As the fitness scene continues to grow, and amazing streaming platforms like FORTË bring us 24/7 access to some of the best workouts, the pressure to be fit is at an all-time high. As a fitness professional, I’m thrilled that our society as a whole has taken such a strong interest in both obtaining and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. That being said, it is crucial to be smart about your workout regiment. There are times when, in fact, less is more and there are other times when instead of taking the last 5-10 minutes of your workout for ab work or that final cardio burst, it is more imperative to stretch.
Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong and healthy. Without it, your muscles shorten, tighten, and may limit your range of motion. This may prohibit you from moving into certain positions in your fitness routine, and not only cause an injury, but may actually prevent you from achieving your fitness goals by lessening the effectiveness of your overall workout.
That being said, there is a way to stretch and a way not to stretch. Below are our top ten favorite stretches that you should add to your routine.
From Supine Position
1. Hamstrings: Upper back of your legs. From a supine position, extend one leg straight up towards the ceiling and the other leg straight down on the ground. Place your hands either behind the hamstring that is up towards the ceiling or towards your toe. Keep your leg as straight as you can and pull the leg in towards your chest. Hold 10 seconds. Go to other leg.
2. IT band (Iliotibial Band): After the hamstring stretch, extend one leg straight up towards the ceiling and keep the other leg straight on the ground. Take the opposite hand to the outside of the leg that is up towards ceiling and pull the leg across your body. You want to feel the stretch on the outside of the leg. You may have to move the leg higher up towards your chest or leave your hips on the ground to feel the stretch. Hold 10 seconds. Repeat other side.
3. Figure 4 stretch for outer hips/gludius medius: table top one of your legs, take the other leg and bend it so the knee is out to the side and the ankle of that leg is pressed up on the quad of the leg in table top. Interlace your hands behind your hamstring and pull the leg in towards your chest. Keep head on the ground
From Downward Dog Position
4. Downward Dog: to continue to stretch out the entire back of the leg, come into a downward facing dog position, with your hips up towards the ceiling and hands on the ground. Pedal out your legs back and forth by bending one leg then the other, feeling a stretch down the entire back of your legs
5. Hip flexors: from downward dog position, step right leg all the way forward and drop left knee towards the ground in a low runners lunge. Take your hands and press into the front of the right quad as you sink your weight forward. Feel the stretch in the front of the leg in front. Repeat other side.
6. Cat-Cow for upper back: on all fours, lower your abs towards the ground and then scoop them up and arch your back up towards the ceiling. After a few lift your right arm up towards the right and thread it under your torso, placing your arm on the ground as your torso opens up towards the left. Repeat other side
7. Upward dog for lower abs: placing your hands by your hips on the mat, press your hips off the ground. Option to leave your legs on the ground straight behind you.
Next one- from seated position
8. Seated spinal twist: (photo) sitting with your legs straight, keep one leg straight in front of you and bend the other leg so the knee is up towards the ceiling. Take the opposite elbow across the body and twist through your abs.
Next two from standing position
9. Shoulder blade/upper back girdle- before coming up to stand upright, interlace the hands behind your back in a forward fold position with your knees micro-bent. As your hands are interlaced, reverse the hands so the palms are facing the ceiling.
10. Triceps: From a standing position, bend one arm and point the elbow up towards the ceiling while taking the opposite hand and placing it on the elbow. Press the arm down the back of your neck.