Studies about the benefits of stretching are mixed, but one thing that’s not in question is that stretching improves flexibility, which may improve your performance. Better flexibility can decrease your risk of injuries by helping your joints move easily through their full range of motion. Here are five easy stretches you can do before a workout, hike, or just to start your day.
NECK: Lower your right ear to your right shoulder. Lift your right arm and gently apply pressure with your left palm to the left side of your head increasing the stretch to your neck. Your left arm should dangle at your side with finger tips pointing toward the ground. Repeat on the other side.
UPPER BACK: Clasp your hands in front of your chest, interlacing your fingers. Turn your palms away from you as your extend your arms straight out in front of you at chest level. Drop your head to look down and the ground, and reach your hands farther away from you, increasing the distance between your shoulder blades and stretching your upper back muscles.
HAMSTRINGS: Standing with most of your weight on your left foot, extend your right foot in front of you with your heel pressed into the ground and your toe off the ground. Your left leg should be bent and your hands should be on the thigh of your left leg. Keeping your right leg straight, lean your chest toward your right leg stretching the back of your thigh. Repeat on the other leg.
SIDE STRETCH: Stand tall with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Pull your abdominal muscles in toward your spine. Lift your right arm up in the air, as your left arm extends down along the outside of your left thigh. Reach up and over to the left side with the right arm, while you slide your left hand down your thigh closer to your knee. Turn your head to look up past your elbow and to the ceiling. Repeat to the left side.
SHOULDERS: Cross your right arm in front of your body and point your fingers to the left of you. Your palm should be facing behind you. Use your left hand to grab your right arm at the forearm or the bicep. Do not pull on the elbow joint directly. Pull your arm in toward your body stretching the shoulder. To intensify the stretch, turn your head to look out over your right shoulder. Repeat on the left side, then shake your arms out to relax your muscles a bit.
Want more help with stretching? Ask a certified personal trainer or a certified massage therapist. Want deeper stretches? Ask your massage therapist to show you some new techniques.