6 Essential Stretches to Help Reduce Injury

By Sarah Beck  |  10/12/2015

It’s important to stretch before doing any exercise. However, our bodies tend to stiffen more easily in cold weather. Cold muscles are more prone to injury when they are not adequately prepared for movement. Stretching prior to working out will help lessen the chance of injury, especially strains and tears.

Begin with light aerobic activity, such as running in place or walking briskly for 5 minutes. Once you are warmed up, begin your stretching routine. Here are 6 key stretches, each one focused on a major muscle group:

1. Gastroc Stretch

Stand with hands on tree. Put one leg behind you. Make sure toes point straight ahead. Bend opposite leg and place foot on the ground in front of you. Keep heel of backward leg down. Slowly move your hips forward, keeping back straight until a stretch is felt in back of calf. Repeat stretch on other leg.

2. Hamstring Stretch (Sitting)

Sit on ground with leg to be stretched extended in front with toes up. Bend opposite leg and place sole of foot against knee of straight leg. Slowly bend forward from hips, keeping your back straight and your head up. Repeat stretch on other leg.

3. Hip Flexor Stretch (Lunge Position)

Take a big step forward into a lunge position, keeping back leg straight. Rest hands on hips or front leg, keeping front foot flat on floor. Keep torso upright and back straight. Slowly lower hips forward and downward until a stretch is felt in the front of the back leg’s thigh. Repeat stretch on other leg.

4. Hip Adductor Stretch

Stand with feet wide apart. Make sure toes point straight ahead. Bend one knee. Shift weight toward the bent knee until a stretch is felt on the inner thigh of the straight leg. Repeat stretch on other leg.

5. Quadriceps Stretch (Standing)

Stand close to a tree (if needed for support) with the leg to be stretched extended behind you. Slightly bend knee of opposite leg. Hold foot of leg to be stretched with your hand, gently pulling the heel toward the buttock until a stretch is felt in the front of the thigh. Do not allow your back to arch. Repeat stretch on other leg.

6. IT Band Stretch (Standing)

Stand sideways an arm’s length from tree. Put hand on tree and cross one leg in front of other. Slowly lean hip into tree until a stretch is felt along the outside of the hip. Repeat stretch on other leg.

General Tips:

  • Hold each stretch in a still position for 20-30 seconds.
  • Perform each stretch 3 times.
  • Don't bounce while you stretch. That causes your muscle fibers to shorten, instead of lengthen.
  • If you haven’t stretched in a while, gradually and gently ease into your stretch.