You know that moment when you just need to stretch—maybe it’s before getting out of bed in the morning, during a long flight or right after a long run. Think about how your go-to muscle-loosening move makes you feel. Does it make you say “ooh” and “ahh”? Well, that’s exactly what stretching can do for you: Wake up your muscles, relieve tension throughout the body and make you feel oh-so-good.
But the benefits of stretching go even further. “There are many factors that can limit or enhance movement, including prior tissue damage, strength, stability around the joint and, of course, flexibility,” says Lisa Wheeler, vice president of fitness programming for Daily Burn. “That’s where stretching comes in. If the muscles around the joint aren’t flexible, it’s difficult to move efficiently.” In other words, that stiffness can prevent you from doing full range of motion exercises, cause injury and worse, keep you from progressing with your fitness goals.
To help you loosen up the joints used in most daily movements—especially those that get tight from sitting all day—we rounded up 15 lengthening and strengthening stretches to do daily. Wheeler says it’s best to do a dynamic warm-up before a workout and static holds after exercise. Thankfully, you can use most of these stretches for both by either staying in the position shown for 30 seconds (static) or moving in and out of the pose (dynamic). Focus on deep breathing and you’ll probably experience some mental stress relief, too.
RELATED: The 5 Keys to a Perfect Warm-Up
15 Stretches to Relieve Tension Now
1. Downward Dog
A yogi favorite, this pose focuses on hip and shoulder mobility, while stretching your hamstrings, lats (muscles in your mid-back) and deltoids (muscles in your shoulders).
How to: Start in plank position with shoulders directly over wrists (a). Push your hips up toward the ceiling so you form a triangle with your body. Keep your head between your arms and straighten your legs as much as possible (b). Reach your heels toward the ground and spread your fingers, so your bodyweight gets distributed evenly through the hands and feet.
Make it dynamic: Continuously move between plank position and downward dog.
2. Side Oblique Stretch
You’ll lengthen through the side of your body as you stretch your lats, hips and obliques.
How to: Stand with feet a little wider than hip-distance apart (a). As you lift one arm overhead with your palm facing inward, reach and lean toward the opposite side of the arm raised (b). Hold for eight seconds, then switch sides.
Make it dynamic: After you reach with one arm, bend that elbow as you pull it down by your side and stand straight. Reach back up and over. Do eight reps, then switch sides.
3. Crescent Pose
Find length and balance as you engage your abs, hip flexors and chest with this high lunge.
How to: Stand with your feet staggered: one in front and one behind you (a). Bend your front knee to create a 90-degree angle. Keep your back leg straight behind you (b). Lift your arms up in the air by your ears, palms facing inward. Lift your chest up, slightly arching your back as you press your back hip forward (c). If possible, lower your lunge as you exhale. Hold for eight seconds, then switch sides.
Make it dynamic: Bend and straighten your front leg as you lift and lower your arms. Repeat for eight reps, then switch sides.
4. Child’s Pose
Take it from Daily Burn’s Becca Pace: This stretch is probably one of the most calming postures, and works well for recovery, too. You’ll stretch the low back, lats and shoulders.
How to: Get on all fours on an exercise mat (a). From your hands and knees, push your hips back until your butt rests on your heels. (Knees slightly wider than hips.) Keep your arms straight out in front of you and look at the floor.
Make it dynamic: Continuously flow through hands-and-knees position to child’s pose.
5. Single Leg Stretch
If you’re like most adults, you need a little more flexibility in your hamstrings. Bonus benefit: You’ll also work your core.
How to: Lie on your back and lift legs toward the ceiling (a). Lower one leg toward the floor as you pull the other leg toward your face (b). Hold the back of your raised leg (calf or higher) and lift your shoulders off the mat (c). Keep legs as straight as possible and toes pointed. Hold, then switch sides.
Make it dynamic: Switch legs repeatedly, gently grabbing your calf and pulling it toward you.
6. Figure 4
This is an ah-mazing stretch for runners, as it alleviates tightness in the glutes and the hard-to-reach piriformis (another muscle in your backside).
How to: Sit on a mat with your legs extended in front of you (a). Place your hands behind you, fingertips facing away from your body. Lift one leg, placing your ankle on your opposite leg, just above the knee. (Keep your feet flexed to protect your knees.) (b). Slowly bend your bottom leg toward you, until you feel a stretch in the outer hip of the other leg (c). Straighten your back, roll your shoulders down and push out your chest. Hold, then switch sides.
Make it dynamic: Continue to bend and straighten your bottom leg.
Have a stiff back? This pose will encourage blood flow and more mobility in your spine.
How to: Get on your hands and knees on an exercise mat, with wrists in line with shoulders and knees in line with hips (a). Round your back, tuck your pelvis and look toward the floor, as you scoop your abs upward (b).
Make it dynamic: Inhale and exhale as you flow through cat and cow (below).
Read the rest of the article here.
This article originally appeared on DailyBurn.com.
When it comes to sculpting stellar legs, Anna Kaiser, creator of AKT, has a winning record. Proof: Just look at her star clients, which include Shakira, Kelly Ripa, and Karlie Kloss. Lucky for you, the trainer is dishing on two of her favorite moves to sculpt sexy stems: Lateral Lunges and Toe Lifts. “Lateral Lunges are a killer workout that you can do anywhere. No equipment needed,” says Kaiser. “And Toe Lifts work your legs while forcing you to maintain good posture and a strong core—and for you heel-wearers, it stretches the front of your leg and strengthens your calves.” Do each three times a week for tighter, more toned legs.
How to do lateral lunges
Start with feet wider than hip-width apart (A). Step left foot out to side and bend knee. With weight in heels, hinge forward at a 45-degree angle; keep right leg straight. Reach right arm overhead and to left (B). Return to start; repeat on opposite side. This is one rep. Do 10.
Start with back against wall; walk legs three feet out in front of you, keeping shoulders and back on wall. Lift toes up (A), return to floor; lift heels up (B), return to floor. That’s one rep. Do 20.
Stop everything you’re doing! One of our all-time favorite fitness brands just launched the collection we’ve been waiting for. That’s right: Athleta dropped a new performance underwear line, and it has us seriously swooning.
If you’ve been searching for practically invisible underwear to wear under yoga tights, look no further than Athleta’s Incognita (bye-bye, VPL!). Designed specifically for yogis, these babies have a back center seam that helps control slippage during poses like downward dog.
The Performa style is moisture-wicking, quick-drying mesh underwear for your most intense workouts, keeping you cool down there while you sweat it out. The Performa is perfect for medium and high-impact workouts, such as HIIT sessions at the gym or long runs. Also good: it has bonded edges, which offer a barely-there-at-all feeling. Yes, please.
Then there's the Natura, your go-to seamless 100% cotton panty. It’s comfortable enough to sport all day at the office, yet feminine enough with its subtle lace pattern to slip under a dress for evening drinks. The wider waistband keeps the undies in place, so you won’t be resorting to office corners to discreetly yank them up.
Even better? The incredible underwear line comes in a variety of hues, from Desert Rose to Cinnamon Brown to classic black (we’re loving the Arbor Olive). Plus, it offers classic cuts, including bikini, high-waisted briefs, and thongs, so there’s something for everyone. Not only do these panties conveniently pair with Athleta’s sports bras, but they’ll also look amazing with a lacy bralette for date night. Trust us.
All styles retail for an affordable $16, so you won’t be breaking the bank for total workout comfort. Stock up on Athleta’s performance underwear line online and in stores. We're adding these amazing styles to our shopping carts, now.
This just in: Sleep is not for the weak. According to Reese Witherspoon’s fitness trainer Ashley Borden, making sure you get those extra Zzs is crucial to tackling your workout.
“I always tell my clients that I would rather them get sleep instead of working out on four hours of sleep,” Borden told mindbodygreen.com. “Studies have shown that between 7.5 and eight hours of sleep every night helps the body repair itself and regulate inflammation in the body.”
Borden, who has also worked with the likes of Christina Aguilera, Mandy Moore, and Ryan Gosling, said sleep also affects your metabolic process.
“[Not getting enough sleep] produces a higher amount of the inflammatory stress hormone, cortisol,” she said in the interview. “Cortisol has its time and place in our bodies, but not at night. Cortisol heightens our alertness, the last thing we need when we crave sleep.”
Aside from sleeping in, Borden also recommends that her clients avoid sugar and load up on greens.
“Sugars are inflammatory and trigger more sugar cravings, along with increasing inflammatory cortisol levels, which cause belly fat,” she said. “Choose vegetables that are all the colors of the rainbow and focus on dark green veggies, too. These give us phytonutrients, which have many antioxidant assets that can put a stop to cell damage, which helps strengthen our immune system, prevents cancer, has a positive effect on our hormones, and improves our overall health and vitality.”
And even though temperatures are dropping, Borden says it’s important to take your workout outdoors.
“Getting outdoors for even 10 minutes provides the body with a natural dose of vitamin D,” she said. “Being outside also provides amazing mental stimulation.”
One way she gets her clients moving? An outdoor workout that sounds like something Witherspoon’s Wild character, Cheryl Strayed, would approve of.
“I have taken clients out for power walks with a backpack full of mini bands and bands with handles to create a hillside neighborhood circuit workout,” she said.