Stretching is a vital part of any workout. It increases your flexibility and range of motion, allowing your body to move more easily and preventing injury. Fortunately, stretching takes practically no time at all. An effective stretching routine can take as little as five minutes. Enhance your workouts by including these five stretches in your routine, and remember to hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds before releasing.
Protect your neck muscles with this simple, basic neck stretch. Tilt your head to the right and place your right hand on the left side of your head, above the ear. Pull your head downward until you feel a gentle stretch in your left neck muscle. Repeat on the opposite side, tilting your head to the left. Be sure to keep your spine straight during this stretch to prevent injury. Tilt your head, but keep your torso straight.
Front Shoulder Stretch
Reach your right arm across your body, holding it straight. Then place your left hand above or below the elbow and press your right arm into your body. Hold and then release before switching arms. Again, you should feel only a gentle stretch in your shoulder. Never stretch a muscle until it hurts.
Standing Side Stretch
Stand with your feet together and reach both arms up. Clasp your hands together, interlacing your fingers with index fingers pointed up. Reach your arms upward as you inhale and then exhale as you bend your upper body to the right. Your lower body should remain stationary, with your feet together. Hold and release before repeating, bending your body to the left this time. Remember to keep breathing. Take deep, measured breaths throughout the entire stretch to ensure that your muscles continue to receive oxygen.
Lying Spinal Twist
The lying spinal twist can help to increase flexibility in your hips and lower back. Lie down on the ground, flat on your back with your arms out to the sides, forming a T. Draw your knees up toward your chest, keeping your feet on the ground. Carefully lower your knees to the right and hold. Lift your knees back to center and then lower them to the left and hold. Keep your movements smooth and gentle as you move in and out of each stretch. Bouncing or jarring movements can cause pain or injury.
The Runner’s Stretch
Start by stepping forward on your right foot and lowering into a lunge, keeping your left leg straight. Bend your upper body forward and place your fingertips on the ground on either side of your right foot. Inhale and then exhale as you straighten your right leg, causing your hips to swing upward. Repeat this movement four times before switching sides.
Each of these five stretches targets a different muscle group in your body, helping you to improve flexibility and range of motion before you begin exercising. Stretching can also help to reduce pain and stress, so that you feel more relaxed and ready for your workout.