Exercises: Back Stretches & Strengthening

Overview

Exercise is a vital part of treating the spine after injury or surgery. Active therapeutic exercises distribute nutrients into the disc space, joints and soft tissues in the back. A regular exercise routine helps patients improve mobility and strength, minimize recurrence, and reduces the severity and duration of possible future episodes of back pain.

What exercises help maintain a healthy back?

Exercises for a healthy back can be divided into three basic groups:

  1. Strengthening: repeated muscle contractions until the muscle becomes tired.
  2. Stretching or Flexibility: slow, sustained lengthening of the muscle.
  3. Low-impact Aerobic: steady exercise using large muscle groups.

All of these exercises should be performed slowly and comfortably to avoid injury. When performing strengthening and flexibility exercises, remember to breathe naturally and without holding your breath; exhale during exertion and inhale during relaxation.

We strongly recommend that you consult with your physician or physical therapist before beginning any exercise program. The following are general exercises for those with low back symptoms. Modifications may be necessary for specific spine conditions. DO NOT ignore pain. If you feel increased pain or pain spreading to the legs, do not continue the activity.

Exercises: Back Stretches

1.Supine Hamstring Stretch: Lie on your back, starting with both knees bent. Wrap a rope or towel around one foot. While holding both ends of the towel, slowly lift one leg off the surface until a stretch is felt in the back of the leg. Hold 20 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat 3 times on each side. Perform 2 times per day.

2.Knee to Chest: Lie on your back with both knees bent. Grab behind one knee and gently pull the knee towards your chest until a comfortable stretch is felt in the lower back. Hold 20 seconds then return to starting position. Repeat 3 times on each side. Perform 2 times per day.

3.Piriformis Stretch: Lie on your back with both knees bent. Pull one knee to your opposite shoulder. Keep your back flat, do not twist. Hold 20 seconds then return to the starting position. Repeat 3 times on each side. Perform 2 times per day.

4.Prone Quadriceps Stretch: Lie on your stomach. Put a rope, sheet or belt around one of your feet and pull your heel toward your buttock until you feel a stretch in the front of the thigh. Hold 20 seconds then return to the starting position. Repeat 3 times on each side. Perform this exercise 2 times per day.

5.Calf stretch: Stand facing a wall. Keep back leg straight with heel on floor and foot facing forward. Bend front knee slightly and lean into wall until a stretch is felt in the calf. It is important to keep the back heel on the floor throughout entire stretch. Hold 20 seconds. Return to starting position. Repeat 3 times on each side. Perform 2 times per day.

Exercises: Back Strengthening

1.Transverse Abdominal Contraction: Lie on your back with both knees bent, feet flat. Tighten abdominal muscles by pulling your belly button towards your spine. Hold 10 seconds and relax. Repeat 10 times. Perform 2 times per day.

2.Bridging: Lie on your back with both knees bent. Squeeze your buttocks together then slowly lift your buttocks off the table, keeping your stomach tight and buttocks contracted. Slowly lower and release to starting position. Hold 5 seconds and repeat 10 times. Perform 2 times per day.

3.Gluteal Squeeze: Lie on your back with both knees bent and squeeze your buttocks together. Hold 10 seconds and relax. Repeat 10 times. Perform 2 times per day.

4.Transverse Abdominal March: Lie on your back with both knees bent. Tighten your abdominal muscles by bringing your belly button toward your spine. Slowly march by lifting one leg off the floor, then alternating to the other. Continue pulling your belly button toward spine during this exercise. Repeat 10 times on each side. Perform 2 times per day.

5.Wall Squats: Stand with your back against a wall with your feet approximately 1-2 feet away from the wall. With feet shoulder width apart, squat approximately ½ of the way down, making sure your knees do not go past your toes. Hold 10 seconds and repeat 10 times. Perform 2 times per day.

Sources & links

If you have more questions, please contact Mayfield Brain & Spine at 800-325-7787 or 513-221-1100.

updated > 1.2017
reviewed by > Lisa Cleveland, PT, Mayfield Clinic, Cincinnati, OH

Mayfield Certified Health Info materials are written and developed by the Mayfield Clinic. This information is not intended to replace the medical advice of your health care provider.

6 Stretches to Improve Strength Training for Bigger Gains

Whether you reach for light dumbbells or the heaviest bar in the gym, lifting weights is one of the best strength training activities there is. It can build muscle, burn calories, and improve bone density. However, because lifting weights constricts the muscles, if you’re not careful, your own body can actually hinder your gains. That’s where stretches to improve strength training come in.

In addition to just feeling good, stretching improves flexibility, allowing you to go deeper into a lift. This translates to better execution, which, in turn, translates to better results. Less noticeable but equally important, stretching circulates blood and oxygen to keep joints and muscles healthy. It helps to rebuild muscles after a tough workout, and it can even rid the body of lactic acid.

Don’t believe us? Try it for yourself with a stretching class on the Aaptiv app today.

“I think most lifters lose sight of the fact that a regular stretching routine is going to allow for a greater range of motion in both lifting and in life,” says Aaptiv trainer Ceasar F. Barajas. He notes that many bodybuilders and CrossFitters become very tight in the shoulders due to the strenuous training. That makes it difficult to perform certain movements, ranging from heart-opening yoga poses to simply scratching the middle of one’s back. So, we asked Barajas to break down the best stretches to improve strength training.

Six Stretches to Improve Strength Training

“Before you attempt any of these, spend three to five minutes really warming up the body with jumping jacks, high knees, butt kicks or walking lunges,” Barajas says. That will help you get into these stretches smoothly, and stay in them.

Deep Squat

How: Stand with your feet just outside of shoulder-width apart and squat low with your heels flat on the ground. Once your heels start to come up, stop. Throughout the movement, try to keep your chest up. Then use your elbows to gently push your knees apart to open the groin and hips. Yogis will know this pose as “malasana.”

Why: “This is excellent for all variations of squat work,” says Barajas. “It helps the body bring the hip crease below knee level when doing a variety of squats. If you can lower all the way down with your heels flat, you’ve got excellent hip mobility.”

Hip and Groin Opener

How: Utilize the same position as the deep squat to lower your body to the ground, with your heels flat and chest up. Then take the left hand and place it on top of the left foot, using the left elbow to push the left knee out. Rotate your right arm up and back as if you’re trying to grab something above and behind you. Hold for five to six deep, conscious breath cycles, then switch sides.

Why: “This is not only a hip and groin opener, but an excellent spinal twist and shoulder opener,” says Barajas. “Be mindful that this is not always easy to get into, but should be attempted little by little every day—and especially on days that you’re lifting—to start introducing this kind of movement to your body.”

Superman

How: Lie face down on the floor with your legs straight back and your arms extended past your head. Raise your arms and legs as high as you comfortably can, hold, and then lower back to the ground. Do three sets of 10 reps.

Why: This exercise stretches and strengthens your lower and middle back for a stronger core. A strong core is essential for stability in nearly all facets of weight lifting.

Hip Bridge

How: Lying on your back, bend your knees about 90 degrees. Move your heels toward your butt. Squeeze your glutes, drive your heels through the floor, brace your shoulders against the ground, and lift your hips to the sky. Keep your heels on the floor throughout the exercise. Hold for a few seconds and repeat.

Why: The hip bridge targets the front and back of your body, stretching your quads and hip flexors, while strengthening your glutes and lower back. Strong glutes and a sturdy lower back are vital to total body lifts like the squat and deadlift.

Hanging Lat Stretch

How: Find a pullup bar, grab it with both hands, and just hang out.

Why: Barajas likes this stretch for its ability to open up the shoulder joints, upper back and abs, which improves range of motion for a wide variety of upper body lifts. He suggests letting the body go completely limp for a few breaths, and then spend a few moments retracting the shoulder blades.

Wall Extensions

How: Stand with your back and heels against a wall. Raise your arms into the goalpost position, with your arms bent at 90 degrees and the backs of your hands touching the wall. Slowly raise and lower your arms, trying to keep your hands and forearms touching the wall the entire time.

Why: Wall extensions improve shoulder mobility, which is beneficial for any lifts or bar grabs that occur behind your head, including the snatch and the clean and jerk.

Stretching and strength training go hand-in-hand—and Aaptiv offers both.

6 Simple, Effective Stretches to Do After Your Workout

When you stretch after your workout, try to focus on the muscles you used while you were exercising.

You don’t need any equipment, but a yoga mat or other cushioned surface can reduce the pressure on your joints and make your stretches more comfortable.

1. Lunging hip flexor stretch

This stretch targets the muscles in your hips, quads, and glutes.

  1. Kneel down on your left knee. Keep your right knee bent, with your right foot flat on the floor in front of you.
  2. Lean forward and stretch your left hip out toward the floor.
  3. Hold this stretch for 30 to 60 seconds before switching legs and doing the opposite side.

2. Piriformis stretch

This stretch targets your piriformis muscle that runs from the base of your spine to your thigh bone. This muscle can affect how well you move your hips, back, legs, and buttocks.

  1. Start by sitting on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you.
  2. Keeping your right leg flat on the floor, lift your left leg and place your left ankle on your right knee.
  3. Slightly arch your back and lean forward until a stretch is felt in your buttocks. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, then repeat with your right leg on your left knee.
  4. Repeat 2 or 3 times with each leg.

3. Cat-Cow stretch

This stretch targets your back muscles.

  1. Begin with your hands and knees on the floor, with your spine in a neutral, relaxed alignment.
  2. Inhale as you let your belly sink toward the floor, pressing your chest forward.
  3. Lift your head, relax your shoulders, and begin to exhale.
  4. Round your spine upward, tucking in your tailbone and pressing your pubic bone forward.
  5. Relax your head toward the floor and repeat. Do this several times in the span of a minute, if you can.

4. Standing calf stretch

As the name suggests, this stretch targets your calf muscles.

  1. Start by standing near a wall or chair for support, with one foot in front of the other, front knee slightly bent.
  2. Keep your back knee straight, both heels on the ground, and lean forward toward the wall or chair
  3. You should feel a stretch along the calf of your back leg.
  4. Try to hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
  5. Switch legs, and do at least 2 or 3 repetitions on each side.

5. Overhead triceps stretch

This stretch targets your triceps and the muscles in your shoulders.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and roll your shoulders back and down to release any tension.
  2. Reach your right arm up to the ceiling, then bend your elbow to bring your right palm down toward the center of your back.
  3. Bring your left hand up to gently pull your right elbow downward.
  4. Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds before switching arms.
  5. Repeat on both sides 2 or 3 times, attempting to get a deeper stretch with each repetition.

6. Standing bicep stretch

This stretch targets your biceps as well as the muscles in your chest and shoulders.

  1. Stand up straight. Place your hands behind your back, and interlace your hands at the base of your spine.
  2. Straighten out your arms and turn your hands so your palms are facing down.
  3. Then, raise your arms as high as you can until you feel a stretch in your biceps and shoulders.
  4. Hold this stretch for 30 to 40 seconds.
  5. Repeat 2 to 3 times.

Should You Stretch Before and After Weightlifting?

Should you stretch before you weightlift?

What about stretching after you weightlift?

These workouts already take up a lot of time and energy.

Do you really want to spend even more time to complete your routine?

Don’t confuse stretching with warming up, or cooling down, although stretching may be part of these activities.

And to make matters a little more confusing, the benefits of stretching can be used in three different phases:

  • Immediately before exercise
  • Immediately after exercise
  • As part of a regular daily program.

And different types of stretching— dynamic, static, or ballistic—give you even more options.

Related: Static Stretching Before, During, And After Lifting

Should You Stretch? Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching put your joints and muscles through a range of motion.

These help you warm up and loosen up, preparing your muscles and joints for the strenuous activity of weightlifting.

It’s best to stick to dynamic stretching before you lift weights.

You can warm up with a small amount of cardiovascular work before your dynamic stretches.

This could be five to ten minutes on the stationary bike or elliptical machine.

Should You Stretch? Static Stretching

With static stretching, you hold a stretch at the end of your range of motion.

Once you feel the stretch you hold that position for a while.

There are various kinds of static stretching.

You can work the muscles that do the opposite action of the one you are stretching to create the stretch.

You can work the muscle itself while it is in a stretched position.

Lastly, you don’t work the muscles at all and only focus on the stretch.

Should You Stretch? Ballistic Stretching

Ballistic stretching is popular among athletes, but not ideal for the average person.

This intense stretching method uses bouncing movements to push your body beyond its normal range of motion.

Static stretches are performed slowly and gradually but the ballistic method stretches muscles much farther and faster.

Ballistic stretches require extra force, they extend the muscles and tendons through a larger range of movement.

Study Results for Stretching Before Weightlifting

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning did a study of three groups after 10 weeks of training.

Participants lifted weights with stretching done first, strength training with stretching done during sets (often seen at the gym), and weight training alone.

They compared the strength results and levels of IGF-1, a muscle building hormone.

The study found that static stretching weakened the muscles when performed both before and during exercise.

Each group got stronger after 10 weeks.

But the group that didn’t stretch at all got significantly stronger than the groups that did, and also had greater levels of IGF-1.

The study showed that stretching before or during exercise had a weakening effect.

It also didn’t prevent injuries.

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Another study, which included more substantial stretching, showed an increase in long-term strength when stretching after exercising.

While dynamic stretching (stretching through movement) is probably better pre-exercise, static stretching many well be the better choice for post-exercise.

Why We Stretch:

  1. Increase or maintain flexibility during our daily activities
  2. Prevent injury while playing sports and exercising
  3. Perform better in sports
  4. Lessen muscle soreness after exercise

We all need a certain amount of flexibility to perform our everyday tasks.

So it makes sense that we should do exercises that maintain or enhance our natural flexibility.

But is stretching as beneficial as we were told?

Should You Stretch? Prevent Sports Injury

Much attention has been focused on how stretching will help prevent injuries but surprisingly, few benefits of stretching before or after physical activity have been confirmed.

Perhaps these benefits are now neither as obvious nor nearly as strong as previously believed.

Some studies have suggested that too much stretching may even be harmful to performance and safety.

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Related: Stretches and Warm-ups for Weight Training

Should You Stretch? Increase Sports Performance

With some activities, research has found that stretching before an event actually makes performance worse.

With a power sport like weightlifting, static stretching before competition or training may affect your ability to use explosive power.

Some researchers have found that stretching may cause the muscles to lose energy stored in the elastic part of muscles.

Others believe that stretching affects the nervous system so that it does not send signals to the muscles as efficiently.

Should You Stretch? Prevent Muscle Soreness After Exercise

Delayed-onset muscle soreness or DOMS occurs when you become sore after exercising.

Stretching before or after exercise has long been believed to reduce or prevent soreness.

However, a review of all studies of stretching practices did not find any benefit from stretching for the prevention of muscle soreness.

But “warming up” adds something more and has more positive effects.

Related: The Ultimate Warmup for Lifting Heavy

Warming Up vs. Stretching

Contrary to popular belief, warming up and stretching aren’t the same thing.

A “warm-up” is a light exercise to get the blood and joint lubricating fluid flowing before your workout.

This may include light jogging, doing some light weights or cycling for 10 to 15 minutes, and some stretching.

A warmup increases the temperature of your muscles and can include static or dynamic stretching.

The increased core temperature means muscles are more pliable and the joints will have a greater range of motion.

This improved range of motion means you now have greater flexibility.

Lifting heavy loads with stiff, inflexible muscles increases the risk of sprains and strains.

To lift heavy weights, break PRs, and add muscle, you’ll need a great warmup to unlock your full potential before every workout.

Warm up before lifting and don’t think a five-minute jog on the treadmill and some lunges are enough.

You’re not ready for a 300-pound deadlift yet.

Related: Why Stretching May Not Help Before Exercise

Rethink Your Preworkout Routine

A growing scientific consensus found that pre-exercise stretching is generally unnecessary and likely counterproductive.

Most physical trainers haven’t recommended extensive stretching before workouts for quite some time.

Most prefer a light and brief stretch beforehand and spending more time on recovery stretching afterward.

“It has been a long time since anyone has recommended extensive stretching before exercise because it has been known for a while now that the best time to stretch is after,” says Richard Cotton, the national director of certification at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

So why did stretching become such an ingrained part of the preworkout routine?

It can help with flexibility and improve range of motion, but trainers say many people confuse stretching with warming up muscles.

Lynn Millar is a professor of physical therapy at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina.

“If you go back to training guidelines, they say that stretching is part of it, but not all of it.

It should not be done alone as a warm-up.”

Related: Foam Rolling Quads – Recovery for Results

Conclusion for Should You Stretch Before and After Weightlifting?

Here’s what we know: stretching and flexibility training can give people a wider range of motion in their joints.

This is helpful in performing their daily activities and to improve balance and posture.

Although stretching before exercises may not be of significant value, regular daily stretching is beneficial for flexibility.

This is important in preventing falls and other injuries as people age.

Stretching alone before a workout or an event is probably not beneficial and may impair performance for some sports and activities, including weightlifting.

So when it comes to preparing for a workout, focus on warming up the body rather than simply stretching muscles.

This means adding exercises in addition to light stretching, like jumping jacks, which can prepare the body for intensive activity without making the muscles vulnerable to overwork.

Related: Stretching Before Exercise: A Life-Changing Tip

Strength and Flex exercise plan


Exercise

The 5-week plan consists of a series of equipment-free exercises designed to improve your strength and flexibility.

The workout instructions and pace are easy to follow to make sure you perform each exercise correctly and in time.

You can easily combine Strength and Flex with our popular Couch to 5K running plan by following the plans on alternate days of the week.

Strength and Flex will help you achieve your recommended 2 weekly sessions of strength exercises.

Strength and Flex:

  • is equipment-free
  • is easy to follow
  • is a full body workout
  • features how-to video clips
  • can be done anywhere, anytime
  • can be used with Couch to 5K

Starting with Strength and Flex Week 1, your goal is to work your way up to Week 5 in 5 weeks. To achieve this, you need to do each podcast at least 3 times in a week.

By Week 5 you’ll be doing back, arm and leg stretches, along with press-ups and squats, with ease. You’ll be feeling stronger, more flexible and full of energy to go about your daily life.

You can do these full body workouts anywhere and any time you choose. They can be done indoors or out in the park or garden, on your own or with a friend.

All you need is enough space to walk about freely, a fixed bench, a wall and either some shoulder-height railings or a shoulder-height horizontal bar.

There are video clips of all the exercises in this series, so you can check you’re doing each move safely and effectively.

Strength and Flex will ease you into the habit of regular exercise, which will help you burn calories, lose weight and stay healthy.

The Week 5 workout is designed to be used beyond the programme. It provides a 45-minute workout to de-stress and feel good.

To exercise, wear something that’s loose and comfortable in a breathable material like cotton, and pick shoes that offer support and cushioning.

See a GP and discuss it with them before you start the Strength and Flex programme if you have any health concerns.

11 Minutes Is All You Need to Build Strength and Improve Flexibility

Stretching is so important for mobility, flexibility, and recovery. But sometimes it’s a total pain to add an extra 10 minutes to your workout for a stretch sesh. The solution? Working stretches into your strength routine with this 11-minute bodyweight workout.

In this video, you’ll warm up with some dynamic exercises. The best time to do a static stretch is when your muscles are already warm, so this workout strategically pairs a strength move with a stretch afterward. By combining both, you’ll increase your muscle tone while staying limber and save serious time by checking off both boxes with one workout. An exercise mat is optional. Crank up the music and hit play to get started.

To recap:You don’t need any equipment for this class. An exercise mat is optional.

Dynamic Warm-Up:
Squat (With Kick Then Knee Crunch)
Jumping Jack
Scissor Jack
Gate Swing
Workout: Each pair of moves will be performed twice through.
Double Leg Kick
Knee Hug With Hip Circle
Extended Leg Reach
Side Stretch
Standard Push-Up
Shoulder Stretch

Straight Leg Crunch
Pencil Stretch
Hip Circle

Looking for more short and effective at-home workouts? Grokker has thousands of routines, so you’ll never get bored. Bonus: For a limited time, Greatist readers get 40 percent off Grokker Premium (just $9 per month) and their first 14 days free. Sign up now!

While static stretching is still almost universally practiced among amateur athletes — watch your child’s soccer team next weekend — it doesn’t improve the muscles’ ability to perform with more power, physiologists now agree. “You may feel as if you’re able to stretch farther after holding a stretch for 30 seconds,” McHugh says, “so you think you’ve increased that muscle’s readiness.” But typically you’ve increased only your mental tolerance for the discomfort of the stretch. The muscle is actually weaker.

Stretching muscles while moving, on the other hand, a technique known as dynamic stretching or dynamic warm-ups, increases power, flexibility and range of motion. Muscles in motion don’t experience that insidious inhibitory response. They instead get what McHugh calls “an excitatory message” to perform.

Image SCORPION (for the lower back, hip flexors and gluteus muscles) Lie on your stomach, with your arms outstretched and your feet flexed so that only your toes are touching the ground. Kick your right foot toward your left arm, then kick your left foot toward your right arm. Since this is an advanced exercise, begin slowly, and repeat up to 12 times.Credit…Illustration by Emily Cooper

Dynamic stretching is at its most effective when it’s relatively sports specific. “You need range-of-motion exercises that activate all of the joints and connective tissue that will be needed for the task ahead,” says Terrence Mahon, a coach with Team Running USA, home to the Olympic marathoners Ryan Hall and Deena Kastor. For runners, an ideal warm-up might include squats, lunges and “form drills” like kicking your buttocks with your heels. Athletes who need to move rapidly in different directions, like soccer, tennis or basketball players, should do dynamic stretches that involve many parts of the body. “Spider-Man” is a particularly good drill: drop onto all fours and crawl the width of the court, as if you were climbing a wall. (For other dynamic stretches, see the sidebar below.)

Even golfers, notoriously nonchalant about warming up (a recent survey of 304 recreational golfers found that two-thirds seldom or never bother), would benefit from exerting themselves a bit before teeing off. In one 2004 study, golfers who did dynamic warm- up exercises and practice swings increased their clubhead speed and were projected to have dropped their handicaps by seven strokes over seven weeks.

Controversy remains about the extent to which dynamic warm-ups prevent injury. But studies have been increasingly clear that static stretching alone before exercise does little or nothing to help. The largest study has been done on military recruits; results showed that an almost equal number of subjects developed lower-limb injuries (shin splints, stress fractures, etc.), regardless of whether they had performed static stretches before training sessions. A major study published earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control, on the other hand, found that knee injuries were cut nearly in half among female collegiate soccer players who followed a warm-up program that included both dynamic warm-up exercises and static stretching. (For a sample routine, visit www.aclprevent.com/pepprogram.htm.) And in golf, new research by Andrea Fradkin, an assistant professor of exercise science at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, suggests that those who warm up are nine times less likely to be injured.

Image HANDWALKS (for the shoulders, core muscles and hamstrings) Stand straight, with your legs together. Bend over until both hands are flat on the ground. ‘‘Walk’’ your hands forward until your back is almost extended. Keeping your legs straight, inch your feet toward your hands, then walk your hands forward again. Repeat five or six times.Credit…Illustration by Emily Cooper

Workouts

7 Stretches You Should Be Doing After Every Workout

Stretching after a workout can reduce muscle fatigue as well as help your muscles to recover faster after a hard gym session. Stretching is also a great way to improve flexibility and range of motion. Check out our 7 top stretches you should be doing after every workout.

  1. Neck
    Sit upright and tall with your shoulders relaxed. Bring your left ear down toward your left shoulder and feel the stretch. Roll your head down toward the ground and bring your chin to your chest and hold. Finish by rolling your head to the right bringing your right ear to your right shoulder.
  2. Chest & Biceps
    Stand tall, interlace your fingers behind your back and straighten your arms. With arms straight, lift arms up behind you while keeping your back straight and your shoulders down. Keep your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears.
  3. Triceps
    Stand tall and place your left elbow in you right hand. Reach your left arm overhead placing your palm on the center of your back and supporting the elbow in your right hand. Reach your fingertips down your spine. Keep your shoulder relaxed and away from your ears. Repeat with the opposite arm.
  4. Hamstrings
    Stand tall, with your shoulders down and feet hip-width apart. Bring your left leg forward, heel down, toes up and leg straight. Keep your back straight, abs strong and bend the right knee as if sitting back while supporting yourself with both hands on your thighs. Repeat on opposite side.
  5. Quads
    Stand tall, holding on to the wall for balance if required. Keep your feet hip-width apart, your back straight and your feet parallel. Reach back and grab your left foot in your left hand, keeping your thighs lined up next to each other. Repeat on opposite side.
  6. Back
    Start on your hands and knees with your hands shoulder-width apart, knees hip-width apart, abs engaged, and your back in a strong but neutral position. Switch on your abs as if pulling your belly button into your spine. Allow your head and neck to fall naturally between your arms.
  7. Hips and Glutes
    Bend your left knee, and cross your right ankle at your left knee. Grab the back of your left thigh and pull your legs toward your chest. Place your right elbow on the inside of your right knee and push it outwards to feel the stretch. Repeat on opposite side.

Need help finding the best stretches for your workout? Have a chat to a personal trainer today.

Today, you’re going to learn how to stretch.

If your warm-up is the appetizer, and your strength based workout is the main course, than a post-workout stretching routine is the dessert (sorry for making you think about Creme brulee).

In this guide, we’ll cover it all (click to get to those sections):

  • Beginner Full Body Stretching Routine Video
  • Advanced Full Body Stretching Routine Video
  • Beginner Full Body Yoga Routine Video
  • Foam Rolling Routine Video
  • Should You Stretch Before or After Working Out?

Now, if you’re stretching as part of a strength training routine, you might be interested in our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program.

We don’t just focus on weight loss, but helping people level up their entire lives. That includes nutrition, mobility, goal setting, and even overcoming fears and becoming an actual superhero.

Okay let’s get bendy like gumby!

Beginner Full Body Stretching Routine Video

The Beginner Full Body Stretching Routine:

  1. Reach above and fully extend your body.
  2. Keep legs straight, bend forward and stretch for 10 seconds.
  3. Stretch towards the left for 10 seconds, and then the right for 10 seconds.
  4. With legs together bend forwards for 10 seconds.
  5. Squat down and hug your knees to your chest.
  6. Roll onto your back in the same position.
  7. Kneel and lean back with arms extended and rock forwards stretching the lower back (repeat 3-5 times).
  8. Sit with the bottoms of your feet together, lean forward and stretch (repeat 2 or 3 times).

You can do this routine both AFTER your strength training routine, and also on your off days. Do your best to stick with this routine regularly to get maximum benefits like increased mobility and flexibility!

Advanced Stretching Routine

This advanced stretching routine is a mix of yoga, stretching, tai-chi, pilates, and awesome .

Although I move quickly through the movements to keep the video short, don’t confuse my movements with bouncing. Stretch as far as you can, hold it for a few seconds without bouncing, and then repeat the process

Is Yoga Good for a post-workout stretch?

Yoga is awesome.

It can help improve flexibility, strength, and mindfulness.

Plus, if you’re looking for a stretching routine to cool down with after your training, yoga almost seems built for it. Oftentimes a yoga routine will end in corpse pose, the perfect posture after a hard training session.

Here is a FULL yoga routine you can do anywhere. It’s a great routine to follow on your non-training days:

The above video (Water Series – A) is taken from our course, Nerd Fitness Yoga. If you like it, I’d encourage you to go browse the page and check it out.

Want more free videos and demos on yoga poses? You can click right here for “21 Yoga Poses for Beginners.”

Using a Foam roller for post-workout stretches

Do you own a foam roller?

With that, and a little floor space, you’ll have all you need for perfect post-workout stretch.

Let’s show you how to do the following:

  • Thoracic Spine
  • Glutes (both sides)
  • Quads (one at a time)
  • Abductors

Here’s a video demonstrating the moves, plus a T-Rex (this is Nerd Fitness after all):

Want more tips on starting a foam roller practice? Click right here for our article “How to Use A Foam Roller.”

Should I stretch Before or After A Workout?

Let’s get the answer to this question right out of the way: “Should I Stretch BEFORE or AFTER my workout?”

The science is pretty clear on this one:

  1. This consolidation of studies didn’t find any benefits to stretching before a workout.
  2. Static stretching will not result in the reduction of chance of injury.
  3. Static stretching can actually decrease your potential for strength gains and performance.

Instead, you should be doing a dynamic warm-up before you strength train (jump jacking, leg swings, arm circles) instead.

As this study shows, “a dynamic warm up” can also help reduce soreness after a workout.

Back to stretching.

Stretching AFTER a workout CAN be helpful, but not for the reasons you’d expect!

Stretching hasn’t been proven to reduce soreness or improve one’s recovery time, but stretching CAN help improve flexibility.

This is super helpful if you have the flexibility and mobility of this robot:

So stretching after a workout allows you to work on flexibility and mobility without needing to worry about losing your strength (if you had stretched before your workout)!

And with improved flexibility comes improved performance in almost all areas of life (yup, even THAT).

  • Also, as you get older, your flexibility and mobility start to go…making you FEEL older.
  • If you can stay flexible, you’re more likely to stay happy and healthy for far longer.
  • Staying flexible keeps you active, and staying active keeps you young.

pARTING WORDS ON STRETCHING EXERCISES

What’s that? You want even more stretching recommendations?

Depending on how you’re feeling, where you’re sore, and so on – you can throw in some additional movements:

The Ballet Stretch

The Full Body Stretch:

The Back Stretch:

No matter what training your doing, whether it’s with bodyweights, actual weights, or running, always make sure you take some time post-workout for some stretching exercises: you’ll be improving your flexibility which gets more important every day you get older!

Alright, your turn:

Do you have any favorite post-exercise stretches?

Any difficult areas you try and troubleshoot after your training?

What do you do to help with post-workout recovery?

Let us know in the comments!

-Steve

PS: With all this talk on post-workout stretching, did you remember to warm up before your workout? I got you!

All photo citations can be read right here.

Stretch and strengthen workout

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