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The American College of Sports Medicine recommends stretching at least two times a week for 60 seconds per exercise, and for the right reasons. For your heart-pumping cardio workout, adding stretching exercises can do wonders for both your body and mind, whether you're running on a treadmill, cycling on a bike, or doing some form of aerobics.
Not sure what kind of stretches you should be doing? Ahead is your guide to 5 stretching exercises that will help enhance your cardio workout today.
Static vs Dynamic Stretching
Stretching your different muscle groups before and after your workout brings a myriad of benefits. It can increase the effectiveness of your workout session, help prevent injuries, and provide relief from your post-exercise soreness whilst at the same time improving your balance, flexibility, and posture over time. Stretching exercises are divided into two main categories, namely static and dynamic stretches.
Static stretching such as biceps stretch and seated butterfly stretch is a post-exercise routine that entails holding your position without any movement for about 15-30 seconds. On the other hand, dynamic stretches, including hip circles and jog to quad stretch, are characterised by active but controlled movement meant to warm up and ready your muscles and tissues for high-intensity cardio exercise activities. This makes dynamic stretches a good pre-workout routine.
5 Stretches to Level Up Your Cardio Workout
Static and dynamic stretches are easy enough to perform and don't take much of your time. Check out these 5 stretches that will surely help power your routine and make your body more flexible for optimum performance.
(Image by The Yoga Nomads)
1. Start in a quadruped position, with your hands and knees on the ground.
2. Shift your weight forward onto your hands. Slowly move your knees away from each other. As you move them, make sure that they remain aligned with your hips.
3. Carefully move your feet outward on the sides.
4. Lay your forearms on the ground with your elbows under your shoulders and your palms touching the floor. Rest in this position.
5. Breathe and relax while holding the position for 45 seconds to 1 minute.
6. Gently release the stretch.
7. Slowly go back to your starting position.
• Frog pose helps improve and stabilise hip mobility.
• It helps strengthen your stomach and tone your legs.
• It promotes muscle endurance and weight loss.
• You may increase the hold for 3-5 minutes as your body gets used to this exercise.
• Use pads or blankets if you have sensitive knees.
• Avoid frog pose if you’re suffering from severe back issues.
Thread the Needle
(Image by Complete Pilates)
1. Begin by getting on your hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees below the hips.
2. Taking a deep breath, slowly turn your chest to the right as you raise your right arm as if reaching for the ceiling.
3. Breathe out as you lower your arm back, and then slip it underneath your body towards the left. Let the back of your right arm rest on the ground.
4. Allow your right ear to touch the floor as you gaze towards your left side.
5. After one breath, go back to your starting position. Repeat the same movement with the opposite side.
6. Do a few reps.
• This stretch increases the range of motion of your mid-back.
• It may help improve spine mobility.
• It’s good for deep and gentle stretching.
• It helps ease neck pain and tension.
• Don’t forget to breathe to make the most out of this exercise.
• Don’t hunch your back when doing this stretch.
• You may opt to perform arm circles or arm flaps before starting this stretching exercise for a deeper stretch.
(Image by medibank)
1. Lie down on your back.
2. Cross your right ankle over your bent left knee.
3. Bring your left bent knee up towards your chest.
4. Place both your hands on your raised left leg.
5. Hold the position for 30-45 seconds. Don’t forget to take some deep breaths.
6. Go back to the starting position. Do the same movement to the opposite side.
• Piriformis stretches help release muscle tightness and reduce pressure on the sciatica nerve.
• It may improve your piriformis flexibility for pain-free movement.
• It may help ease the pain in your back, hip, and knee.
• Gently lean forward for a deeper stretch.
• You may opt to hold the stretch a little longer to release tightness.
• Don’t overstretch. Go back to your normal position if you experience pain or discomfort.
Standing Side Bend
(Image by Body Building)
1. Begin by standing up straight with your legs shoulder-width apart.
2. Raise your arms above your head, then bend your torso to the right as far as you can go.
3. Hold while breathing and relaxing for 30 seconds.
4. Return to the starting position.
5. Repeat on the left side.
• This exercise engages your mid and lower core.
• It improves your posture and core body strength.
• It helps promote spinal health and strong obliques and hips.
• When bending, squeeze your legs, glutes, and abdominals for a deeper stretch.
• Avoid leaning forward.
• Always keep your head and neck neutral as you bend.
Seated Pretzel Stretch
1. Sit down on the ground with your legs stretched out in front of you.
2. Bend your left leg over the other, placing the sole flat on the floor.
3. Twist your body to the left while putting the right elbow around the side of the bent knee.
4. Hold for 10-15 seconds.
5. Return to the starting position. Do the movement to the opposite side.
6. Repeat as desired.
• This stretching exercise targets your back, glutes, and obliques.
• It helps alleviate muscle tightness and soreness.
• It helps expand the range of motions in your joints.
• Don't overstretch. Stop when you feel pain or if you are uncomfortable.
• Take deep breaths while doing this stretching exercise.
• Before engaging in this stretching exercise, try the split kicks for muscle warm-up.
Regular cardio exercises can help strengthen the heart muscle, amongst other benefits. By adding the 5 stretching exercises above, you’re on your way to ramping up your exercise routine for stronger and better workout results!
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