Stretching is an important and often overlooked part of a workout. It can help improve your range of motion, lower the risk of injuries, boost blood flow to your muscles, and ease tension -- and it feels great.
"Stretching is a good way to make a mind-body connection," says Kira Stokes, a certified personal trainer and owner of Kira Stokes Fitness in New York. Try these three stretches at least four times per week.
1. Lie on your back on the floor.
2. Holding the handles of a resistance band in each hand, wrap the band around the ball of your right foot.
3. With your left leg on the floor, keep your right leg straight, flex your right foot, and raise it toward the ceiling, using the resistance band to hold the position.
4. Keep your hips square and aim to have the bottom of your right foot parallel with the ceiling. (It may take time to be able to straighten your leg; for now, raise it as high as possible.)
5. Hold for 15 seconds.
6. Release and repeat three times.
7. Repeat with the left leg.
This basic quad stretch can be done almost anywhere, Stokes says. The move also targets your hip flexors, which "tend to be super-tight in most people."
1. Stand with feet a few inches apart and left hand on a wall for support.
2. Bend your right knee and lift your right foot behind you, grabbing your foot with your right hand.
3. Squeezing your glutes, pull your right heel toward your backside, pointing your right knee toward the floor. For added stability, hold onto the wall with your left hand.
4. Hold for 15 seconds.
5. Release and repeat three times.
6. Repeat with the left leg.
IT Band Stretch
The iliotibial, or IT band, a layer of connective tissue that runs from your hip to your knee, gets tight from sitting. Stokes likes this stretch because it helps release tension in the glutes and outer thighs.
1. Holding a wall for support, cross your right ankle over your left knee.
2. Bend your left knee and lower into a "seated" position. Keep your knee over your ankle. Try to keep your left thigh parallel to the floor.
3. Hold for 15 seconds.
4. Release and repeat three times.
5. Repeat with the left leg.
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