The Joyful Anthology

Stretching Pre Exercise For All

All  fitness activities require a proper warm up. Even a five minute warmup can make the world of a difference in your performance as well as preventing injury. Exercising with muscles that are cold and not properly stretched can result in a muscle strain that keeps you off your feet for days, weeks, or even months.The short-term investment pays off big-time if you do it right.


Most experts agree that dynamic stretches (stretches that incorporate movement and take your joints through their full range of motion) are better than static still stretches that you hold for extended periods. An active warm-up incorporating dynamic stretches better prepares your muscles for the activity to follow. Dynamic stretches may even provide an advantage for performance over static stretches, according to a 2006 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.Dynamic stretches resemble the movements in the activity so it’s considered a functional way of stretching.

These stretches target all the important muscle groups used in fitness activity. No matter what your sport is, you can surely benefit from warming up with these stretches.


 Hip Flexor Stretch

If you work at a desk all day, you probably have tight hip flexors, because they’re constantly in a state of flexion. This makes it extra important to stretch them properly before you work out, says athletic performance coach Hannah Schultz, who suggests performing a dynamic version of a kneeling hip flexor stretch.
You can do this from a  standing or kneeling position Start in a lunge position with your front knee at 90 degrees. Or standing with one foot in front slightly bent .. Begin to straighten your back leg, so you feel a stretch along the front of your back thigh. Keep your front knee aligned over your toes. Raise your arms up over your head and hold for a few seconds, then release. Continue in a dynamic motion, shifting forward as you raise your arms up, then lowering your arms as you come back to the starting position. Make sure you tuck your pelvis in and don’t over arch your back.  Repeat 5 times and then switch side

Side Stretch

Side-stretching poses lengthen the muscles between the ribs and pelvis, including parts of the low back, and open the sides of the rib cage, improving rib cage mobility and the expansiveness of the lungs, which makes breathing easier in all situations, including aerobic activities and Pranayama. In sidebends where an arm stretches overhead to reach for the foot, the latissimus dorsi muscle, which extends from the back waist to the armpit, will also stretch.

  • Stand with your feet hip distance apart, and your arms by your sides.
  • Bend your right knee slightly and raise your left arm overhead. Slowly slide your right hand down your right thigh toward your knee. Put weight into your right hand as you lean your torso to the right. Press your left hip out to the side and reach up with your left arm to increase the stretch in the left side of your torso. Try opening the space between your left ribs with a couple of deep inhales.
  • Stay here for 30 seconds and then do this stretch on the right side.

Pigeon Pose

I recommend doing pigeon pose to stretch the glutes and the iliotibial, or IT, band that runs along the outer thigh.  To get into this pose, fold your right knee in front of you on the floor so your knee is pointing out to the right slightly and the outside of your thigh and shin are on the floor. Extend your left leg behind you, keeping your leg straight and the top of your thigh, shin and foot on the ground. You want to make sure that your hips stay level.. Make the stretch dynamic by adding in a torso twist. Bring your right hand up behind your right ear, then twist to your left so your elbow comes across your body. Repeat several times, then switch sides.

Quad Stretch

Open up your hip flexors and quadriceps with a dynamic version of this classic stretch. Use a wall for support or challenge your balance by performing the stretch without support.

Bend your right knee and grab your right foot or ankle from the outside. Pull your foot in toward your right buttock and hold it there for a count of 10. Repeat 3 to 5 times and switch sides. Triathlon coach Scott Seamster recommends keeping your torso upright and your head and shoulders aligned over your hips during the stretch., It’s important to not overstretch before your workout. Just take the stretch to the point where you feel resistance, not pain or discomfort.

Calf Stretch

The calves are one of the most overused and overlooked muscles in the body, and if you wear heels, run regularly, or both, stretching your calves is a must, since tight, shortened calves can lead to injury.

 This is a simple way to stretch your calves while standing or sitting.

  • Sit comfortably on the floor. If the backs of your legs are really tight and you find yourself slumping, sit on a pillow so you can keep your spine straight.
  • Fold your right leg in and reach your left leg long.
  • Wrap a yoga strap or Theraband (or an old tie or belt from your bathrobe) around the ball of your left foot.
  • Use the strap to pull your toes toward your head.
  • Do not jam your knee into the floor and keep your left heel on the ground.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and then repeat of the other side.
  • (The same motion can be done standing ) 

Adductor Stretch

The adductors involve the inside leg muscles, commonly referred as the groin. The adductor stretch will involve the group of muscles that has a considerably large muscle mass. The main action of these muscles is to pull the leg inward. There is a greater use of them in sports such as soccer, where the adductors are used in kicking a soccer ball with the inside of the foot. Finally, they are used in flexion and extension of the thigh when running or against resistance.

  • Start standing with your feet approximately 3 feet apart.
  • Shift your weight to the one side and allow your knee to bend.
  • Keep the opposite knee straight to feel a stretch on the inside of your thigh.
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds.
  • Relax and repeat on the opposite side.

Hamstring Stretch

If you’re desk-bound all day, or have been sitting in a car or plane traveling, your hamstrings could use some extra love and length. It not only feels good to stretch this commonly tight area, but hamstring flexibility is also important for the health of your back, hips, and knees

  • Prop your left heel up on a surface that is a little lower than your hip, such as a chair or bench. Flex your foot.
  • To increase the stretch, bend forward toward your flexed foot by creasing at your hips. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.

 Now you should be ready and prepped for your joyful exercise activity. Enjoy!

 Photos in this story by Nihura Montiel and Laura Barisonzi


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