Do you skip out on your post-cardio stretch because you’ve heard that it may hurt your running performance? That’s no excuse: a 2011 study found that stretching did not negatively impact endurance in women who trained. Better still, it actually helped increase their range of motion, which may help improve performance in the gym.
Here’s How To Do It
After your workout, hold each static stretch for up to 30 seconds, switching sides where necessary.
Muscles Stretched: hip flexors
How To: Get into a deep lunge position, with your rear leg extended behind you and its shin resting on the floor. Press your hips forward gently and hold. When complete, repeat with your opposite leg in front.
Tip: Your rear knee should be positioned behind your hips.
Muscles Stretched: erector spinae
How To: Get into an all-fours position on a mat. Arch your back deeply and look up towards the ceiling. Hold, then round your spine upward, bringing your head towards your chest, and hold once again.
Tip: Move your head last; lead with your chest (as you arch) or spine (as you round).
Seated Hip Extensor Stretch
Muscles Stretched: gluteus maximus, hamstrings
How To: Sit tall with your legs extended. Bend one leg and place your foot to the outside of your other leg as shown. Gently pull your thigh towards your chest and hold. When you are done, switch legs and repeat.
Tip: twist towards your bent leg for an added stretch.
Standing Quad Stretch
Muscles Stretched: quadriceps
How To: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend one knee, grab your ankle behind you and pull it gently towards your glutes. Hold, then release and repeat on your other leg.
Tip: Do this stretch near a doorway or wall, and use it to steady yourself if needed.
Upper-Back Stretch On Stability Ball
Muscles Stretched: latissimus dorsi, trapezius
How to: Sit on a stability ball with your feet flat on the ground. Clasp your hands overhead, lean forward from your hips and gently pull your arms away from your body. Hold the stretch, keeping your breathing rhythmic.
Tip: Keep your spine straight and chin slightly tucked.
Lying Hamstring Stretch
Muscles Stretched: biceps femoris, semitendinosus, semimembranosus
How To: Lie faceup near the corner of two walls or in a doorway. Place one leg flat against the wall, with the sole of your foot facing the ceiling. Hold, then release and repeat on your other side.
Tip: If you don’t have a wall or post, extend your leg in the air, loop your hands around your thigh and pull it gently towards you.
Be Stretching Savvy
• Never force or strain a stretch. Hold at the first sensation of resistance, and allow your body to invite you to go deeper.
• Keep breathing throughout the stretch. This helps prevent your body from tensing up.
• Focus on the body part you’re stretching. Imagine the muscle tissue becoming more supple.
• Modify, adapt and adjust each stretch to suit your particular needs. Place padding under your knees, for example, or try a stretch sitting, lying down or standing up if it’s more comfortable for you and your body.
• Instead of thinking, “I’m so tight!” or “Stretching is agony,” replace your mental soundtrack with “This is just what my body needs” and “I’m getting more flexible each time I stretch.”