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Most guys would rather skip the pre-workout stretches and go straight to the weight rack. Yet, warming up before you get to work is crucial because it prepares your muscles and helps you get more from your workout. It also helps prevent injury, so you can keep on lifting and growing at the gym.
The key to a good pre-workout stretch is making sure it’s dynamic. In other words, you aren’t simply holding a static posture, but moving through active stretches. Adding this extra element of movement improves flexibility and range of motion, so you can improve performance and power and recover faster. Here are just a few stretches to add to your new and improved warm-up routine.
1. Arm Circles
Some guys use mobility sticks to stretch their arm muscles. However, if you want to strengthen and stretch every muscle in your arm at once, you’ll do arm circles. This gentle, yet effective stretch will get your blood pumping and build muscle tone in your shoulders, triceps and biceps.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and bring your arms out to a T position. Circle your arms forward using small, controlled movements. Gradually make your arm circles bigger, keeping your core engaged, until you feel a tricep stretch. Complete a round in reverse after about 10 seconds.
You know what they say — never miss a leg day. Prep your calves, thighs and glutes for some action with some squat stretches. Busting out a few reps with nothing but your own bodyweight is a great way to warm up before hitting the smith machine. This movement will also reduce your risk of knee injury when you go to do loaded squats later.
Start with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Your toes should point out a little. Then slowly bend your knees and drop your butt until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your weight in your heels so your knees stay behind your toes. Hold for a breath before pressing back up to standing. Repeat until your knees, thighs and glutes are nice and warm.
3. Neck Stretches
A stiff neck is a real pain in the neck, especially when you’re trying to work out. If you twist or turn a certain way, you risk pulling a muscle or ligament in your neck. That’s why it’s important to stretch and strengthen them before hitting the gym. Warm up the neck and ready your spine for movement with simple neck stretches.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and gently look up and down, nodding your head slowly. Try to hold each stretch for about five seconds before returning to a neutral position. Repeat a few reps. Then, use the same slow, gentle movement to shake your head side-to-side. Remember, the goal is to improve neck flexibility and function, so be mindful of how far you stretch.
4. Plank Walk-Outs
Of course, you also want to wake up your core and spine. That’s where plank walk-outs come in handy. This dynamic stretch is all about engaging your abs and, when practiced properly, will warm up multiple muscle groups so you’re ready to lift heavy without throwing out your back.
Begin standing with your feet about hip-width apart. Bend down and plant your hands on the floor in front of you. Try to keep your back straight as you walk your hands away from your feet. As you do, your heels will lift so you’re on your toes. Then, walk your hands back in and return to standing. Complete a few reps to really get your blood pumping and your muscles warm.
5. Walking Lunges
It’s difficult to maintain good form in a static lunge before you’ve properly warmed up. That’s why walking lunges are the best option before a workout. This stretch will lengthen and strengthen your hip flexors and your hamstrings simultaneously.
Step your right foot forward, allowing both knees to bend until your right thigh is parallel to the ground. Step your left foot up to meet the right. Then, lunge forward with your left foot. Allow your back knee to gently kiss the ground with each step. Doing so will increase range of motion and improve balance.
Don’t Forget to Cool Down
When it comes to staying fit, cooling down is just as important as warming up. Perform a few static stretches to lengthen and loosen your muscles and connective tissue. Now, you should be able to bend, twist and reach a bit deeper. Ultimately, pairing static stretches with dynamic ones can increase flexibility, reduce pain, prevent injury and help you get stronger faster.