Preworkout Stretches to Prevent Injury

Preworkout stretches – what are they? Do you need them? Does it make a difference? Read on to see if you are missing out on gains and performance improvements by not stretching before a workout.

Table of Contents

What is a Pre-Workout Stretch?

Preworkout Stretches are an important component of a workout routine. Stretches help prevent injuries by increasing flexibility, improving range of motion, and preparing the muscles and joints for physical activity. The stretches help the muscles warm up and relax contracted muscles that will be engaged during the ensuing workout. Different workout require different stretches. So listed below are suggestions depending your workout, be it cardio or weight lifting, or anything in-between.

Also note that, a post-workout stretching is equally as important to preworkout stretches. During a workout the muscles, tendons, and ligaments go through stress and are in various states of compression and expansion. Taking a few minutes to stretch the tighter parts of your body, or areas that were most used (lower back during deadlifts, for example) will help the body heal faster and reduce any changes of severe inflammation or strains. 

Try to perform each movement for 15-30 seconds till you feel the joints and muscles moving without any stress or discomfort to you. Start slow and ease into these movements.

Stretches Before Cardio

A cardio workout is a type of exercise that raises your heart rate and increases blood flow throughout your body. It is also known as cardiovascular exercise or aerobic exercise. The goal of a cardio workout is to improve your cardiovascular health, increase endurance, and burn calories. Examples of cardio workouts include: Running, Cycling, Swimming, Jumping rope, Rowing, High-intensity interval training (HIIT) such as CrossFit type exercises, Dancing, Stair climbing, Boxing, and Walking at a brisk pace, to name a few.

Before a cardio workout it is important to focus on dynamic stretches that help warm up the muscles and increase mobility. Here are some stretches you can perform as part of your pre-cardio routine. Before a rowing workout I try to warm-up my shoulders, legs and back. Rowing is an excellent total body workout, so warming up the main body parts engaged is critical to prevent injuries and get the maximum out of the workout.

There are numerous other stretches that are applicable, but most target these areas to get your body ready for the workout. 

  1. Arm Swings: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms out to the sides. Swing your arms forward and backward in a controlled manner, gradually increasing the range of motion. This stretch helps warm up the shoulders and upper body.
  2. Leg Swings: Find a wall or support to hold onto for balance. Swing one leg forward and backward, keeping it straight, and allowing it to swing as high as comfortable. Repeat for 10-15 swings and switch to the other leg. This stretch targets the hip flexors and hamstrings. 
  3. Walking Lunges: Take a step forward with your right foot and lower your body into a lunge position, with your right knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Push off with your right foot and bring your left foot forward into the next lunge. Continue walking forward, alternating legs. Walking lunges help warm up the lower body muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. 
  4. High Knees: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Start jogging in place, lifting your knees as high as possible with each step. Aim for a quick and controlled movement, engaging your core and pumping your arms. This stretch warms up the hip flexors and quadriceps while increasing heart rate. 
  5. Butt Kicks: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Start jogging in place, kicking your heels back towards your glutes with each step. Maintain an upright posture and a quick pace. Butt kicks help warm up the quadriceps and stretch the hip flexors.
  6. Trunk Twists: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and place your hands on your hips. Gently rotate your upper body to the right, then to the left. Repeat this movement for 10-15 seconds. Trunk twists help improve spinal mobility and warm up the core muscles. 
  7. Ankle Circles: Sit on the ground with your legs extended in front of you. Lift one leg off the ground and rotate your ankle in a circular motion, first clockwise and then counterclockwise. Repeat with the other leg. This stretch helps improve ankle mobility and flexibility.

Remember to perform these dynamic stretches in a controlled manner, without any jerking or bouncing movements. Start with smaller ranges of motion and gradually increase as your muscles warm up. Additionally, it’s important to engage in a proper warm-up routine that includes light aerobic exercises like jogging or cycling for a few minutes before moving into these stretches.

Stretches Before Weight Lifting

Before a weightlifting workout, it’s important to perform stretches that target the major muscle groups you’ll be working. Here are some stretches that can be beneficial as part of your pre-weightlifting routine:

stretching before lifting
  1. Shoulder Circles: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms straight out to the sides. Slowly make small circles with your arms, first in a forward direction and then in a backward direction. This helps warm up the shoulders and upper back.
  2. Chest Stretch: Stand near a doorway or wall corner. Place your forearm against the doorway or wall with your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle. Gently lean forward to stretch the front of your chest. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  3. Triceps Stretch: Raise one arm straight overhead and bend it at the elbow so that your hand reaches toward the opposite shoulder blade. Use your other hand to gently pull the elbow back and down. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other arm.
  4. Standing Forward Fold: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly bend forward from your hips, reaching towards your toes. Allow your knees to bend slightly if needed. This stretch targets the hamstrings, lower back, and calves.
  5. Quadriceps Stretch: Stand upright and grab one foot with your hand, bringing your heel towards your glutes. Keep your knees close together and your upper body upright. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
  6. Hip Flexor Stretch: Step forward with your right foot into a lunge position, with your right knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Keep your left leg straight behind you, resting on the ball of your foot. Slowly push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your left hip. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  7. Standing Calf Stretch: Stand facing a wall or sturdy object. Place your hands against the wall at shoulder height. Step one foot back, keeping it straight and the heel on the ground. Lean forward into the wall until you feel a stretch in your calf muscle. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
  8. Wrist and Forearm Stretches: Extend one arm straight in front of you with your palm facing down. Use your other hand to gently pull your fingers back towards your body until you feel a stretch in your forearm and wrist. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other arm.
  9. Ankle Bounces: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your heels on the ground, quickly lift your toes up and down, using your ankles. Perform this movement in a bouncing motion for 15-30 seconds. Ankle bounces help warm up the ankle joints and calf muscles. 

Other Stretches

Here are some other stretches you can incorporate into your preworkout warmup to help prevent injuries:

  1. Neck Stretch: Gently tilt your head to one side, bringing your ear toward your shoulder. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side. This stretch helps relieve tension in the neck and upper back.
  2. Shoulder Rolls: Roll your shoulders forward in a circular motion for 10-15 seconds, and then roll them backward. This stretch helps loosen up the shoulder joints and improves flexibility.
  3. Arm Circles: Extend your arms straight out to the sides and make small circles in a clockwise motion for 10-15 seconds. Then, switch to a counterclockwise motion. This stretch helps warm up the shoulders and upper body.
  4. Standing Quad Stretch: Stand upright and grab your right ankle with your right hand, pulling it toward your glutes. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and repeat with the left leg. This stretch targets the quadriceps muscles in the front of the thigh.
  5. Hamstring Stretch: Sit on the edge of a chair or bench with one leg extended straight out in front of you and the other foot flat on the floor. Keeping your back straight, lean forward from your hips until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold for 15-30 seconds and switch legs. This stretch targets the hamstrings.
  6. Calf Stretch: Stand facing a wall and place your hands against it at shoulder height. Step one foot back, keeping it flat on the ground, and bend your front knee. Lean forward into the wall until you feel a stretch in your calf muscle. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.

Parting Thoughts

Remembering to perform these stretches after a light warm-up or at the end of your workout can reduce any workout related inflammation and strains. Stretching should be done gently and without bouncing or jerking movements. If you have any specific concerns or existing injuries, it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified trainer before starting a new stretching routine.

Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds and perform them in a controlled manner. Avoid bouncing or jerking movements while stretching. Additionally, it’s a good idea to start with lighter weights and gradually increase the intensity during your workout. Always listen to your body and modify or skip stretches that cause pain or discomfort.

Hope you found this useful. Check out my other posts as well!

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