Let's be honest: Stretching isn't sexy, and most of us don't do it. We'd rather do the fun exercises that make us sweat or burn a ton of calories, and stretching doesn't do either.
However, failing to keep your body flexible enough can actually set back your progress, cause unnecessary pain and tightness, and even lead to injuries.
This is why working on full-body flexibility every single week is so important, especially if you work out a lot.
Fortunately, stretching doesn't have to be a time suck. Just 10-15 minutes of stretching a few times a week will make a big difference in your flexibility level and get your body moving like it should.
Adding these five stretches to your post-workout routine will help your feel more open, mobile, and flexible in no time. Just make sure you're always slightly warm before doing passive stretches. A short, dynamic warm-up will do the trick.
Hold each stretch for 30-45 seconds, one or two rounds. Don't push to the point of pain, and don't bounce in the stretch. And don't forget to breathe!
Runner's Lunge with Quad Stretch
If you work out a lot, or if you sit for long periods during the day, it's almost guaranteed that your hip flexors are tight. This lunge stretch gets into both your hip flexors and quads for an amazing two-in-one stretch.
Get into a kneeling lunge position with your forward knee bent at 90 degrees over your foot and your back leg extended behind you. Tighten your core and squeeze your glutes, then slowly reach back and grab your back foot and pull it toward your hip as far as you can. Try squeezing everything and then relaxing into the stretch to get even deeper. Make sure to work both sides.
This yoga staple is an amazing stretch to open up your hips and really get into your glutes. It can benefit you regardless of your flexibility level or training goal.
Cross one knee in front of you while keeping the opposite leg straight behind you. Place both hands on the ground in front of you and slowly lower your upper body down as low as possible, keeping your hips and shoulders square. Your goal should be to get down to your forearms. If you're not that flexible yet, just stay on your hands.
Although most people are familiar with bridges (also called wheel pose in yoga) placing both hands and feet on the floor, this variation with your feet elevated really helps get more into your shoulders and upper back, focusing on thoracic extension. Since most of us have pretty tight shoulders, feet-elevated bridges are an amazing way to really open up and stretch the upper body without placing pressure on your lower back.
Lie on your back with your legs on a step, plyo box, or other sturdy elevated surface. The higher the surface, the more the stretch will get into your shoulders—but the harder it will be to push up into the bridge. Place your hands on the floor on the outside of your shoulders, pointing your fingers toward your toes. Push yourself up onto your hands, lifting your hips up and squeezing your butt as you do so. Breathe and gently push through your shoulders while keeping your gaze on your fingertips.
If you do a lot of plyometrics or intense leg days, you must give your hamstrings some love. These two variations of the classic pike stretch will get the job done.
Sit down with your legs straight in front of you. Squeeze your quads, pull in your core, and then fold forward as far as you can. Try grabbing the back of your feet for a deeper stretch.
For a more advanced stretch, take your pike to the wall, which takes the hamstring stretch to a whole new level. Consider yourself warned: If you have tight hamstrings (like most people do), this one's going to hurt at the beginning. But it's worth it!
Stand in front of a wall with your feet together, then lean over, crossing your arms above your head, and push your upper back against the wall. Slowly slide yourself down the wall while keeping your legs as straight as possible. The closer you are to the wall, the deeper the stretch will be.
Iron Cross Chest and Back Stretch
Most people do a lot of forward and backward movement in their workouts, but very little twisting. This stretch helps to open up the back and chest simultaneously by twisting the torso for an incredibly efficient full-body stretch. Avoid this stretch if you've had disc or lower-back injuries in the past.
Lie on your stomach with one arm stretched to the side. Twist away from your stretched arm, up onto your side, taking care not to put too much stress on your shoulder. Bend your top leg behind you, letting your foot touch the ground. The more you twist, the more you'll open up both your chest and back muscles. Breathe and hold, making sure to stretch both sides.