The 4 Stretches EVERYONE Should Do

Photographed By Winnie Au.
There’s a certain rush that comes along with sweating profusely. It’s that "high" that motivates you to come back for more. The maintenance aspect of staying fit, on the other hand, is largely ignored — because, well, it’s not as exciting. But, there's no way around it: Stretching is vital to our daily lives.
If you hope to continue cycling, running, playing tennis, diving, skiing — whatever your activity of choice is — you must make time to stretch. It keeps your body functioning today, and (more importantly), well into the future.
After teaching hundreds of indoor-cycling classes at SoulCycle while also being a student of fitness and science, I’ve discovered that everyone suffers from the same aches and pains. I’ve pinpointed four all-encompassing stretches that will help increase your flexibility and give a much needed tune-up to your body. Here are four easy stretches to add to your daily routine to help reduce pain, ease soreness, and simply feel great.
1. Pigeon (variants known as figure four, butterfly)
Why It's Amazing: The pigeon stretch is not a fun pose, especially if you have tight hips. But, if you have legs, you can benefit from this stretch.
How To Do It: Begin in cross-legged, seated position. Unfurl your right leg and extend back behind you. Arrange your bent leg so that the left shin is straight and parallel to your hips. Your knee should be at a 90-degree angle to your body, and be sure to flex your left foot. Allow your hips to be square and sit tall — letting your vertebrae stack. Now, begin to hinge forward at the waist over your left leg. Breathe deeply into the areas that feel tightest. Hold for desired length (at least 30 seconds), and then repeat on the opposite side.
Who Benefits: As mentioned, this is a pretty universal stretch. Everyone can benefit, but particularly cyclists, runners, or those who experience knee strain.
2. Forward Fold (also known as the hamstring stretch and forward bend)
Why It's Amazing: This is a twofer stretch that targets your hamstrings and calves as well as your lower back. Forward folds help to lengthen the backside of the body from the top of the head all the way down to the heels. This stretch is extremely easy, and can be done anywhere (either standing or sitting).
How To Do It: Start sitting on the ground with legs extended in front of you. Keep your legs glued together and flex your feet. Sit tall, with your spine long, and begin to fold forward at the hips, allowing your torso to fall over your extended legs. The key to making this stretch worth your while is maintaining as much length in your torso as possible, and going only as far forward as you can without compromising form — think long legs and back. Depending upon your flexibility, a slight bend in the knees is fine if straightened legs are not within reach. If you are seeking lower back relief, try the standing variation: start with your feet hip-width apart and fold over at the hips bringing the top of your head to toward the floor. Either let your arms sweep down to floor, or grab hold of opposite elbows and release, letting the upper body hang limp.
Who Benefits: The same suspects that benefit from pigeon, i.e., everyone. Forward folds can be particularly beneficial to people who spend a lot of time at a desk. Anyone experiencing tension or buildup in their low back will particularly enjoy this stretch, as it can provide relief quickly.
3. Tricep + Shoulder Stretch (also known as overhead triceps stretch and parallel arm shoulder stretch)
Why It's Amazing: Let's not forget to give the upper body some love. Shoulders, much like hips, tend to be a storage place for tension and stress. These are the muscles that help keep us in upright posture, and are extremely vital to all activities we do.
How To Do It: Extend your left arm away from the body at shoulder-height. Now, bring it across your chest and bend your right arm so that you’re cradling your left arm. Apply light pressure to the left arm by hugging it closer with your right. Be sure your left shoulder is rolled down and back, not creeping up close to your left ear. Hold and continue to deepen the stretch for about 30 seconds. Now, unwrap your arms and do a tricep stretch on your left arm by lifting your left arm overhead and bending at the elbow so that your left hand falls behind your neck. Gently hold your left elbow with your right hand (as pictured). Think about shooting your left elbow up higher towards the sky to find release in the triceps. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch and repeat both stretches on your right side.
Who Benefits: CrossFit devotees, lifters, and barre-girls alike will all benefit. Anyone with shoulder and or triceps tightness can incorporate this into their pre- and post-workout routine.
4. Quadricep Stretch
Why It's Amazing: We tend to be very quad-dominant, and overuse can leave muscles sore and inflamed. Stretching this area will help release the tension along the front of the thighs all the way up to the front side of the hip and groin.
How To Do It: Stand tall with your feet together. Bend your left knee, bringing your left heel toward your butt and grab your left ankle or foot with your left hand. Make sure your knees stay glued together and gently pull your left foot closer and closer to your butt. Feel free to hold onto a wall for balance if you need to. Be sure to maintain good posture throughout the stretch, imagining every breath adding an inch of length to your torso. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch.
Who Benefits: Any activity that activates the quads (walking, running, cycling, treading water, etc.) will require a counter-balance (a quad stretch) to nurture and repair the muscle.

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