FitnessU: Stretching it

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Stretching: It’s an important part of any fitness routine, research shows. Obvs, you might think. But really, it’s important to take stretching (before and after a workout) seriously. Stretching is what helps your muscles stay flexible and strong and keeps the range of motion in your joints moving the way it should. Ditch stretching and you risk tighter and weaker muscles, researchers say, which can not only be uncomfortable, but make you less able to use your muscles to the best of your ability (e.g., losing an intense arm wrestling challenge in front of all your friends—womp).

Below, our experts take you through three types of stretching: dynamic (before your workout), static (after your workout), and an advanced sequence for serious fitness buffs.

Warming-up sets the foundation for an effective, safe workout by preparing the body for exercise and reducing the risk of injury. Dynamic stretching involves controlled, full-range movement. When done correctly, it can improve flexibility, lubricate the joints, and prepare the nervous system by telling the body it’s time to move.

Used to stretch muscles when the body is at rest, static stretching focuses on flexibility and increases your range of motion. It also helps muscle relax and lengthen, which is why it’s best done after your workout.

These stretches are most beneficial to those who regularly engage in intense physical activities such as running, cycling, or plyometrics, and help increase your range of motion for common exercises, relaxation, and can correct any imbalances in muscle movement. Perform these stretches intuitively (meaning the length of time on each stretch depends on how your body responds to the stretch) and in any order, as many times as you like. 

Keep in mind that when stretching, you might feel mild discomfort. Take deep breaths to fully experience the stretch. If you have sharp pain, decrease the depth of the stretch. If the pain persists, make an appointment to meet with a personal trainer or health care provider.

Dynamic stretching

Warming up is essential regardless of your exercise experience and physical ability. Personal trainer Frankie takes you through three upper-body stretches and three lower-body stretches to prep your body for your workout.

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Static stretching

To help your body recover after your workout, personal trainer Eliza helps you stretch out each muscle (including chest, tricep, groin, and hamstring) with these static stretches. Hold each for 30–60 seconds.

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Advanced

These stretches will help increase the range of motion in your joints, allowing you to get the most out of your workout—especially if you’re an athlete or person in training. Florence leads you through stretches of your hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstring, the piriformis muscle, toes, feet, and calves.

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