Stretching is one of the most skipped parts of a workout, and that is not okay! As a trainer, I am telling all of you that you must stretch. Stretching isn’t just a thing done to reduce soreness – it is necessary to keep your body in proper alignment and prevent injuries. If you have incredibly tight quads and just let them continue to bother you without stretching them – you are going to hurt something, likely your hamstrings. Stretching also shouldn’t only be used when something hurts. Stretch your body every single day so you never have to worry about injuries caused by misalignment.
Today I want to share with you some stretches that you should do everyday and give you tips on how to do them properly so you get the most out of them.
Stretch #1: Quad Stretch
Many people have tight quads because it’s one muscle in the body that has a lot of stress put on it throughout the day. Tips: Hold onto something for balance if you need to. This isn’t about improving your balance – you can do that some other time – this stretch is about releasing tension in your quadriceps. I want you to focus on pulling that knee back while at the same tip tucking your hips forward. Those resisting forces will allow you to feel a really good stretch through the front of your thigh and hip flexor. Hold this stretch (and all stretches) for a minimum of 30 seconds.
Stretch #2: Downward Dog
Downward dog is a very common yoga pose and it will stretch out so many muscles. This is a great stretch for your calves, hamstrings, lats, and shoulders. Tips: To find this V-shape position, you want your hands and feet to be a good distance apart. Press your heels into the ground as you lift your hips and butt into the air (resisting forces). This will allow you to feel the stretch in your hamstrings. Make sure your feet are completely parallel. It might even feel like your feet are slightly pigeon toed, but that is just because most people naturally stand with a slight turn out. Feet parallel allows you to stretch your calves. Lastly focus on pressing your chest down as much as you can so you can feel that really good stretch all the way down your lats.
Stretch #3: Calf Stretch
The calves are another commonly tight muscle in the body. This is due to shoes that don’t give feet enough support, overuse while driving, and simply walking around. Tips: Keep your feet separated a good distance, if you keep your feet wider apart you will feel the stretch a bit more. Make sure your back foot is pointed completely straight forward. Your foot will likely want to turn out slightly, don’t let it. Really bend into that front leg (even more than I am in the photo) and maintain a flat back the entire time. Lastly, make sure that front heel stays planted on the ground. Lifting the heel up is common and puts too much stress on your knee and quads, and stretching is about releasing tension not creating more.
Stretch #4: Cobra Pose
A great stretch for you lower back and abs, the cobra is another very common yoga pose. Tips: Make sure you press your shoulders down as you find your cobra pose. It’s very common for your shoulders to tense up and be close to your ears, press them down. Think about your posture, have a long neck and press your chest forward. Your elbows do not need to be locked out. If you feel the stretch lower to the ground, stay there until you can increase your range of motion.