You may be surprised to hear this, but warming up your body before stretching is the best way of avoiding injury. Think of your muscles as pasta: Uncooked, it’s brittle and doesn’t bend easily without snapping. But warm it up, and it’s soft and malleable. Do light cardio, such as 10 to 15 minutes of walking, cycling or skipping, before your stretching routine, and you’re cooking.
If your muscles feel extra tight, you could be dehydrated. Flexibility and fluids go hand in hand, so drink lots of water before, during and after your stretching routine to keep your muscles loose. Stretching should be slightly uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be painful. A pulling sensation throughout your muscles that subsides after a few seconds is a good sign. A burning sensation is not. Ease off, adjust your position or move on to another stretch.
These poses target various muscles at once so you can loosen up your body faster. Breathe deeply as you hold these stretches for about 30 seconds. And watch your positioning: Often, our bodies will fall into the most comfortable position out of habit, negating the benefits of these stretches. Use a mirror to correct any lazy muscles.
Lat and hamstring stretch
Facing a wall, bend your body at the waist to 90 degrees and rest your hands flat on the wall. Do three reps.
Glute and hip stretch
Lying on your back, cross your right ankle over your left knee. Lift your left foot off the floor and hold your left thigh with both hands. Do three reps per leg.
Side, groin and lower-back stretch
Sitting on your bum, feet together, lift your left arm over your head and reach toward the right. Hold for 10 seconds, then bend forward, reaching your arms out along the floor. Hold for 10 seconds. Do five reps per side.
Quad and front-hip stretch
Balancing on your left foot and right knee, reach back and pull your right leg toward your bum. Do three reps per leg.
Leaning against a wall, keep your back and shoulders flat as you slowly raise your arms above your head, then slowly lower your arms. Do 10 reps.