We all know that stretching is one of the most important parts of any workout. It preps your body for the workout ahead and helps to cool down and relax your muscles afterward. The key is to know when the best time is to stretch, and what stretches are best suited for you pre and post workout. Not doing so can be harmful to your body and potentially cause injury (no, thanks), so it is important to warm up your body before a workout and stretch those working muscles after to prevent soreness. Here are some of the best stretches to ensure you and your body stay safe both before and after your workout.
1. Jumping Jacks
I love doing this light intensity exercise pre-workout. Since they instantly activate various muscle groups, they’re perfect for any workout you’re about to do. Not to mention, they’re a sure-fire way to get your heart rate up. Need to modify? Just step out your feet instead of jumping for a little less impact.
2. Full Leg Stretch
I personally love this stretch after any cardio workout, or really, any exercise where you’ve really worked your legs. Muscles in your legs have a tendency to get sore pretty easily, so this stretch is the key to preventing any stiffness the next day. Prop your leg up or do this stretch sitting, then raise your arms and reach for your calf, ankle, or toes.
3. Light Jog
Another great pre-workout stretch is to go for a light jog. It’s nothing crazy or intense, but it’s perfect for slowly getting your muscles moving and warmed up. It’s a great way to start any workout before you really hit the ground running (literally). You can simply modify it to a power walk if jogging is too much.
4. Quad Stretch
Since you need to get a little bit of a heart rate going prior to this stretch, this one may be best saved for post-workout. To feel this stretch to its full potential, do this one standing. If you need to balance, feel free to hold onto the wall, a stable chair, your stroller handle, your workout buddy, or whatever you may have handy nearby.
5. Runner’s Lunge
Runners – this one is great for you (I guess there’s a reason it has its name), but it can also be super beneficial after any high-cardio workout. This stretch focuses on the glutes, hips, quads, and calves, making it perfect for helping with any lower body soreness. Trust me, this deep stretch feels great and I can bet you’ll probably want to hold this one for a few extra minutes.
6. Arms, Arms, Arms
This one is so simple, but it is such a good stretch for you. Simply bring each arm across your body and you’ll feel the stretch instantly. This is a great one to do after any workout where you’ve just worked your shoulders, biceps, or triceps and feels like a great reward for those muscles that just worked so hard.
7. Downward Dog
Enjoying a few breaths in Downward Dog is a great way to wind down after a workout, and you don’t have to reserve it just for yoga. It stretches your body from top to bottom while allowing you to work on both your mental and physical balance. If you need a little bit of a deeper stretch, focus on bending each leg at the knee and holding it there for a moment or two.
Remember, stretching is a key part of any workout and should not be missed. I promise, it adds even more goodness to an amazing workout session, and could quite possibly become your favorite part of it, too!