The 5 Best Stretches That Will Warm You Up for Any Workout
Get your blood pumping and your muscles loose.
There's something to be said for static stretching—the touch-your-toes-and-hold-for-30-seconds routine we all learned in gym class. It does a tremendous job of lengthening one's muscles, locking in strength, and reinforcing flexibility. "But it's best when done after a workout, to calm the nervous system or as part of corrective protocol," says Mark Verstegen, founder and president of EXOS. "Doing static stretches before you exercise is like putting your muscles in a sleeper hold. You're turning off their circuit breakers right before you need them to fire."
Instead, try warming up with the following movement-based stretches. By actively moving muscles in and out of stretched positions (instead of stretching and holding), you will boost your heart rate, increase your blood flow, and get your nervous system firing. In short, "these stretches prepare your body for exercise, regardless of what type it is," says Verstegen. "They'll also increase your speed and power by 20 percent." Not bad for a 10-minute investment in your fitness.
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This exercise will stretch your torso and back muscles, which is especially important for rotational sports such as golf and tennis. Lie on your left side with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle. Place a rolled towel between your knees and extend your arms straight out from your chest. Then, keeping your knees together and your hips still, rotate your chest and right arm backward, trying to touch your shoulder blades to the ground. Exhale and hold for two seconds, then return to the starting position. Do 10 reps on each side. You'll be ready to tackle any abs workout afterward!
Lie face up with your knees bent, your feet on the floor, and your arms extended out to your sides. Rotate your bent legs to the left until your left knee touches the floor, then rotate to the right. Do 10 reps on each side. You should feel a lengthening and stretching of the torso. This exercise is designed to build mobility and strength in your torso by disassociating the hips and shoulders, and is perfect for preparing you for your workout.
Stand with your legs straight and your hands flat on the floor. Draw in your belly button and walk out a few paces with your hands. Then, keeping your legs straight and your hands in place, take a few steps forward with your feet (flex your ankles, not your knees). Continue this caterpillar-like movement for one minute. This stretches the hamstrings, lower back, glutes, and calves. It's a great exercise prior to just about any sport, and is an integral part of yoga—which is great for both your mind and body.
Forward Lunge, Forearm to Instep
Take a large step forward with your left leg, as if doing a lunge. Place your right hand on the floor, even with your left foot, and move your left elbow down toward your left instep while keeping your right knee off the ground. Move your left hand outside your left foot and push your hips up to the sky. Finally, step forward into the next lunge with your right foot. Do 10 lunges per leg. You'll feel a stretch in your groin, your back-leg hip flexor, and your front-leg glute and hamstring—which is the perfect way to prep for a run.
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You should feel this total-body stretch everywhere, making it a great precursor to any workout. Begin with your back straight and your arms by your sides. March forward, alternately lifting each knee to waist height while pumping your arms like a drum major. March forward 20 steps for one set. Rest one minute; repeat the cycle twice.
Now that you're all limbered up, it's time for you to get out there and hit the gym!
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