You should make it a point to stretch both at the beginning and the end of your workout, as that will help to reduce your risk of injury, promote flexibility and stop your muscles from becoming sore. If you want to maximize your efforts to stretch, here are a few flexibility exercises that will help you build strength at the same time:
Leg Extension Ankle Rolls
Gotta limber up those legs and ankles, right? Do a Standing Leg Extension: balance on one foot and lift the other leg straight out in front of you. As you are holding the pose and feeling the burn in your extended leg, rotate that ankle in order to stretch it out. Make sure to loosen up the ankle properly before placing the leg on the ground and repeating the exercise with the other foot.
Using light weights to do a few shrugs will help to loosen up your trapezius muscles, but you'll get the muscles working at the same time. Use about 40 percent of the weight you'd use for your actual workout, but do a few reps of shrugging with light weight to limber up the muscles.
If you need to stretch your wrists out (a very important part of warming up for Arm Day), grab a barbell, place your forearms on a bench and curl your wrists. Start with your palm facing downward, then repeat it with the palms facing upward. The weight on your wrists will not only stretch out the muscles of the forearms but help to increase forearm strength as well.
Ashtanga Sun Salutations
This is a Yoga warm-up that can help to increase your upper body strength effectively. Start in a standing position, then slowly lean forward to place your hands on the floor. Jump your feet back to a Plank Position, hold for a second, do a push-up, and transition into the Cobra Pose. It's a great stretch for your lower back, and will help to build strength with every push-up.
Downward Dog with Leg Raise
Downward Dog is another classic Yoga pose that will do wonders for increasing your flexibility. It will loosen up your lower back, hips, hamstrings, glutes and calves, making it easier for you to move without tightness in those muscles. Lifting your leg helps to work your thigh and core muscles!
The Yoga Warrior Poses are excellent for warming up your legs, but they're surprisingly good at building strength as well. Warrior I starts with your front leg bent, and Warrior II serves as an epic shoulder and arm stretch/workout. Warrior III is great for your core and balance. Definitely good poses to try to increase your strength while limbering up!
Include these flexibility workouts in your warm-up and cool-down, and you'll see results in both strength and mobility!
Some people get lucky and are born with fit, toned bodies. Andy Peloquin is not one of those people... Fitness has come hard for him, and he's had to work for it. His trials have led him to becoming a martial artist, an NFPT-certified fitness trainer, and a man passionate about exercise, diet and healthy living. He loves to exercise -- he does so six days a week -- and loves to share his passion for fitness and health with others.