Improving flexibility and range of motion can be as important to your overall fitness as strengthening your muscles; flexible muscles are more agile and less prone to injury. Static stretching – where a stretch is held for a certain amount of time, such as 10 to 30 seconds – can help to loosen and elongate your muscles while also aiding in recovery. Always warm up before stretching with at least five to 10 minutes of moderate activity.
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Standing Quadriceps Stretch
Located on the front of the thigh, the quadriceps help to move your upper leg, extend the knee and flex the hip. When tight, the quads can pull your hips out of alignment and place excess stress on the hamstrings. Stand tall with one hand placed on a wall or sturdy object for stability. Lift your right foot and take hold of the top of the foot with your right hand from behind. Pull the foot up toward your glutes. Keep the knee in line with your hip. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Seated Forward Bend
The hamstrings, located on the back of the thighs, extend into your glutes and, when tight, can cause pulling and pain in your glutes and lower back. Stretch all three areas with the seated forward bend. Sit tall on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Bend at the hips and lower your chest toward your thighs. Take hold of your feet, ankles or shins, depending on your ability, and gently reach and pull yourself deeper into the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and release.
Cobra pose stretches your abdominals, chest, shoulders and upper back all at the same time. Lie prone on the floor with your legs extended behind you and the tops of your feet on the ground. Place your hands under your shoulders, keeping your elbows in close to your torso. Press your feet, thighs, pelvis and hands into the floor as you straighten your arms and lift your head toward the ceiling. Hold the pose for 15 to 30 seconds.
Tight chest muscles can cause your shoulders and upper back to hunch or round forward. The standing chest stretch can help to loosen and elongate your pecs. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and shoulders, hips and ankles in alignment. Pull your abdominal muscles in and push your shoulder blades down your back. Clasp your hands together behind your back. Lift your chest up and out as you roll your shoulders back and pull your shoulder blades together. Lift your hands toward the ceiling until you feel a stretch in your chest. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.