To improve or maintain flexibility, mobility, balance and to avoid injury it is best to stretch before and after your workouts. The trick to be aware of what type of stretching is best for the warm ups and the cool down phases of your fitness routine.
Before any type of workout, it’s important to do at least 5-15 minutes of stretching to prevent any type of injury. Stretching helps the muscles in your body warm-up and prepares them for the intense workout and helps prevent any “pulled muscles” during your workout. For example, if you are performing a cardio kickboxing workout that involves a lot of punching and kicking, and you skip your warm up stretches, you can shock your relaxed muscles and cause major pain and soreness.
To prevent this pain, here are a few stretches to do before and after every workout:
1. Arm Circles
Start with your arms up perpendicular to your sides and do small and gentle circular motions ( 2 sets of 8 forward and backwards). Make the circles bigger each time to involve the shoulders.
2. Leg Extensions
On the ground or elevated, start slowly and gradually increase, the higher the leg stretch, the more your muscles will stretch and start warming up (2 sets of 15).
3. Slow Mountain Climbers
Start in a pushup position, pick up your right foot and slowly bring the knee toward the right shoulder, hold it for about 3 seconds and return to your start position. Then alternate legs until you have done 8-12 reps per leg).
4. Arm Cross Over
Begin on your back and turning to the left, now bend your knees about 90 Degrees and now stretch both arms in front of you with your palms facing each other – keeping your left arm and both legs in position, now rotate your torso to the right until your right hand and upper back are flat on the floor, now hold it for 5 seconds and return to start position. Do about 10-12 reps on each side.
5. Yoga Plex
Start in a downward position with the palms and the heels flat on the floor and your back straight, slowly bring the right foot between the hands, as you rotate the torso to the right as you reach out for your right arm toward the ceiling, hold it above you for about 5-10 seconds and return back to starting position. Alternate sides until you have done at least 5 reps on each side.
Stretching helps improve breathing, circulation of your blood and respiratory efficiency. It also helps improve your posture by stretching your lower back, shoulders and chest and it reduces muscular tension due to stress.