Many tend to regard stretches as a cursory, negligible step in the grand scheme of a workout. Yes, it makes your muscles less tense, but if you're pressed for time, or just don't feel like taking the added step, many skip out and just go straight to the workout. Stretching, however, makes all the difference. It doesn't just improve your performance, it makes you more flexible, and helps prevent injury. This is especially crucial to note if you tend to lead a sedentary lifestyle that sees you desk-bound from morning til evening. Your muscles tend to be stiffer, and more prone to injury.
Realize the importance of stretches and commit to them. Here are five of the most important ones to kickstart your workout.
HIP FLEXOR STRETCHES
These stretches help "open up" the hips, loosening muscles that are usually tight from prolonged sitting. Also, if you tend to do workouts that heavily involve your quads, your hip flexors also bear the brunt of the agitation. Kneel down and get into a lunge position. One leg should always be at the back and flat against the ground, while the front leg is angled at 90 degrees. Place your hands on the front knee and lean into the stretch, feeling the pull around your hips.
This is a stretch that can feel "painful" if done too quick, as it stresses your back, neck, calves and hamstrings. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Inhale deeply and bend your body forward, attempting to touch your own toes. Try to make this a fluid movement, with as little jerking as possible, as this causes strain. Don't worry if you can't touch your toes, just grab on to whatever surface is handy, and is at a comfortable height for you.
As one of the most popular stretches, the butterfly stretch is known so well because it makes your muscles feel great. Sit down, and have your knees bent out to the sides, with your soles touching. Lean forward, with your hands interlocked and stretch. Maintain this for about 2 mins. You should feel it in your back, neck, glutes, thighs and hamstrings.
STANDING TRICEPS STRETCH
When you do arm workouts, you tend to aggravate your triceps and shoulder muscles. Even if the goal is your biceps, your triceps will inevitably be employed as your muscles are a synchronized system. This stretch is great for invigorating your triceps, back, neck, and abs too. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms ove your head. Bend one elbow down so that the palm of that hand touches your upper back. Take your opposite hand, and grasp the one that is bent just below the elbow. Just gently pull at your elbow until you feel a stretch.
Theres nothing like this when you've had a tiring day working your core. Lie down on a mat, with your face front. Slowly use your arms to lift your torso, feeling the stretch down your posterior chain and abdominal area. Tilt your head back to engage your neck in a stretch too.
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