The kinds of stretches we do both before and after a workout can make a huge difference to our athletic performance, risk of injury, muscle strain, and, of course, our flexibility. But, not all stretches are created equal. Completing static stretches (stretches that do not require movement or raise the heart rate) before a workout can, actually, increase our risk of injury rather than reduce it. It is important to know which stretches should be completed before and after a workout since they are completely different.
Stretches before a workout should involve movement that will increase the heart rate, stretch the muscle, and lubricate the joints. By completing dynamic stretches before a workout, we are decreasing risk of injury, increasing our range of motion, and increasing out athletic performance. There is really no con about it. These dynamic, pre-workout stretches are the most important to our bodies health and physical performance. Stretches after a workout should lower the heart rate and stretch the muscles. These should be static, or non-moving exercises.
Over the summer I made a list of pre and post workout stretches for the camp we work at. These stretches are simple and will work well before and after any workout. They are also some of my personal favorites to do since they help me see the most results! These do not have pictures to go along with them, only the how-to. For pictures of some of these stretches, you can check-out this for pre-workout stretches and this for some post-workout stretches with pictures and all!
Dynamic Stretches: 5 Minutes, Total
- Good for Arms, Torso, Legs
- Start with legs together and arms at your side. Jump legs out so they are wider than shoulder width apart. While jumping, bring arms overhead, clapping hands together. Immediately jump back to starting position.
- Good for quads and hips
- Begin jogging in place. While jogging, kick your left heal to your bum. Alternate legs, making sure to keep knees pointed straight down the entire time.
Knee to Chest
- Good for knees, hamstrings, glutes, arms
- Stand with feet hip width apart. Lift the right leg up to your chest and give your leg a big hug, pulling it as close to your chest as possible. Hold, then alternate to the left leg. This exercise can also be done on the ground after a workout.
- Good for inner thighs, glutes, calfs
- Stand with legs hip width apart on one side of the tennis courts. Walk to the other side of the tennis courts, alternating lunging with the right, then left leg. This should not be intense, you do not need to dip as far down as a regular lunge and the body should be leaning forward. Side lunges are also great for larger groups.
- Good forArms. And great for intercostal (rib) muscles
- Extend arms straight out at your side so they are parallel to the ground. Begin rotating arms forward in small circles. Continue for an appropriate amount of time, then reverse the the movement so your arms are rotating backwards. Small arm circle should be done before large arm circles.
Straight Leg Kicks
- Good for glutes, arms, back, hamstrings, hips
- Stand straight up with feet hip width apart. Kick the right foot in the air and touch the right toes with the left hand. Be sure to keep legs, back, and arms straight and toes flexed. If you cannot reach your toes, that is fine. Alternating kicking the right leg with the left hand and the left leg with the right hand.
- Good for back, shoulders, neck
- Stand straight up with shoulders down. Start by slowly dropping the head forward and then rolling your head from right to left shoulder. Repeat this a few times, then begin rolling the head 360 degrees. Continue, then alterante the rolling direction.
- Good for ankles, knees, hips, hamstrings, abs
- Jog in place, bringing each knee up so your thigh is parallel with the floor. I like to complete 30 seconds of these with 30 seconds of kick-backs at the start of my warm-up stretching.
Post-Workout Static Stretches: 3-5 Minutes, TotalStatic stretches should only be done after a workout. This form of stretching will help elongate muscles and increase limb range of motion. They will also help bring the heart rate back to a moderate level.
- Good for hamstrings, hips, glutes
- Sit on the ground with knees bent and the soles of each foot touching the other. Hold feet together while trying to bring them as close to the body as possible, making sure your back remains straight. You can use your elbows to place some pressure on the knees, but do not push down firmly. Hold without bouncing legs.
- Good for upper back, lower back, shoulders, legs, arms
- There are many variations. Legs can be together, hip width, or shoulder width apart. Arms can be touching the toes, interlaced behind the back, are dangling above the head. Back can be straight, with a natural bend, or curled. The options are endless, but the main position is legs straight, hip width apart, with your body bent forward trying to touch the floor.
Downward Facing Dog
- Good for arms, back, intercostals, bum, lower back, calfs, legs
- Start in forward fold then jump or walk legs back so your body is making an up-side-down “V”. Arms should be straight and shoulders should be down. Be sure to keep the lower back straight and bum in the air. To really work your calfs, alternate lifting one heal up while trying to press the other farther towards the ground.
- Good for quads, abs, back, ankles
- Stand straight up with feet hip width apart. bend the right leg and bring the right foot up towards your bum. Hold this position, making sure knees are in alignment.
Extended Leg Stretch
- Thighs, hamstrings, hips, arms, back, shoulders, neck
- Sit on the ground with the right leg straight. The left leg shoulder be bent with the foot against your upper right leg. Complete a forward fold, tying to touch the toes and keep the back as straight as possible. Alternate to the left leg.
- All abs, intercostals, shoulders
- Stand straight up and hold arms above the head with fingers interlaced. Fold to the left, back, right, then forward, holding each fold for an appropriate amount of time.
- Good for triceps, shoulders,
- This can be done standing or sitting. Extend the right arm straight out, then use the left arm to pull it into the chest. Your right arm should be straight across your chest with the hand extended to the left.
- Bum, legs, back, shoulder, neck
- Sit on the ground with legs extended forward. bend the right knee and place the right foot on the outside of the left knee. Rotate your torso and place the right elbow against the inside of the right knee while the left arm is behind you being used for support. Rotate you back and neck so you are looking over your left shoulder. Alternate sides, making sure to keep the back as straight as possible