Diet, Nutrition & Fitness

6 Great Stretches Before Working Out

Before you begin an intense workout, it's important to prepare your body from head to toe. Carefully stretching your various muscle groups gets your body ready for the harder work that is to come. Stretching encourages flexibility, strength and a good range of motion.

Shoulder Stretch

Some of the best pre-workout stretches are known as dynamic stretches. They involve engaging in gentle movements that flow smoothly from one position to the next. Dynamic stretches warm your muscles and prepare them for more intense movement. Try this approach to workout preparation with this dynamic shoulder stretch.

Stand with knees a bit bent and your feet a medium width apart. Raise one shoulder to your ear on the same side. Bring it back down and then up again. Repeat, using fluid motions, then switch sides.

Glute Stretch

Before beginning the stretching portion of your exercise, it's best to warm up with several minutes of light activity. This raises the temperature of your muscles so they will stretch more readily. After about five minutes of light aerobic activity, do this glute stretch.

Stand on one leg and pull the opposite knee to your chest. Move that leg so you pull your foot to your bottom. As you do, stretch your opposite arm in the air. Repeat five to 10 times per side.

Arm Stretch

Stretching your arm muscles before a workout lets you push them harder during a weightlifting session. Therefore, if you want to build large arm muscles, it's imperative to stretch them first.

Hold your arms straight out. In smooth, fluid motions, swing them in toward your body so you hug yourself. Return your arms to the outward position. Repeat this hugging stretch multiple times.

Calf Stretch

Stretching should be an important part of your workout routine, but that's not all it's good for. Performing stretches can also help reduce symptoms of conditions like depression and diabetes. Therefore, make a regular practice of doing this calf stretch throughout the day; dressing in athleisure wear can help you make it a habit.

Supporting yourself with a wall, lift one leg in the air. Raise up on the toes of the foot that's on the ground. After two seconds, come down off of your toes and push the heel of that foot toward the ground. Continue the downward movement by bending that knee slightly. Repeat this stretch 10 times per side.

Hamstring Stretch

Although dynamic stretches are generally preferred before a workout, static stretches, in which you hold a position, have been shown to be better at increasing flexibility. Improve your flexibility with this static hamstring stretch.

With your leg straight and your toes pointed, set one heel on a raised surface. Bend forward at the hip until you feel a stretch. Remain in this position for 30 seconds. Perform the stretch four times per leg.

IT Stretch

Your iliotibial band (IT band) extends down the outer part of your thigh from your pelvis to your shinbone. Not stretching it, especially before running, can result in knee pain afterward.

This clam stretch for the IT band requires a prop, so it might seem complicated, but it's worth the effort. Lie on your side with your knees bent, your heels even with your spine and one leg and foot on top of the other. Place your legs through an exercise band, and position it above your knees. Leaving one foot on top of the other, lift your top knee as high as possible and gradually return it to the resting position. Do 15 to 30 reps on each side.

Whether you opt for dynamic or static stretching before a workout, your muscles will thank you. Just remember to first prepare your body with a light warmup of aerobic exercise. This raises your body temperature and gets your muscles ready to stretch safely.