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Why Active Stretching Is the Best Way to Warm Up


It can make for a better workout.

woman working out

Stretching does a body good. It improves your flexibility and boosts your workout. But when you’re in a time crunch, it’s easy to skip the mat. The solution? Make an active stretching routine your warmup. That’s when you move your body through each position, says Holly Roser, a personal trainer and owner of Holly Roser Fitness in San Francisco. Think: a flowing yoga sequence instead of that grab-and-hold stretch from high school gym class.

“Active stretching brings blood flow to your muscles,” Roser says. “It increases your range of motion.” It primes your body for activity, which can help fend off injuries, Roser adds. Research shows that it’s also seriously effective: In a study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, people who did a series of active hamstring stretches twice a day had greater flexibility in their hamstring muscles after six weeks compared with those who did static stretches over the same period of time.

To ramp up the results of your next workout, try the six following active stretches, developed by Roser, which will stretch your entire body and warm up your muscles.

Hurdles: Stand with your feet hips-width apart. Lift your right knee. Circle your knee to the right, rotating it a half-circle away from your body. Your right foot will go behind you and return to the starting position. Do 10 reps; switch legs and repeat, circling your left knee to the left.

Walking High Kicks: Stand with your feet hips-width apart. Reach your left hand forward. Kick your right foot up to touch it as you take a step. Try to keep your back as straight as possible; avoid leaning forward. Bring your right foot back to the ground, then push off with your left foot to kick it into your right hand. That’s 1 rep. Do 10 reps.

Lunging Hip Opener: Stand with your feet together. Step your right foot forward. Bend both knees so your left knee rests on the ground as you place your hands on both sides of your left foot. Stretch your left arm upward and twist your body so you’re looking up. Bring your arm back down and step back into the starting position. Repeat the sequence on the other side to complete 1 rep. Do 5 reps.

Walking Knee Hugs: Stand with your feet hips-width apart. Kick up your right knee as high as you can. Grab your knee with both hands and pull it up a little higher. Slowly lower your leg back to the ground. Take a step forward and repeat the sequence with your left leg to complete 1 rep. Do 10 reps.

Inch Worms: Stand with your feet hips-width apart, knees slightly bent. Bring your hands to the floor. Walk your hands forward until you reach a push-up position. Walk your hands back to your feet. Stand up and lift your arms above your head, and then return to starting position. Do 5 reps.

High Skips: Stand with your feet hips-width apart, arms bent at the elbow. Bring your right knee up as high as you can as you move your left arm forward and right arm back. Switch sides, lifting your left knee and moving your right arm forward, to complete 1 rep. Do 10 reps.

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