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What is dynamic stretching?

Dynamic stretching or warm-ups gained popularity in sports about a decade ago as an effective technique to prep athletes pre-game.

Today, this exercise is part of a standard warm-up routine, be it in sports or before you start your gym workout.

Well, it’s all in the name really. Dynamic suggests movement or action and that’s what a dynamic stretch is; a stretch that keeps moving.

In a static stretch, you’ll keep that stretch happening in a static position for anything from 5 to 60 seconds. Whereas with a dynamic stretch, you’ll hold for just a few seconds, possibly incorporating movement in other parts of your body and release in a slow-motion back to the starting position. Repeat.

Dynamic stretching examples

Okay, left leg straight and extended, right leg bent. While your left leg is at its straight, stretched and extended limit, reach both arms to the sky, then bring the extended leg back to a bent position.

Left leg extended behind, right leg bent and leaning forward, twist left and right and extend your arms to the sky.

Or how about standing and doing a gentle twist with a difference. Hold both arms out straight and as you twist, twist your arms palm up to palm down.

As you can see, each stretch is far from static, there’s a fairly constant, fluid movement throughout each.

According to Greatist, here’s what a Five-Minute Dynamic Warm-Up Routine should include:

  • Lunge with a Twist
  • Knee to Chest
  • High Kicks
  • Hip Stretch With A Twist
  • T-Push-Ups
  • Jump Squats (Advanced)
  • Jump Lunges (Advanced)

Interested to know how often should you work out in a week ideally? Find out in our insightful blog post!

What are the benefits of dynamic stretching?

From all accounts, dynamic stretching is a great way to improve your performance if you’re about to do something – exercise or play a sport – requiring a lot of power, speed or strength.

Adding dynamics to your stretching regime can increase your overall power, endurance, and coordination, not to mention enhance balance.

Moreover, a good dynamic warm-up boosts your range of movement and increases the blood and oxygen flow to your muscles, ligaments, and tendons before you kick-start your actual workout.

Dynamic stretching as a warm-up

What is warming up really meant to achieve? Basically, the best warm-ups warm and prepare all the muscles you plan to use in your workout or activity, be it a sport, run or swim.

Ideally, the stretches you do should mimic the movements you will use in your workout or activity. Static stretches can’t do that – they’re not really movements. Dynamic stretching can and it’s a far more enjoyable way to warm up.

Let’s face it, professional or amateur, we all hate warm-ups; they’re repetitive and can become dull. The danger is that over time, we start to skip through them faster than we should and that’s when we open ourselves up to injury.

Dynamic stretching brings more of a fun factor into the stretching process; it’s almost like a mini workout in itself and helps you stick to a regimented warm-up plan.

Is static stretching still relevant?

It really depends on the activity and intensity. Generally speaking, dynamic stretching increases speed and power of motion, whereas static stretching can do a better job of increasing your range of motion.

There is still room for both in a training regime. The best advice is to talk to a Personal Trainer or Gym Instructor. They can work out a stretching mix appropriate to your goals.

Better still, why not become that qualified Personal Trainer or Gym Instructor yourself with our nationally accredited fitness courses and show others how to do it? Enquire now and speak to one of our career advisors for more information!

12 Crucial Dynamic Warm-up Exercises to Do Before Your Workout

by: Yuri Elkaim

If you’re like most people, you’ll be wondering why dynamic warm-up exercises are important to do before a workout. Or perhaps you already know their importance and are simply looking for some great dynamic stretches to add into your warm-up routine.

Either way, you’ll find your answers here. Before I dive into the 12 crucial dynamic warm-up exercises you should absolutely be doing before your workouts, let’s cover some of the basics…

What Is Dynamic Stretching?

Dynamic stretching is a form of active movement that isn’t about holding a stretch but rather taking your body through ranges of motion that will better prepare you for your workout or sporting activity.

Static stretching is the opposite. It’s where you hold a stretch for an extended period of time. A good warm-up should really focus on using dynamic stretches, not static.

Why Is It Important to Warm-up Before Exercise?

Unless you want to increase your risk of injury and reduce your performance, a good warm-up is critical. A good dynamic warm-up increases range of movement and blood and oxygen flow to your muscles, tendons, and ligaments before they’re called upon to do serious workout.

When I worked as the strength coach for the men’s soccer team at the University of Toronto, I had the importance of dynamic warm-up exercises drilled in to our players’ heads. Every practice and game we had a solid 10 to 15-minute dynamic warm-up and it made a huge difference in preventing injuries and increasing their performance.

Numerous studies have shown the benefits of this type of warm-up for injury prevention and performance improvement, including:

  • This study noted improved power and agility after a dynamic warm-up compared to static stretching. (1)
  • This study showed that static stretching had a negative influence on vertical performance, whereas dynamic stretching had a positive impact. (2)
  • This study showed great power output and reaction time after dynamic stretching vs static stretching. (3)
  • This study reminds us that a good warm-up is helpful at preventing needless injuries. (4)

I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the point—a proper warm-up with dynamic stretching exercises is important.

What Is a Good Dynamic Warm-up?

A good dynamic warm-up should consist of the following components:

  1. a light aerobic warm-up
  2. soft tissue work on a foam roller (optional)
  3. dynamic warm-up exercises (dynamic stretching)

That’s right – do not begin working out or doing anything active before you’ve done at least steps 1 and 3, 2 is a bonus if you can. We’ll look at each one in more detail, but first, let me answer one more common question:

How Long Should a Dynamic Warm-up Be?

In general, you can complete a great dynamic warm-up in about 10 minutes—5 minutes for your light aerobic component and 5 minutes for the dynamic stretches. If you incorporate foam rolling I would add another 3-5 minutes (it’s totally worth it).

Step 1: Light Aerobic Warm-up

Every workout needs to start with activity that will raise your core temperature and make your muscles more elastic for the coming workout. Doing some light jogging, biking, or anything else that increases your heart rate/temperature is what you need to start with.

Otherwise, getting into your workout with cold muscles is like stretching an elastic band that you’ve just pulled out of the freezer. I’ll let you figure out what happens there.

Your light aerobic/cardio warm-up can last 5-10 minutes and should be done at your “talk test pace”, which is a pace/intensity where you can hear your breathing but are still able to maintain a conversation. So, no “huffing and puffing” yet.

Step 2: Soft Tissue Work on a Foam Roller

When your body has chronic tightness, tension, or an area with a history of injury or overuse, adhesions usually form in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These adhesions can block circulation and cause pain, inflammation, and limited mobility. This is known as the cumulative injury cycle (or cumulative trauma disorder).

It means that a repetitive effort such as sitting or lifting a weight causes certain muscles to tighten. But here’s the dilemma—a tight muscle tends to weaken and a weak muscle tends to tighten. This creates a vicious cycle.

As a result of weak and tight tissues, internal forces arise.

Friction, pressure, or tension can be present at the same time, which then reduces blood flow to the area. With less circulation, less oxygen comes to the tissue, causing fibrosis and adhesions to occur in the affected tissues. Eventually, a tear or injury occurs, and this restarts the adhesion process.

That’s why lifting the groceries out of the car didn’t tweak your back. It was likely the years of sitting that created weak and tense tissues that were just waiting to snap. Stretching does nothing to alleviate this.

However, deep-tissue work does. It is simply the act of physically breaking down these adhesions, usually by applying direct deep pressure or friction to the muscles.

As these adhesions are broken down by deep-tissue work, blood flow and lymph flow to the affected area are enhanced.

Instead of driving to a massage therapist several times per week, you can whip out your foam roller in the comfort of your own living room and work through your body’s tight spots while watching your favorite TV show.

My foam roller is an integral part of our family. It has its own place in the corner of our living room. It’s almost ornamental. That way, it’s accessible and I see it regularly, which reminds me to use it every day.

There are many types of foam rollers on the market, but I recommend getting one that is very firm. Avoid the cheap ones that are nothing more than glorified flotation noodles like you find in many swimming pools.

You can also get a little more adventurous and use a RumbleRoller, which is essentially a foam roller with protruding extensions that dig deep into your muscles. They’re certainly quite uncomfortable—but highly effective.

As effective as foam rolling and deep-tissue work are, I should warn you that deep-tissue massage (whether hands-on or via a foam roller) is not a comfortable, relaxing experience. The pressure and friction that deep-tissue work involves can be pretty intense. The best way to get through it is to breathe deeply and remind yourself that you’re doing your body a big favor.

The tension will dissipate with just a few sessions, and with time you’ll feel so much better afterwards.

You should also be prepared for the possibility of soreness after deep-tissue work, because as the pressure breaks up adhesions and introduces friction into an affected area, your tissues will probably get the same type of inflammation-related fluid accumulation you get when you lift weights.

Again, this step is optional but HIGHLY recommended if you want to feel and perform at your best.

Step 3: Dynamic Warm-up Exercises

Now that your body is warm, it’s time to work out the kinks, dust off the cobwebs, and get your muscles and joints used to the ranges of motions and movement patterns you’ll be encountering during the workout.

At this stage, the goal isn’t to stretch, but rather to go through “dynamic stretching” movements that will progressively loosen your muscles and lubricate your joints.

Examples of dynamic warm-up movements include lunge walks, inch worms, push-ups, leg swings, and pretty much any other bodyweight movement that incorporates a certain degree of flexibility, strength, and range of motion. Below, I’ve outlined 12 of the best dynamic warm-up exercises you should be doing before you workout and…

I’ve also thrown in a video to enjoy as well near the end of this post that will walk you through an entire dynamic warm-up sequence.

The 12 BEST Dynamic Warm-up Exercises

Now, let’s look at the 12 best dynamic stretches I recommend you do before any of your workouts. Remember, these are to be done AFTER your light aerobic warm-up and your soft tissue work if you chose to do it.

There are a lot of different things you can do in a dynamic warm-up, but I am going to take you through a number of exercises which I do on a daily basis before my workouts that are going to help you loosen up and help you feel more supple.

1. Vinyasa Flow

This yoga staple is a great dynamic warm-up exercise for strengthening your upper body while opening up the back and front of your body. Go through 5 flows at a nice and easy tempo.

2. Inchworm

These are a slight progression from the Vinyasa Flows and possibly my favorite dynamic exercise of all time. They target the entire backside of your body and open up a lot of muscles that get stiff with prolonged sitting. It’s actually a dynamic version of vinyasa flow yoga.

How to do it:

Starting in a Downward Dog position on your hands and feet, walk your feet as far forward as possible while keeping your legs straight. Then, walk your hands out, extending your body into a pushup position and lower towards the floor, arching your back so that your head and shoulders reach to the sky. Then, flow back into Downward Dog. Walk your feet in again and repeat 5 times.

3. Dynamic Pigeon

This is the ultimate glute loosener. If you’ve got tight hips, this is exercise that will be uncomfortable and rewarding at the same time.

How to do it:

In a push up position, bring your right knee toward your right hand while keeping your shin parallel to your hips so that your left foot comes just behind your left hand. Sink your hips towards the floor, feel the stretch, then return to push up position and repeat on the other leg. Go for 10 reps total.

4. Leg Swings

This is a great movement for opening up your hips and hamstrings.

How to do it:

Hold on to a wall or fixed surface (or do this move without support for an added stability challenge). Swing one leg back and forth as if you’re kicking a soccer ball. Do about 10 swings on each side.

5. Fire Hydrant Circles

You might get laughed at for looking like a dog peeing on a fire hydrant but you’ll be the one laughing when everyone is complaining that their hips and lower body are stiff and store.

How to do it:

On all 4 fours, make sure your core is braced and nothing moves other than the working leg. Keeping your right leg bent at 90 degrees, take it out to the side and then in a circular motion. Do 5 circles in one direction, then the opposite. Then switch to the other leg.

6. Leg Crossovers

This is a great dynamic warm-up exercises for opening those tight glutes, hamstrings, and IT bands.

How to do it:

Lying on your back with your arms outstretched in a “T” formation, bring your right leg across your body so that our toes meet your left hand. Return to start and repeat with left leg. Go for 10 reps total.

7. Scorpion

This exercise is opposite of the Leg Crossover in that it’s the same movement but just done face down.

How to do it:

Here, in your “T” formation face toward the floor, roll your body to the left so that your right heel comes across your body to meet your left hand. Return and repeat to other side. Go for 10 reps and you’ll feel your obliques, hip flexors, and quads open up nicely.

8. Page Turns

I have to credit to the German national soccer team for this one. A terrific dynamic stretch for opening up tight glutes and allowing better rotation through your thoracic spine.

How to do it:

In a fetal position on your left side, keeping your knees stacked, open up your right arm so that it comes across your body and touches the floor to the right of your body (kind of like your body is a book that’s being opened up). Return to fetal position and repeat for 5 reps, then switch sides.

9. Frog Walk-In

This dynamic stretch is wonderful for opening up your hips and upper hamstrings.

How to do it:

In a push-up position bring your right foot through to the outside of your right hand. Sit your hips down and feel the stretch, then return to starting position and repeat with your other leg. Go for 10 reps total.

10. Frog Walk-In Twist

This exercise is a twisting progression from your Frog Walk-in.

How to do it:

Begin in a push-up position and bring one foot in (as before), but now we are going to rotate the back foot so that it’s flat on the floor and then we are going to twist and open up to the side. This is a great dynamic exercise to continue targeting the muscles of hips through rotation.

11. Twisting Reverse Lunge

The twisting reverse lunge will help to open up your hip flexors and tight abdominal muscles, while also challenging your balance.

How to do it:

From a standing position take a long step back with left foot, drop down into a lunge, and then twist and extend, over your right leg. Then, return to standing and repeat with the other leg/side for a total of 10 reps.

12. 2-Step Hamstring Stretch

How to do it:

Start off in a standing position and then drop into a forward lunge. From there, take your forearm, drop it to your instep so that you are now getting a lot of upper hamstring and groin action.

Next, take your hand to other side of your foot and extend back so that your leg straightens. This targets more of the belly of the hamstring. Then, reverse this motion and come back to your original standing position or move through a series of lunge walks as you perform this lunge-to-straight leg sequence.

A Dynamic Warm-up Walkthrough Video

Now that I’ve shown you the 12 best dynamic stretches, here’s a walkthrough video showing you how to sequence a bunch of these exercises together into a great warm-up…

Don’t Forget The Cool-Down

Warm ups are really important – but workout recovery is just as key! Check out my 11 overlooked strategies to go from “sore” to “supple” in my FREE download, Workout Recovery Formula. Download it now by clicking the banner below.

Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.

Dynamic Stretching

  • Flexion/Extension – Tuck your chin into your chest, and then lift your chin upward as far as possible. 6 to 10 repetitions
  • Lateral Flexion – lower your left ear toward your left shoulder and then your right ear to your right shoulder. 6 to 10 repetitions
  • Rotation – Turn your chin laterally toward your left shoulder and then rotate it toward your right shoulder
  • 6 to 10 repetitions

Flexion

Lateral Flexion

Rotation

Shoulder Circles

  • Stand tall, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent
  • Raise your right shoulder towards your right ear, take it backwards, down and then up again to the ear in a smooth action
  • 6 to 10 repetitions
  • Repeat with the other shoulder

Raise

Back

Down

Arm Swings

  • Stand tall, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent
  • Keep the back straight at all times
  • Overhead/Down and back – Swing both arms continuously to an overhead position and then forward, down, and backwards. 6 to 10 repetitions
  • Side/Front Crossover – Swing both arms out to your sides and then cross them in front of your chest
  • 6 to 10 repetitions

Side Bends

  • Stand tall with good posture, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, hands resting on hips
  • Lift your trunk up and away from your hips and bend smoothly first to one side, then the other, avoiding the tendency to lean either forwards or backwards
  • Repeat the whole sequence 6 to 10 times with a slow rhythm, breathing out as you bend to the side, and in as you return to the centre

Hip circles and twists

  • Circles – With your hands on your hips and feet spread wider than your shoulders, make circles with your hips in a clockwise direction for 6 to 10 repetitions. Then repeat in a counterclockwise direction
  • Twists – Extend your arms out to your sides, and twist your torso and hips to the left, shifting your weight on to the left foot. Then twist your torso to the right while shifting your weight to the right foot
  • 6 to 10 reps on each side

Half Squat

  • Stand tall with good posture holding your hands out in front of you for balance
  • Now bend at the knees until your thighs are at 45° with the floor
  • Keep your back long throughout the movement, and look straight ahead
  • Make sure that your knees always point in the same direction as your toes
  • Once at your lowest point, fully straighten your legs to return to your starting position
  • Repeat the exercise sixteen times with a smooth, controlled rhythm
  • Breath in as you descend, and out as you rise
  • 6 to 10 repetitions

Leg Swings

  • Flexion/Extension- Stand sideways onto the wall
  • Weight on your left leg and your right hand on the wall for balance
  • Swing your right leg forward and backwards
  • 6 to 10 repetitions on each leg

  • Cross-Body flexion/Abduction – Leaning slightly forward with both hands on a wall and your weight on your left leg, swing your right leg to the left in front of your body, pointing your toes upwards as your foot reaches its furthest point of motion
  • Then swing the right leg back to the right as far as comfortable, again pointing your toes up as your foot reaches its final point of movement
  • 6 to 10 repetitions on each leg

Lunges

  • Standing tall both feet together (starting position)
  • Keeping the back straight lunge forward with the right leg approx. 1 to 1½ metre
  • The right thigh should be parallel with the ground and the right lower leg vertical
  • Spring back to the starting position
  • Repeat with the left leg
  • 6 to 10 repetitions on each leg

Ankle Bounce

  • Double leg bounce – Leaning forward with your hands on the wall and your weight on your toes, raise and lower both heels rapidly (bounce)
  • Each time, lift your heels one to two inches from the ground while maintaining ground contact with the ball of your feet
  • 6 to 10 repetitions

  • Single leg bounce – leaning forward with your hands on a wall and all your weight on your left foot, raise the right knee forward while pushing the left heel towards the ground
  • Then lower the right foot to the floor while raising the left heel one or two inches
  • Repeat in a rapid, bouncy fashion
  • 6 to 10 repetitions on each leg

Active Stretching

Active stretching is also referred to as static-active stretching. An active stretch is one where you assume a position and then hold it there with no assistance other than using the strength of your agonist muscles.

For example, an active stretch is bringing your leg up high and then holding it there without anything (other than your leg muscles themselves) to keep the leg in that extended position. The tension of the agonists in an active stretch helps to relax the muscles being stretched (the antagonists) by reciprocal inhibition.

Active stretching increases active flexibility and strengthens the agonistic muscles. Active stretches are usually quite difficult to hold and maintain for more than 10 seconds and rarely need to be held any longer than 15 seconds. Many of the movements (or stretches) found in various forms of yoga are active stretches.

lower body stretch

Related Pages

  • stretching books
  • list of stretches

Disclaimer

The above information is presented as a general guide. The author and publisher take no responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, action or application of medication based on this information. See more: Disclaimer.

A Primer on Active and Passive Stretching

Stretching used to be so simple: You touched your toes a few times and off you went. Today, there are a lot of mixed messages — and things we don’t know. Is it better to stretch before or after exercise? What’s the best way to do it? Is yoga just fancy stretching?

To cut through the confusion, here’s a quick primer on common techniques, where your yoga practice fits in and how stretching can help deliver improved range of motion, flexibility, circulation and more kick-butt success in the rest of your workouts.

STATIC STRETCHING

Static stretching, when you hold a posture for a period of time, is one of the most common methods of stretching. There are two types of static stretching — active and passive.

With active stretching, you use the strength of one muscle group to stretch the opposing group. One muscle group is tensed and held in position and the opposing muscle relaxes and elongates. For example, if you’re stretching your hamstrings, your quads are working. Throughout, you’re playing an active role in stretching your muscles. The result is you strengthen one muscle and increase the flexibility of the other.

Recent research indicates passive stretching before a workout can actually decrease performance. But because it releases muscle tension more gradually, studies have shown it’s ideal for rehabbing muscles after an injury. Many trainers reserve it for a post-workout cool down and it can be a great antidote to a long day of sitting — whether that’s at a desk or after a long road trip.

READ MORE > STRETCHES FOR LOOSER HAMSTRINGS | 5-POSE YOGA FIX

DYNAMIC STRETCHING

Unlike static stretching, dynamic stretching involves continuous movement to gradually increase range of motion, speed or both. Don’t confuse this with the bouncing toe touches from gym class. Dynamic stretching is controlled, smooth and deliberate. It helps increase blood flow, raises core body temperature and wakes up the nervous system. Think about flowing between cat and cow to warm up the spine. Studies show including dynamic stretching as part of a warm up improves strength, agility and endurance, which may be why many fitness pros suggest dynamic stretching before a workout.

Most yoga practices use all three types of stretching. Moving through a sun salutation for a full-body warm up is dynamic stretching. The balance between contracting and stretching in active stretching can be found in most standing postures. For example, in warrior II, the quadriceps are working and engaged and that allows the inner thighs to stretch and lengthen. Whereas many of the more restorative poses found at the end of a class involve a passive stretch. For example, a seated forward fold uses the weight of the body under gravity as the torso folds over the lower body to stretch the back of the legs.

Of course, there’s a whole lot more than stretching and lengthening muscles in yoga. Physically it also incorporates strength, alignment and balance. The focus on breath and meditation helps with concentration, focus, stress and relaxation. Together, and when practiced regularly, it leads to head-to-toe, full-body benefits ranging from improved mental clarity and flexibility to cardiovascular health and better sleep.

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19 Simple Stretches That Will Improve Your Flexibility

by: Yuri Elkaim

You know that awe-struck feeling you get when you watch an experienced yogi fold their body into what seems like an impossible shape?

Chances are there’s a little envy thrown in with that awe, as you wouldn’t mind that same level of flexibility for yourself.

Luckily, adding a few stretches to your daily routine will have you trading in envy for a bendable body of your own.

However, there is one thing to remember before start a stretching program.

Always Get Warm Before Stretching

It’s important that you always warm up before stretching, as muscles are more elastic and less prone to tear when warm (1).

A good rule of thumb is to aim for a five-minute dynamic warm up before you stretch. This includes exercises like pushups, walking lunges, leg swings, or any other bodyweight exercise that gets your blood pumping and involves some degree of flexibility and range of motion.

However, you don’t want to stretch too much before a workout, as it has been shown in some studies to lower performance, causing runners to slow down, jumpers not to jump as high, and even limiting how much weight lifters can lift if done immediately before a workout (2).

You also don’t want to excessively stretch your muscles after your workout. This is because strength training essentially causes microscopic tears in muscle fibers.

Following exercise, these tears repair themselves, resulting in stronger muscles.

What we don’t want to do is tear these fibers even more with excessive stretching. Instead, if you’re stretching post-workout, concentrate on shorter holds of 5 to 10 seconds for each stretch.

But if you’re stretching separately from your workout, you can focus on holding your stretch for longer (20 to 30 seconds) after warming up.

Easy Stretches to Improve Flexibility

Now without further ado, below is a list of stretches to improve flexibility you can do anywhere at any time. Most are standing or require simply a floor, wall, or chair.

Hamstring Stretches

1. Scissor Hamstring Stretch

The scissor hamstring stretch can be done anywhere with a level surface.

  • Begin standing, stepping one foot roughly two feet behind you.
  • Keep both legs straight and bend forward from your hips.
  • Touch the floor with your fingertips if you can.
  • Once your flexibility increases, you can try gripping your ankle and pulling yourself forward further for a deeper stretch.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, switching your leading leg.

2. Instep Hamstring Stretch

This challenging stretch targets not only your hamstrings but also your inner thighs and core. Be sure to breathe and keep your upper body and core engaged so you don’t round your back forward.

  • Stand tall with your arms at your sides.
  • Step backward into a lunge with your right foot.
  • Place your right hand on the floor and your left elbow to the inside of your left foot. Hold for a 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Next, place your left hand back on the floor, hands on either side of your left foot.
  • Press back to straighten the front leg for a deep hamstring stretch. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, being sure to breathe.
  • Bend the left leg again into a lunge, and, torso long, twist your chest toward your left knee and lift your left hand up to the ceiling, for a rotational stretch. Breathe and hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

3. Single Hamstring Stretch

  • Begin on the floor, bending one leg in toward you at the knee with the other extended in front of you.
  • Lean forward from your hips over your extended leg, tip-toeing your fingertips toward your toes.
  • Hold for 30 seconds then switch legs.

Hip Flexor Stretches

4. Seated Groin Stretch

  • Begin seated on the floor, knees bent out to your sides and soles of your feet touching.
  • Pull the feet gently in toward your body until you feel a stretch in your hips and inner thighs.
  • Once your flexibility increases, try leaning forward to deepen the stretch.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

5. Pigeon Stretch

The pigeon stretch (also a yoga pose) is often referred to as the King of Hip Openers, giving you an idea of just how powerful a stretch it really is.

  • Begin in a tabletop position, on all fours.
  • Bring your right leg forward and sink down so the outer edge is resting on the floor.
  • Extend your left leg behind you, keeping your hips angling toward the floor.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then step your right foot back under you and repeat on the left leg.

Calf Stretch

6. Wall Calf Stretch

  • Begin by bracing your hands on a wall in front of you.
  • Step your right leg forward and left leg behind you, feet facing forward.
  • Bend your right leg, while working to keep your left heel on the ground.
  • Hold for 15 seconds, then switch.

Quadriceps Stretch

7. Standing Quad Stretch

  • Stand tall on a flat surface.
  • If you need to, use a chair or wall for support as you bend your left knee and grab your foot with your left hand.
  • Pull your foot toward your glutes, keeping your chest open.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.

Upper Body Stretches

8. Single-Arm Triceps Stretch

  • Begin by lifting one arm up and over your head, folding at the elbow.
  • Now, grasp your elbow with your opposite hand and gently pull, creating a deep tricep stretch.
  • Hold for 30 seconds on each arm.

9. Cow Face Pose for Shoulders

This stretch is actually a yoga pose. It stretches the front of the shoulders as well as the triceps, and is great for relieving tight shoulders from slouching or working on a computer.

  • Begin either sitting or standing.
  • Extend your right arm straight up, then bend it at the elbow and let it fall behind you.
  • Bend your left arm back behind you (you will already feel the shoulder begin to stretch) and attempt to grab the fingertips of your right hand.
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds then repeat with the other arm.

Tip: This stretch may take a while to perform fully, so rest your fingertips as close together as possible when first starting.

10. Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch

  • Begin standing, extending one arm across your body.
  • Wrap the opposite arm around your extended arm, gently pulling until you feel your shoulder stretch.
  • Hold for 30 seconds on each arm.

11. Chest Corner Stretch

  • Begin by finding a corner in your house or office.
  • Stand with your feet slightly away from the wall, one hand and elbow on the side of the corner.
  • Now lean forward into the corner until you feel your chest and shoulder muscles stretch.
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

12. Doorway 1-Arm Chest Stretch

The doorway chest stretch is similar to the corner stretch, but instead your arm is extended straight.

  • Begin standing in an open doorway, your right hand on the frame at shoulder level.
  • Holding the right arm straight, with your left relaxed at your side, rotate your torso to the left until you feel the stretch in the right side of your chest.
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Back Stretches

13. Knee-to-Chest Stretch

Release your lower back with this stretch.

  • Begin lying on your back on the floor, feet pointing skyward.
  • Bend your right knee into your chest, grasping it with your hands to pull it closer.
  • You will also feel a slight hamstring stretch.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.

14. Child’s Pose

Another yoga pose, child pose stretches the upper and lower back, as well as the lats (upper back) and shoulders.

  • Begin on all fours on the floor, hands and knees hip and shoulder-width apart.
  • Tuck your toes under and push your hips back over your knees.
  • Let your arms stretch in front of you as you rest your forehead on the floor.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

15. Lying Knee Twist

  • Begin lying on your back, legs extended out in front of you.
  • Bend your right knee and extend it over your left leg.
  • Keep your upper back on the floor. You should feel a stretch in your lower back and glute muscles.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides.

Core Stretches

16. Cobra Pose

  • Begin lying on your stomach with your hands on the floor beneath your shoulders.
  • Keeping your elbows tucked in, lift your head and torso by pushing with your hands until you feel a stretch in the front of your abdomen.
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

17. Standing Oblique Stretch

  • Begin standing tall.
  • Extend both arms over your head, clasping your palms together.
  • Lean to one side, gently pulling on the opposite arm until you feel a stretch extending down your entire side.
  • Hold for 15 seconds and then switch sides.

Glute Stretches

18. Pretzel Stretch

  • While lying flat on your back, bend both knees.
  • Cross one leg over so your ankle is resting on the opposite knee.
  • Gently pull the uncrossed leg toward your chest until you feel a deep stretch in your glute.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.

19. Twisting Glute Stretch

  • Sit on the floor with your legs stretched in front of you.
  • Bend one knee, keeping the other extended.
  • Drape your opposite arm across your bent knee and twist toward it until you feel a stretch in your glute and outer hip.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.

2 Complete Flexibility Workouts

Below are two stretching routines to improve flexibility, split between your upper and lower body. Don’t be afraid to concentrate on, say, hamstring stretches more often if you feel they are a problem area for you.

Frequency

Perform a full stretch routine daily if possible.

If you’re stretching after your workout, remember to hold the stretch for about 5 to 10 seconds, as we want to be as gentle as possible on the muscles we just worked.

Also, try to alternate stretches, performing different ones on different days.

For example, if you’re stretching your hamstrings, perform the standing hamstring stretch one day, then try the single hamstring stretch the next day.

Aim to hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.

Lower Body Stretch Routine

  1. Standing, scissor, or single hamstring stretch
  2. Twisting glute stretch
  3. Seated groin or pretzel stretch
  4. Pigeon pose
  5. Standing quad stretch
  6. Wall calf stretch
  7. Lying knee twist
  8. Knee-to-chest stretch

Upper Body Stretch Routine

  1. Standing triceps stretch
  2. Cross-body shoulder stretch
  3. Cow face pose
  4. Standing oblique stretch
  5. Child’s pose
  6. Cobra pose
  7. Doorway chest stretch and/or corner chest stretch

Have Patience

There’s no real trick to improving your flexibility. It just takes time and consistent effort – like most things related to fitness.

The key to letting yourself get more limber is to relax into the stretches and enjoy them. Before long, you’ll find yourself bending into positions you had no idea you were capable of!

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Love to work out, but never have time to stretch? You’re not alone. Most people skip this simple practice, but it’s a great way to tune into your body and give your muscles some much needed attention.

Below is a simple routine from Naturally Sassy, a former ballerina who now creates ballet workout routines through her online studio. It’s short, simple and you can do it anywhere. Try this stretch sequence after every workout this week!

1. Hamstring stretch

RILEY A DONAVAN

Start on your knees and stretch one leg out between your hands. Straighten your back while keeping your core engaged. Hold this pose for 30 seconds, focusing on your breathing. Then switch to the other leg and hold for 30 seconds.

2. Hip flexor and quad stretch

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Start in a lunge position with one leg resting on the ground. Tuck your pelvis under and lift your chest high. Press forward and you’ll feel the stretch in the hip resting on the ground. Hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other leg.

3. Hip opener

RILEY A DONAVAN

Starting from the same position as above, place your hands on the ground and lift your back leg up off of the ground. Twist your upper body to the right side, pushing through the heel of your foot. Keep your hips square and engage your core during the rotation. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

4. Glute stretch

RILEY A DONAVAN

Start by lying down on your back. Raise your legs into the air at a 90-degree angle. Bend one knee outward, so your ankle is resting on the opposite knee. Place your hands behind the straightened knee and bring it closer to you. Hold the pose for 30 seconds and then switch legs.

5. Side bend

RILEY A DONAVAN

Start by sitting on the ground, spread your legs out to the sides. Stretch and reach your right arm to your left leg, hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side for 30 seconds. You should feel this through your obliques.

Perform these stretches every day and you will see changes in your body!

For more health and fitness advice, sign up for our One Small Thing newsletter. For more from Sassy, head to her website.

If you consider touching your toes as a farfetched fantasy that will never come to fruition, know this: The exercises in your workout combined with nutrition, hydration, and lifestyle choices can have a huge impact on your flexibility. That’s right. You don’t have to set your body in pretzels or bent-over toe-touches for hours a day to will some flexibility into your limbs.

Improving your bending ability is crucial for more than just preventing injury. In fact, flexibility training is an important aspect of gaining strength and size. The typical lifter spends most of their day outside of the gym hunched forward over a computer further deteriorating any chance at proper posture. Outside of just preventing injury, having better posture helps to show off the muscular physique you worked so hard to build. Proper flexibility also goes hand in hand with full range of motion exercises like squats and deadlifts, which are major muscle builders. Having tight hips and shoulders can inhibit proper form and limit your fitness, so get to work on getting flexible.

The Rules of Improving Flexibility

Rather than taking a haphazard approach to improving your flexibility, follow the rules set below to gain new ranges of motion and prevent poor posture.

1: Dynamic warm-up prior to working out

The days of long holds on stretches before exercise is largely over. Research continually demonstrates that static stretching isn’t as beneficial prior to working out as dynamic stretching. Before starting your lifting or cardio session, go through some bodyweight movements like squats, lunges, push-ups, side lunges, and jumping jacks. Perform three sets of each movement for 20-30 reps to warm up your entire body. This type of warm-up should leave you in a light sweat ready to tackle your workout.

2: Follow a workout with light static stretching

Dying to hold some stretching positions? Throw some traditional static holds in post-exercise. These longer-duration stretches help to lengthen muscles that were tightened up during the lifting session. Along with any muscles hit hard during the workout, also focus on the chest, lats, and hip flexors, as they tend to be tight on most individuals due to daily posture.

3: Prioritize full range of motion

Although partial ranges of motion can be used in workouts to build insane amounts of strength, make an effort to perform each exercise through a full range of motion to reap major flexibility benefits. Going to full-depth on squats, for example, helps to build hip flexibility. Work at full ranges of motion with lighter weights when learning new moves before loading up a bar and dropping into a heavy working set.

4: Incorporate massage

Stretching and training with full range of motion can work wonders with improving flexibility, but massage adds an extra benefit of helping to break up knots in muscles and tissues that restrict movement. Foam rolling pre-workout can help to prepare the body for movement whereas a post-workout roll out can flush away waste products from exercise and help you recover quicker for your next session. Focus on hitting the main muscles like the calves, quads, IT bands, upper back, and lats. If possible, work with a skilled massage therapist a few times a month to compliment your flexibility routine and get some extra relief.

5: Take time to relax

Stress causes your body to tighten up into one huge ball of knots. Combine the normal stress from work and family with a bunch of hard sessions in the gym a week, and you’re looking at a recipe for disaster. Find a few times a week to engage in a relaxing activity to help you unwind. Walking, light yoga, and massage are all great examples, but it could be as simple as heading out on a short walk to unwind from your day. Taking time to de-stress will help to relax your body and prevent muscles from tensing up and restricting movement.

6: Learn to breathe properly

The typical lifter uses their rib cage far too much to breath, which doesn’t engage the diaphragm optimally. Instead focus on belly breaths where the belly button moves in and out with each breath. Spend five minutes a day working on improving breathing for a more relaxed and stress-free posture.

7: Stay hydrated

Water forms a large part of our muscle composition. In order for our muscles to respond to flexibility training, they have to be working optimally. That includes proper hydration. Many individuals are walking around in a constantly dehydrated state. Focus on consuming more water, especially during and after hard exercise sessions to keep your muscles working optimally and steer clear of performance declines due to dehydration.

Different Stretches for Different Folks

The traditional method that comes to mind when thinking about stretching is referred to as static stretching – where a lifter bends forward and holds a hamstring stretch for 20-30 seconds. In fact, there are several stretching methods that each has their own unique benefit.

Static stretching consists of the lifter holding a joint in a stretched position for a designated length of time (usually 20-30 seconds) allowing the muscle to slowly adapt to the new range of motion. This is a passive stretch in that the muscle is relaxed throughout the entire exercise.

Dynamic stretching consists of moving the body through an increased range of motion using bodyweight movements like squats and lunges. By moving the body in multiple planes of motion, dynamic stretching helps prepare your body for a hard training session. Dynamic stretching is considered an active stretch since the muscle is contracting and relaxing.

Ballistic stretching involves forcibly moving your body into a greater stretch usually by performing quick, powerful movements. A prime example would be bobbing up and down in an attempt to touch your toes. In general, this type of stretching increases chance of injury and does little to actually improve flexibility. Rather, it can cause muscles to tighten up significantly.

There are various other advanced stretching techniques that combine elements of both passive stretching and active stretching, typically performed with the help of a therapist.

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34 Stretches To Stay Young and Healthy (With Pictures)

Stretching and mobility is a component of fitness that is regularly overlooked, but can play a critical role in recovery and overall performance. Stretching is great for your joints mobility, flexibility, fighting stress, and having a good night’s sleep.

Related: What Happens To Your Body When You Swim

Here are 34 stretches in pictures with the main muscle being activated highlighted.

Related: Why You Should Dynamic Warm-up Before You Swim

1. Camel Pose

Muscles involved: Rectus Abdominus and External Obliques.

2. Wide Forward Fold

Muscles involved: Adductors.

3. Frog Pose

Muscles involved: Adductors.

4. Wide Side Lunge Pose

Muscles involved: Adductors.

5. Butterfly Stretch

Muscles involved: Adductors.

6. Forearm Extensor Stretch

Muscles involved: Forearm Extensor.

7. Lateral Side Flexion of the Neck

Muscles involved: Sternocleidomastoid “SCM”.

8. Neck Rotation Stretch

Muscles involved: Sternocleidomastoid “SCM”.

9. Neck Extension Stretch

Muscles involved: Sternocleidomastoid “SCM”.

10. Lateral Side Flexion of the Neck with Hand Assistance

Muscles involved: Sternocleidomastoid “SCM” and Upper Trapezius.

11. Half Kneeling Quad / Hip Flexor Stretch

Muscles involved: Psoas and Quadracep.

12. Forearm Extensor Stretch

Muscles involved: Forearm Extensor.

13. Lateral Shoulder Stretch

Muscles involved: Side Deltoid.

14. Standing Assisted Neck Flexion Stretch

Muscles involved: Trapezius Muscle.

15. Lat Stretch with Spinal Traction

Muscles involved: Latissimus Dorsi.

16. Lat Stretch at the Wall

Muscles involved: Latissimus Dorsi.

17. Child’s Pose

Muscles involved: Latissimus Dorsi.

18. Standing Calf Stretch

Muscles involved: Soleus and Gastrocnemius.

19. Front Split

Muscles involved: Psoas and Hamstring.

20. Seated Forward Fold / Seated Toe Touch

Muscles involved: Hamstrings and Calfs.

21. Single Leg Forward Bend

Muscles involved: Hamstrings.

22. Deep Squat

Muscles involved: Glutes.

23. Seated Half King Pigeon Pose

Muscles involved: Glutes.

24. Standing Calf Stretch at the Wall

Muscles involved: Soleus and Gastrocnemius.

25. Lateral Flexion at the Wall

Muscles involved: External Obliques.

26. Supine Twist

Muscles involved: Glutes and External Obliques.

27. Lateral Flexion with a Dowel

Muscles involved: External Obliques and Latissimus Dorsi.

28. Triangle Pose

Muscles involved: External Obliques.

29. Chest Stretch at the Wall

Muscles involved: Pectorals.

30. Assisted Chest Stretch

Muscles involved: Chest and Latissimus Dorsi.

31. Seated Half Pigeon Variation

Muscles involved: Anterior Tibialis.

32. Supine Shoulder External Rotation Stretch

Muscles involved: Subscapularis.

33. Down Dog Variation at the Wall

Muscles involved: Pectorals and Latissimus Dorsi.

34. Assisted Chest Stretch Variation

Muscles involved: Pectorals.

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Related: 10 Steps to Swimming Smarter Freestyle

Happy swimming!

Stretching exercises to increase flexibility

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