Four stretches for flexibility that can help you avoid unnecessary pain
You know you have to stretch. You did it before all your high school gym practices. People have been telling you for years. Stretch. You're getting older. Stretch. You're sitting all day. Stretch. You feel so stiff in the morning. Stretch.
Then somehow you walk into the gym, swing your arms back and forth a few times, pull on your legs a few times to reach your quads and then attempt to touch your toes a couple times — although you really just look like you're scratching your shins. Then you hit the weights.
Just FYI, that's stupid. It may not be today but someday, you're going to hurt yourself. And you're workout is going to suck. And this is all because you were too cool to be the guy in the corner of the gym looking like he's having a solo yoga class. Listen bro, if it's going to make you better and keep you healthy, then nama-freaking-ste.
Ideally, before you start any exercise activity or training session with an active warm-up and a few dynamic stretches. If you're just going for a slow jog on the treadmill you might be able to get away without this. But if you're planning on tossing around heavy sh*t or ripping through a HIIT workout, you need a stretching routine. Yes, stretching makes you more flexible and lowers your risk of injury but it also boosts your energy and blood circulation.
And if you're complaining about soreness... shut up and stretch.
For this week's episode of You're Doing It Wrong, your trainer Kenny Santucci is walking us through four essential stretches you should be doing when you hit the weights — especially for you guys that are chained to a desk all day while your hips get tighter than the twist cap on a jar of peanut butter.
We're going to be honest with you from the jump here: this one sucks. But like most of us, you probably spend all day sitting and your hips need an opener bad. Start this position on all-fours with your back facing the wall (or your couch or any vertical, flat surface). Press your right knee firmly up against the wall with your foot and shin flat against the wall as well. Bring your left foot forward until your foot is down flat in front of you with your shin vertical. Be careful not to track your knees too far out over your toes. Now squeeze your glutes, press your hips forward and keep your shoulders squared.
You should feel the stretch in your hip flexors. As your hips loosen and gain more mobility, try to get your torso vertical with your chest up and facing forward. Hold this position for at least a minute. Then switch legs. If you find this position too challenging, keep your hands down on the floor in front of you , still keeping your shoulders squared.
This is essential, especially if it's leg day (and guys, there should absolutely be a leg day on your schedule). The pigeon stretch is going to help release some tension in your hips, lower back and knees. Start on all-fours and then bring your right foot up to your left hand and press your leg against the floor at a 90-degree angle. Straighten your leg leg behind you, keeping your leg on the floor and shifting your weight slightly back. Ideally, you want to be able to lay your chest down over your right leg in front of you, which is pretty damn impossible if your hips are as tight as most of us. So that sounds ridiculous, try bracing your weight in front of you with your hands but as you gain more flexibility you'll want to get your elbows down on the floor.
To modify this stretch, place your leg on a box instead for an elevated pigeon stretch. You still want to keep the same 90-degree angle and you should still be feeling this stretch in your outer hip. Hold this for at least a minute, move your upper body to 10 o'clock and then 2 o'clock, and then switch legs.
Your lower back will thank you for this. Lay flat on the floor, face down with your hands and feet spread to your sides. Keeping your chest and shoulders flat on the ground, swing your right foot behind you and try to reach your right heel up to your left hand. Hold for a second. Then return to neutral. Then swing your left foot behind you and try to reach your left heel to your right hand. Repeat this 10 times on each leg. Don't kick anyone around you.
Arm Bar/Plane Crash Victim
Stretching gets ignored altogether by weekend warriors and gym rats alike, but shoulders might as be the forgotten stepchild of stretches. But shoulders don't go quietly and when they do go, you go too — to the hospital. So shoulder mobility is a must-have, just like your workout headphones or your favorite trainers. For this stretch, lay flat, face down with your left arm at 10 o'clock and your left palm down flat. Reach your right foot behind you, over your left and place it flat on the floor with your knee pointed toward the ceiling. Use your right hand to push off the floor and open your chest toward the ceiling while driving your left shoulder into the floor.
Hold this stretch for a minute. Then put your right arm out at 2 o'clock and switch sides.