Admit it, you hate to stretch. After an hour of intense effort expended at the gym, you’re done and the last thing you want to do is sit in pigeon pose. It’s not an uncommon sentiment, but it does have consequences for your progress. The drawback of thinking that your workout is over when the clock runs down is that you’re missing out on the benefits of stretching, which include muscle recovery, and improved mobility.
Still not convinced you should change your ways? Then I challenge you to perform these five stretches every day for a month. I promise you’ll start to see the benefit of adding a few more minutes to your routine.
Area of focus: quads, hips
This is a simple but effective stretch that will help with running, any kind of squatting, or hip hinging movement. Get into a lunge position on the floor in front of a sofa or wall. Bend the right leg behind you, bringing the shin against the wall or sofa. Keep the shin vertical. The left leg remains in a lunge position with your foot flat on the ground. Stay in this pose for two minutes, experimenting with how far you can ease into the stretch and then switch legs.
Area of focus: muscles of the chest
A great chest opener that helps reduce soreness from pressing movements but also helps improve shoulder impingement when going over head. Extend your arm and place your palm flat on the corner of a door frame, wall or fitness rack. Slowly begin to turn your torso away from the outstretched arm until you feel a pull from one side of your chest. Hold this pose for two minutes then switch sides.
Area of focus: shoulders
This dynamic stretch is one of the most effective ways to improve shoulder mobility, and it’s so simple! Lay on the ground with your head relaxed. Stretch your arms out in front of you and lift them as high as you can, keeping your head and chest relaxed on the floor. From there, start to “swim” your arms back, palms down, until you make a T-shape. Turn your hand over and continue to swim them back until your thumbs touch. Repeat this movement. Move slowly through each swim (think an eight-second count).
Area of focus: hips, glutes
This classic yoga move is one of the best movements for getting into those tight hips and glutes. (Try sitting in it while watching TV. ) To do this stretch, come to the ground and slide your right leg forward in front of your chest. Bend your knee to a 45 degree angle (your foot should rest comfortably in front of the opposite hip). The left leg is long behind you, with the front of the foot laying flat on the floor.
Area of focus: spine
A lot of mobility issues come from the thoracic area of our spine (the middle of back), which makes improving flexibility in this area important. To perform this dynamic movement you want to get on all fours. As you inhale, let your belly drop towards the ground as you lift your chest high and let the shoulder blades slide down the back. As you exhale, draw your belly button in towards your spine to round your back (think of a scared cat with her back up.)
Broder McNeill is a coach and co-owner of Alchemy CrossFit.