Stretching. You know you should be doing it – and that there’s usually a connection between skipping a good stretch session and some of those painful twinges you feel the day after an intense full-body HIIT class.
But when you’re unsure of how to stretch properly, it’s easy to feel self-conscious and shuffle out of the gym without running through a proper cool-down.
If this sounds like a familiar scenario, we asked personal trainer Laura Williams (laurawilliamsonline.co.uk) to share her four favourite static stretches for helping to reduce the risk of soreness the day after. Read, follow and repeat.
1. Pec stretch
What it’s for: The chest area.
When you should do it: After upper body work, such as push-ups, burpees, or cardio such as cycling, swimming or using the cross trainer. It can also help if you’ve been working at a desk or keyboard, or carrying heavy bags.
How to do it: Stand by a wall, door or railing with your right arm bent, forearm resting on the surface and your upper arm parallel to the floor. Push against the surface as your rotate your upper body away slightly from your arm. Hold for 30 seconds, switch to your left arm and repeat.
2. Trapezius stretch
What it’s for: The neck and upper back area.
When you should do it: When you’ve been doing shoulder and upper back exercises. It’s also handy if you wake with a stiff neck after a night’s sleep.
How to do it: From a standing or seated position, place your left hand behind the right side of your head, with your right arm behind your back. Lightly apply pressure and push your head to your left, until you feel a gentle stretch in your neck. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat on the other side.
3. Kneeling hip flexor stretch
What it’s for: The hip flexor muscles, which are right at the top of the thigh.
When you should do it: When you’ve been running, doing lower body exercises, or if you’ve been sitting for a long time.
How to do it: Kneel on the ground with your right knee on the floor and left foot in front of you. Press your hips forward, rolling slightly forward onto your right (back) knee, until a stretch is felt in the front of the right hip or the very top of the thigh. Hold for 30 secs, change sides and repeat.
4. Lying hamstring stretch
What it’s for: The hamstrings and the calves.
When you should do it: When you’ve been running, or walking, or doing lower body exercises, if you’ve been sitting for a long time or if you suffer with a tight lower back.
How to do it: Lie on the floor with both legs bent and wrap a resistance band or towel around the base of your left foot. Extend your leg above your hip, lightly bend your knee and pull on the towel, at the same time as moving your leg slightly closer to your head (Straightening the leg, while flexing the toes, switches the focus of the stretch to the calves). Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.