Four of the best simple but effective stretches to get your body ready for strength training.
No matter how often you strength train and how used to lifting you may be, it’s always important to warm up before you start your workout. Whether at the gym or during an at-home bodyweight training session, mobility warm-ups and stretches are key to performing at your best and preventing injury.
“We need to get the body ready for exercise, rather than a sudden jump from rest to high exertion,” explains Aimee Long, strength and conditioning trainer and pilates instructor. “Stretching properly can reduce injuries and give you better flexibility, range of motion, posture, and coordination.”
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However, it’s not just the stretching that counts, it’s what type of stretching you do that can really make the difference. The key thing here is that our warm-ups are dynamic, rather than static. You can save the five-minute pigeon pose for post-workout, when we want to “get the muscle back to their original length and remove excess lactic acid, helping you avoid DOMs,” says Aimee. Instead, pre-workout we should be moving through the muscles and joints in a fluid motion.
It’s also important to make your pre-workout stretches training-specific. For example, if you are going to be doing a lower-body training day, we need to focus on working into the lower body and practice the shapes that we will be using during our workout. But it’s always best to try some full-body moves too, as compound exercises will be engaging all of your muscles.
If you don’t know where to start, here are some of Aimee’s favourite pre-workout stretches to help your body prepare for the training session ahead.
Come into a high lunge position with your palms together in front of you. Begin to twist your body in the direction of your front leg, twisting the arms with you so that you can place the opposite elbow on the outer side of your front leg. Maintain balance to hold for a couple of breaths, then return back to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
Do this classic yoga pose – but make it mobile. That means pumping through the feet, switching which knee is bent and which foot is flat to the ground, so that the back of the legs begin to release. You can also shake out the head in ‘yes’ and ‘no’ patterns to work the joints in the neck.
Lying on your front with your hands by your shoulders, squeeze the shoulder blades and glutes and begin to lift your upper back, hips and knees off of the floor. Maintaining those engaged muscles is really important – you don’t want to be overarching through the back. To make this even more dynamic, make it a yoga flow by pushing back into downward dog, lowering into a plank position and back up into this stretch.
There are lots of ways to work through the thoracic spine (the section at the top of your back which so often gets hunched), but one of our favourites is a side-lying thoracic twist.
Lying on the floor with your arms extended wide, bring the right knee up to your chest and pull it across the body and down to the floor. Bring the right hand over your body to meet the left hand and then take the hand overhead, extended back over to the right side. When doing this, make sure that the left shoulder remains touching the floor to really feel the stretch through the upper back. Repeat a few times, then change to the other side.
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).