Sore muscles can be a common result of intense cardio and strength training workouts, but the proper stretching can minimize this post-exercise symptom. Soreness is often a good sign, showing that you're working a group of muscles hard enough to soon see results in toning and strength building. However, overly intense soreness could be a sign that you're not taking proper care of your body once your workout is up. The pain and inconvenience from excessively sore muscles could dissuade you from exercising in the future and can even be a sign that injury is potentially on its way.
Read below for tips on stretching the main muscle groups following stints in your fitness training, with a special focus on the muscles that often get left behind or forgotten about in this post-exercise ritual.
1. Modified Toe Touches
This stretch can be one that some think is only successfully performed by the most flexible, but that's not necessarily true. With legs together and feet flat on the ground, reach arms straight down toward your toes. Rather than worrying about making contact with the ground using your fingertips, instead focus on letting your back and shoulders fall with your arms as they move down. Sink your weight into your shoulders so that your upper back feels most of the stretch.
2. Arm Hooks
Look to this stretch for the most thorough upper body loosening post-workout. Put your left arm behind you, bend your elbow and reach your hand toward the back of your right shoulder. Raise your right arm and bend your elbow so that you can direct your right hand to grab your left arm behind your back in its place near your shoulder. Pull with both arms, feeling the tension created from force in the opposing directions. Switch to do the same with your opposite arms. This will stretch triceps, pectorals and deltoids.
3. Side Bends
These will target oblique and back muscles, which are typically hard to reach in stretches. Sit cross-legged on the floor and place your hands on the side of your head, with your elbows bent so that arms form a V shape. Rotate your body to the left about one inch and then point your left elbow and left side of your head down toward the ground, so that the left of your waist feels the stretch. Return to the original position and then do the same on the right.
4. Low Lunges
Lunges are a commonly known stretch and even strength exercise. They require you to place one leg in front of you and one leg behind you, and bend your front knee while stretching your back leg. This classic form of the stretch targets the calve muscle in your back leg and a bit of the quad muscles in the thigh of your front leg. Extending it a bit further, however, will maximize the stretch you get from it and even target the tiny muscles on your inner thighs. Drop further so that your front calve is almost flush on the ground and front knee is pointing forward. The back knee should be facing downward, keeping your back leg nearly straight and flat.