The great debate between stretching before, after, or both before and after a workout continues to rage on and offline. While there is no set-in-stone consensus about the best time to stretch, I’m sticking to my motto of anything is better than nothing. Because realistically speaking, there are going to be days when you forget to stretch beforehand, don’t have time to stretch afterwards, or you just really hate stretching and don’t do it very often.
So here’s a before-workout stretching routine. These are “active” stretches, meaning they require you to move through a range of motion. The opposite, “static”, stretches are ones in which you hold a position (like a toe touch) for a period of time, and are more appropriate for post-workout stretching. You can also see after-workout stretches here.
Start by hopping on a cardio machine for 5-7 minutes of light-intensity cardio to get your muscles warmed up and loosened. Then do the following stretches.
Before Workout Upper Body Stretches:
- Arm circles: Swing your arms in large circles, 10 times clockwise and 10 times counter-clockwise. The circles should be big enough that you are rotating your arms through their full range of motion.
- Neck circles: Roll your head in circles, 10 times clockwise and 10 times counter-clockwise. Consciously relax your shoulders while you do this.
Before Workout Lower Body Stretches:
Place one foot in front of the other and descend until your front leg is at 90 degrees, and your back leg is extended behind you. Lightly “pulse” or bounce up and down in this position 5 times, then transition into the hamstring stretch.
Shift your weight from your front foot to your back foot, and fold your back leg under your buttocks so that your front leg is now extended in front of you. Lean forward and try to reach your toes for a few seconds. Then switch sides and repeat for the other leg, starting with the quadriceps stretch again.
Before Workout Core Stretches:
Lay with your belly on the ground, and us your arms to push your upper body upwards to stretch your abs. Your hips should not lift off the ground. At the “top” of this stretch, shift your weight backwards onto your toes, and transition into downward dog.