The Fulcrum shows you how to stretch it out. Photo: ThoroughlyReviewed.
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Beginner’s tips on getting nice and limber before a workout

I want to start focusing on a good warmup and getting more flexible. What are some good stretches/stretching tips?

Stretching is an important part of getting ready for any exercise. Whether it’s running, biking, weightlifting, swimming, or whatever. You want to get some stretches in to make sure you’re nice and loose, and ready for some exertion.

The basics

Before getting into specific stretches, there are some things you should know.

Just like lifting or doing any other exercise, you want to be wearing the proper clothes. Something that’s loose and comfortable that you can actually stretch in is essential. Again, no jeans!

When you do any stretch you want to keep a few things in mind. Always focus on your breathing. You want to keep your breaths slow and stable. Never hold your breath when you do any of these. It’s just like doing weights or cardio in that sense.

When you do the stretch, you want to hold the position for more than just a few seconds. Give it a good 10-12 second hold. Make sure your motion is very slow—no jerking!

You want to make sure you’re actually getting loose, so make sure any stretch you’re doing produces a bit of tension. You don’t want it to be too easy. At the same time, overextending can hurt you, so don’t do that. Make it so the stretch is hard enough to have an effect, but not so hard it’s going to put you out of commission.

The specifics

Alright, it’s time to target specific muscles now.

When I played high school football, we stretched out nearly every major muscle group before practice. This was because in football, you’re going to be getting a full-body workout no matter what.

This doesn’t necessarily apply to all exercises you’re going to do. For instance, if you’re lifting weights and targeting specific muscle groups, you want to stretch those muscles out. You don’t really need to stretch out the arms on leg day and vice versa, but you always can if you want.

Some good ones if you want to hit your lower body are the butterfly and the sitting hamstring stretch. The first is so-named because of the shape you make with your legs and upper body. You want to sit on the ground, then bend your knees like you’re going to sit cross-legged, except you want to tuck your feet in as close as you can towards your body. Hold your feet as you bring it in tight. This will really stretch out those inner thighs.

The sitting hamstring stretch is a classic. Pretty straightforward—I’m sure you’ve seen it before. Sit on the ground with one leg extended, toe pointing towards the sky. Then reach out, nice and slow, grabbing your foot without moving it. This will really work those hamstring muscles on the back of your lower leg.

For your upper body, if you are lucky enough to have someone with you, the partner arm stretch is a solid one. Grab your partner’s arm or hand hard, and pull your body away from them, while still staying locked. This’ll really get those arms nice and loose.

Another simple one is just to windmill your arms around and around (in a controlled manner). That’ll get the arms and shoulders going as well.

You want to spend around five minutes stretching before you get into your particular exercise. You can also do them after your exercise—but this is not mandatory.

At the University of Ottawa, just as you can get personal training for weights as an individual or class, they will show you how to do proper stretches beyond these few here.