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10 stretches for athletes (plus one bonus stretch!)

Each of the stretches below will help you remain stronger and injury-free. But don’t push yourself too far—despite what your gym teacher may have told you, stretching should never actually hurt.

Hold each of the stretches for 10-20 seconds. And never, ever bounce!

1. Runner’s lunge with side stretch

Runners lunge w/ side stretch

Directions:

  • Assume a lunge position with your forward knee bent over your foot and your back leg extended behind you.
  • Bring your opposite arm over your head and lean into the stretch.
  • Drop your knee to the ground for a deeper stretch.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Muscles stretched: Hip flexors, obliques (side abs)

2. Sitting hamstring stretch

Sitting hamstring stretch

Directions:

  • Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you.
  • Bend one leg in at the knee.
  • Slowly bend forward from hips toward foot of straight leg until you feel slight stretch.
  • Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Muscles stretched: Hamstrings (back of leg), lower back

3. Triceps stretch

Triceps stretch

Directions:

  • Put one arm overhead, positioning your forearm as close as possible to your upper arm.
  • Grasp your elbow overhead with your other hand.
  • Pull your elbow back and toward your head.
  • Hold stretch for 10-20 seconds, then repeat with opposite arm.

Muscles stretched: Triceps, lats

4. Pigeon pose

Pigeon pose

Directions:

  • Cross one knee in front of you while keeping the opposite leg straight behind you.
  • Place both hands on the ground in front of you and slowly lower your upper body down as low as possible.
  • Hold for 10-20 seconds then switch sides.

Muscles stretched: Hips, glutes, lower back

5. Chest opener stretch

Chest opener stretch

Directions:

  • Stand or sit with your back straight and shoulders pulled back.
  • Reach behind you and clasp both hands together.
  • Bring hands up toward your head as far as possible.
  • Hold for 10-20 seconds.

Muscles stretched: Chest, shoulders

6. Runner’s lunge with quad stretch

Runners lunge with quad stretch

Directions:

  • Assume a lunge position with your forward knee bent over your foot and your back leg extended behind you.
  • Drop your knee to the ground.
  • Reach your arm back and grab your foot or ankle and pull forward to stretch.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Muscles stretched: Hip flexors, quads (front of legs)

7. Twisted arm stretch

Twisted arm stretch

Directions:

  • Bring your hands out in front and cross your arms, one over the other.
  • Twist your hands such that the palms face into each other, trying to create contact with your fingers.
  • Hold for 4 counts, unwind your arms, and then repeat on the other side.

Muscles stretched: Lats, shoulders, triceps

8. Downward dog

Downward dog stretch

Directions:

  • Start by kneeling on the ground with your hands shoulder-width apart on front of you.
  • Take a deep breath and raise your buttocks into the air, straightening your legs as much as possible.
  • Lower your head toward the ground and straighten your spine.
  • Lower your heels toward the ground as far as you can go to give your calves a good stretch.

Muscles stretched: Calves; releases tension in back, shoulders

9. Upward dog

Upward dog stretch

Directions:

  • Lie face down on the ground with your feet hip-width apart and your hands resting next to your lower ribs.
  • Keeping your toes and hands on the floor, press your chest up so that your back is straight.
  • Squeeze your buttocks (to keep your back from hurting) and pull your shoulders back.
  • You may raise slightly above the ground for a deeper yoga stretch.

Muscles stretched: Chest, abs; opens up shoulders, upper back

10. Leg over or “Iron Cross” stretch

Leg over Iron Cross stretch

Directions:

  • Lie on your back with your legs straight in front of you.
  • Bring one leg straight into the air then bring across your body so it rests on the ground.
  • Hold for 10-20 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Muscles stretched: Side of hips, lower back, middle back

Bonus stretch: Bridge

Bridge stretch

Note: a full bridge like the one above is only for more advanced stretchers. If this is too difficult for you, you can get a similar effect by keeping your head and shoulders on the floor while still raising your hips in the air.

Directions:

  • Lie on your back, bend your knees and pull your heels in toward your buttocks.
  • Keep your feet and knees hips-width apart and your toes pointed forward or slightly out.
  • Place your arms alongside your torso and roll your shoulders outwards.
  • Firm your arms into the ground to support some of your weight.
  • Lift your hips off the mat until they are about parallel to the floor.
  • Slowly lower yourself down.

Muscles stretched: Back, shoulders, abs