Waking up with stiff, achy muscles and joints? Taking a few minutes to stretch can help you warm up your body and get your day off to a good start. After taking a few deep breaths and drinking a cup of water, you might start with these moves:
Overhead triceps stretch
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Roll your shoulders down and back. Reach your left arm up, bend it at the elbow, and let your hand drop to the middle of your back. Reach your right hand up and place your fingers on your left arm, near your elbow. Apply light pressure to deepen the stretch. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat two to four times with each arm.
Kneeling hip-flexor stretch
From a kneeling position, place your right knee on the floor, directly under your hip, and place your left foot forward, with your knee over your ankle. Place both hands gently on your left thigh. Keep a tall, straight spine, brace your abdominal muscles, and pull your shoulders down and back without arching your back. Lean forward into your right hip, keeping your left knee pressed down. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds and repeat two to five times on each side.
Shoulder stability stretch
Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Place your arms out to the side, bent at the elbows, with your palms facing up. Stiffen your abdominal muscles and pull your shoulders back and down. Exhale and slowly extend your arms above your head without shrugging your shoulders or arching your back. Keep reaching until your thumbs touch the floor behind your head or to the point of tension. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds; then relax and return to the starting position. Repeat two to four times.
There’s a lot of confusion about whether it’s best to stretch before or after exercise. In general, stretching after exercise, when your muscles are warmed up, is most effective. Stretching before some kinds of exercise can hurt performance. For example, serious weightlifters shouldn’t stretch before lifting, because elongating muscles beforehand might interfere with the muscle-building process. However, there is a role for light stretching before some kinds of exercise. Brief static stretches, in which you stretch out a muscle and hold your position, can be helpful before exercises such as yoga or Pilates that involve more prolonged stretching. And dynamic stretching, in which you move your body fluidly through a stretch, can be part of your warm-up for activities such as running or dancing. A dynamic stretch might be something as simple as crossing your arms, one at a time, over your chest, while gently swinging your hips. Here are a few simple static stretches you might want to try after your main workout. Try holding each for 10 to 30 seconds:
This stretch focuses on the back of the thigh and relieves tension in the back. Sit with your legs stretched out in front of you, or bend one leg and straighten the other. Straighten your back, and gently fold your upper body forward.
Reclining figure-4 stretch
This stretch focuses on the outer hip and gluteal muscles. It can relieve lower back tension. Lie on your back, with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Cross your right foot over your left thigh and bring your legs toward your torso. Avoid straining. Instead, allow gravity to bring your legs closer to your body to deepen the stretch. Hold, and then repeat on the other side.
You can find more stretches at the American Council on Exercise’s exercise library at: https://www.acefitness.org/resources/everyone/exercise-library/