We’ve all had those days where we can just barely squeeze in a workout, and on those days, you might think, “Why waste time stretching?” You don’t want to waste any of your time, and many people don’t think stretching is all that important.
Here’s some tough love: those people are wrong.
Stretching is super important. It helps your muscles grow even when you’re not active, and it helps to prevent injury. So if you want to be healthier and leaner, you’ve gotta stretch.
These are just a few stretches for every muscle group to help you on your way to being a flexible and fit person.
Overhead Triceps Stretch
Start in a standing position. Reach one arm over your head, and bend your elbow so that your forearm falls behind your head.
With your opposite arm, pull your elbow gently toward your head. You should feel a stretch in your triceps.
Hold for 30 seconds and switch arms.
Seated Shoulder Squeeze
Begin sitting with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor.
Clasp your hands behind your back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. This will stretch your back and chest.
Hold for three seconds. Repeat 5-10 times.
Lie on your stomach with your legs extended behind you.
Place your elbows just under your shoulders and lift your chest off the floor, lengthening your back until you feel a stretch in your lower back.
Hold for 30 seconds, and stop immediately if it becomes painful.
This will stretch your chest, abs, lower back, and shoulders.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
Begin with your feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart.
Bend down at your hips and wrap your arms behind your legs, remembering to breathe deeply.
If you cannot wrap your arms around your legs, try touching your toes, ankles, or shins.
Hold for about a minute.
Bend your knees and exhale as you come up.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Begin kneeling on a mat. Put your right leg in front of you and bend it at the knee. Your points of contact with the floor should be your right foot and your left knee.
Place your hands on your hips, and, keeping your back and torso straight, gently extend your hips forward until you feel a stretch in your left hip flexor.
Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.
Figure Four Stretch
Lay on your back with your feet flat on the floor.
Take your right leg over your left, and place your right ankle above your left knee.
Lift your left leg up. Grab your left thigh and gently pull it toward your chest until you feel a good stretch.
Hold for 30 seconds.
Place your left foot on the floor and switch sides.
Wall-Assisted Calf Stretch
Stand facing a wall with your feet hip-width apart.
Place your palms onto the wall at chest height, and place your right foot behind you. You may bend your left knee, but keep your right knee straight.
Lean into the wall until you feel a comfortable stretch in your right calf. Hold for 30 seconds.
Repeat on opposite leg.
Now that you know what to do, you need to make time to do it. Pro tip: If you’re short on time, consider a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout to maximize your effort and minimize your time commitment. With a shorter, more intense session, you will easily be able to factor in time to stretch before and after your workout.
The first step to keeping your body healthy and strong is stretching. You’ll feel better, look leaner, and retain your muscle mass if you stretch regularly. Stretch when you wake up, after your workout, when you get home from work, or before you go to bed. Your body will thank you.