You’ve just finished a tough workout—you feel great, you’re covered in sweat and your heart is still racing—what do you do next?
Well, if you’re like most busy people, you might fit in about a minute of stretching and then head to the locker room to gather your stuff and get on with your day. But with a routine like that you could be missing out on some major benefits.
“While studies have shown stretching has a minimal impact on post workout muscle soreness—it can improve your flexibility to boost your workout performance,” said Kate Vidulich a personal trainer, exercise physiologist and founder of Fat Loss Accelerators.
To get the most out of your limited time, she recommends these five important stretches:
We spend most of our time sitting, which can lead to tight, weak hip flexors. Stretching this muscle at the front of your hip on a regular basis can help prevent injury, improve your squat and relieve back pain.
Here's how: kneel in front of something that you can use to hold your foot up (like a couch). Prop your foot up and bring your other heel as close to your butt as possible. You should feel it in the front of your hip. Hold it for 1-2 minutes then switch. Repeat 2-3 times.
Whether you're a seasoned athlete or new to working out, any weight bearing exercise (like running, jumping, weight lifting) can cause tension in your lower back. Include regular stretches to avoid excessive tightness and overuse injuries.
Here’s how: lie on your back, knees bent. Pull both knees towards your chest using your hands, until you feel a moderate stretch. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
Think this stretch is only for runners? Think again. Even if you're not into running, stretching your calf will help increase ankle mobility, giving you a better range of motion in lower body exercises and reducing your risk of injury.
Here’s how: rest your hands on a wall and stagger your stance by placing one foot forward. Lean forward making sure to keep your heel on the ground. Hold for 20-30 seconds each side. Repeat 2-3 times.
Stretching your chest will help relieve upper back pain and improve your posture. Since most of us are hunched over a computer all day long skipping this one is not negotiable.
Here’s how: try the doorway chest stretch. Set up with one arm at 90 degrees against the edge of a doorframe. Turn your head in the opposite direction to intensify the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat 2-3 times.
Since our shoulders are prone to fitness injury, it's important to include this stretch post workout. Again, it can improve your posture and muscular function.
Here's how: interlock your hands together behind your back and gently raise your arms up until you feel a stretch in your shoulders and chest. Hold it for 30 seconds. Repeat 3-4 times.
Find Kate Vidulich on Twitter.