Warm up and cool down exercises play a number of important roles in your overall fitness routine. While it may seem as if you’d be better served taking the time you normally spend doing warm ups and cool down exercises and replacing it with high intensity exercise, doing so can lead to any number of problems that might derail you from your fitness goals.
Dynamic stretching is the key to any well-conceived workout—and not just as the injury preventative warm-up to a good sweat session. Taking the time to lengthen and release your muscles after you’ve exerted them will also relieve tightness and improve flexibility.
Here are five moves to open up the hips, stretch the shoulders and arms, and release tension from the neck and core at the beginning and end of your workout. Go ahead—loosen up.
- Start lying face-down with your arms bent and your hands in line with your shoulders, almost in a push-up position.
- Your stomach should be engaged.
- With light pressure, gently press upward through your arms and shoulders into a reverse C-shape, moving only as far as you can without feeling pressure in your lower back.
- Hold for five to ten seconds to stretch the lower back, abdomen, chest, and neck, then slowly lower down, breathing as you perform ten reps.
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- Lay on your back with your feet flat on the ground and body engaged into the mat.
- Start by crossing your left leg over your right knee, then press down on the left hip gently to keep it anchored against the floor.
- If you can stretch more, lift up and grab your right knee and pull it in gently toward your body for a hip, butt, and thigh stretch.
- Do ten reps, making sure that you hold for no more than five to ten seconds at a time.
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- Sit on your legs to perform this neck stretch.
- Using two fingers, tilt your head to the side and press down gently, letting your opposite shoulder drop for a deeper stretch.
- You can also repeat the exercise, lowering your head and neck on a diagonal, or to the front to elongate the back of the neck instead.
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- Using your right hand, grab your left elbow and press it across the body with resistance.
- Keep your shoulder down and away from your ear.
- It’s important to keep the left arm bent during this exercise, especially for those with shoulder problems, to avoid aggravating the tendons and joints.
- Switch and repeat on the other side.
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- Stand up, leaning forward with your hands resting lightly on your right knee, and lunge gently, slowly toward your right side.
- This stretches out the inner thigh, outer thigh, hip, and butt of the opposite leg.
- It’s important to do this stretch slowly and adapt it to the range of motion that fits you best, holding it for no more than five to ten seconds before switching sides.
- Do not perform more than five reps.