ground. If you’d like to deepen the stretch you may slowly drop your forehead towards your heels. Hold this position for 60-90 seconds.

  1. Quadriceps Stretch

Start in a standing position. Lift your left heel up behind you and grasp it with your left hand. Gently pull it back until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. Keep your knees close together, and your core engaged. Tuck your hips to prevent arching. Hold for about 30-60 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.

  1. Knee-to-Chest Stretch

Start in a standing position. Bring your left knee into your hands and gently pull your knee toward your chest with both hands. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds, and then release. Repeat with the other leg.

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