Ask anyone, even athletes, and especially male athletes, what their least favorite fitness routine is, and they’ll all likely give you the same answer—stretching. After all, the main concerns are gains in endurance and strength, right?
Actually, strength and flexibility are best friends, and they don’t like to go anywhere without one another. The problem is that stretching takes time, and the results, unlike the exertion of exercise, aren’t immediately noticeable. Why take the time to uncomfortably stand around for ten minutes when you could be joyously running or swimming or hiking?
Although there is renewed debate on the details in the medical community, stretching is currently thought to improve not only our range of motion, but also decreases the risk of injury during exercise when paired with a good warm-up routine.
Contrary to popular opinion, stretching doesn’t so much make muscles longer as much as it tricks your nervous system into giving you a wider range of motion. Many of us sit all day—we live in a sedentary culture, after all. Our bodies adapt to this range of motion, and so our nervous system sets off alarms at the slightest hint of stretching. We can overcome this oversensitivity over time by exposing our muscles to different stretching techniques. Overriding the stretching pain response can give us back our normal range of motion, even after being deskbound and inflexible for years.
So in the interest of a better range of motion, decreased chances of injury, and simply a general sense of wellbeing, let’s look at 8 great stretches that you should be doing every day. We’ve included plenty of hip and leg stretches in order to loosen up those muscles that are tightened by sitting.