For many people, stretching is just one that you try to skimp on whenever you can. You know you’re supposed to do it, but still, somehow it’s the thing you always “forget” to do and decide you’ll get to later (and then never do).

All it takes, though, is a couple of minutes of stretching to reap the long-term benefits of increased mobility and range of motion, both of which will help you perform exercises properly and ultimately reduce your risk of injury.

It simply feels good to stretch a muscle you’ve just been contracting during exercise. It’s better to stretch when your muscles are warm—increased blood flow in the muscle tissues makes them more flexible.

Plus, stretching is an essential part of a cooldown session, which you should do after any cardiovascular workout because it helps your heart rate return to normal in a slow and controlled way. Stopping exercise abruptly can interfere with your circulation, and you may end up feeling lightheaded or even pass out.

Crossover Hamstring Stretch


How to:

  • Stand with one leg crossed over the other.
  • Bend forward at the hips and try to touch the floor with your hands.
  • Try to keep your back knee straight.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

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Pretzel Stretch

How to:

  • Lie on your left side with your head resting on your arm.
  • Bend your right hip and knee up toward your chest as far as you can, and then let it drop to the floor.
  • Bend your left knee and grab your left foot (use a strap if you can’t reach it) with your right hand.
  • Make sure your leg and torso remain in a straight line as you gently bring your top shoulder blade toward the floor.
  • For more of a spinal twist, turn your head to look over your right shoulder.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.

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Psoas Stretch

How to:

  • Kneel on your right knee. Place your left foot flat on the floor in front of you, knee bent.
  • Place your right hand on a foam roller for support.
  • Squeeze your butt and tuck your hips, feeling the stretch in the front of your hips (where the psoas muscle is).
  • Press down on the foam roller to deepen the stretch.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

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Heel Drops

How to:

  • Stand up straight, holding onto the back of a chair for support.
  • You can also do this in front of a wall.
  • Lift your right toes so that you’re standing on your heel and your toes are pressed against the back of the chair or the wall.
  • Gently press your toes against the chair or wall.
  • You’ll feel a stretch in your Achilles tendon and your calf.
  • Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

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Figure Four Stretch

How to:

  • Stand with your feet together, hands resting on a chair for support if needed.
  • Cross your left foot over your right quad just above your knee.
  • Bend your right knee slightly, hinge forward at your hips, and sit your butt back.
  • You should feel the stretch primarily on the left side of your butt.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat with the other leg.

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Standing Quad Stretch

How to:

  • Stand with your feet together, hand resting on the back of a chair or against a wall for support if you need it.
  • Bend your left knee and use your left hand to pull your left foot toward your butt.
  • Keep your knees together.
  • Squeeze your butt to increase the stretch in the front of your legs.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other leg.

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Downward Facing Dog

How to:

  • Start in a high plank, hands directly under shoulders, legs out straight behind you, feet hip-width apart.
  • Lift your butt toward the ceiling and press through your palms.
  • Try to straighten your legs completely and lower your heels to the floor.
  • Relax your head between your arms, and direct your gaze through your legs and toward your feet.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

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Kneeling Hip Adductor Stretch

How to:

  • Kneel on your left knee and extend your right leg straight out to the side.
  • Place your hands on the floor in front of you, and put your weight into your hands as you press your right hip down gently.
  • To target different muscles, rock your hips slightly forward and backward.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

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Straddle

How to:

  • Sit on the floor with both legs extended out to the sides so that you’re in a V.
  • Open your legs as wide as possible and flex your feet.
  • Take a few deep breaths and try to inch your body forward and open your legs wider.
  • If it feels comfortable to you, fold forward and reach your arms out on the floor in front of you as far as you can.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

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Double Pigeon Pose

How to:

  • Sit up straight with both legs bent in front of you.
  • Rest your right leg over your left, trying to stack your opposite knees and toes.
  • Walk your hands out in front of your body, folding forward at your hips, as far as you can.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.