stretches for the gym

Photo: Adam Bell

This eases tension in your chest and shoulders, and it's a great move if you tend to carry stress in your neck.

Sit up tall in a comfortable position and bend both elbows; reaching your hands behind your back, try to grab the opposite elbow. Holding opposite wrists or forearms (depending on how far you can comfortably reach), roll your shoulders down and back to feel the stretch in your chest and the front of your shoulders. Drop your right ear toward your right shoulder, to stretch your neck and the muscles that connect it to your clavicle. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch sides.

leg stretch foam roller

Photo: Adam Bell

The vastus lateralis runs along the outside of your thigh, and tightness in it can trigger knee pain.

Lie on your left side, using your forearms for support, and place a foam roller under your left thigh. Roll for 30 seconds, moving from base of hip to top of knee. If you find a tender spot, stop, bend knee at a 90-degree angle, then straighten. Repeat motion for 15 seconds at each tender spot. Repeat on right side.

calf roll stretch

Photo: Adam Bell

Tight calves can cause plantar fasciitis, which presents as serious heel pain. Doing this stretch regularly can stop the problem before it starts.

Sit on your mat with your legs close together and the roller placed under both of your calves, right below the knee joint. Place your hands palms down on the floor a few inches out from your hips, fingers pointing outward. Press down into your hands to lift your bottom off the mat, keeping your calves balanced on the roller. Make sure to draw your shoulders down and back to avoid hunching. Continue pressing your hands down and engage your core, exhaling to slowly drive your body weight forward so that the roller stops right above the ankle. As you inhale, slowly draw the roller back so that it stops right below the knee. Repeat 3 sets of 8 rolls. The roller should be placed under the center of your calves for the first set, the inner edge of the calves for the second set, and the outer edge of the calves for the third set.

thigh stretch

Photo: Adam Bell

We're all a little tight in our glutes and hips these days—deskbound jobs will do that. This stretch focuses on those two areas in a discreet but effective way.

While seated, cross one ankle over the opposite knee while keeping the top foot flexed. If you're already feeling it in your glutes and hips, stop and hold. If you want to go a little deeper, place one hand on your top knee and gently press down as you lean forward slightly. This will open up the hip joint, and you may even feel the stretch in your low back. Switch legs and repeat on opposite side. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

neck stretch

Photo: Adam Bell

Poor posture can leave your upper-back muscles tight. This simple move releases that tension.

Grab a lacrosse ball and place it against the wall, then lean against it on the area where neck and shoulder meet. Find a tender spot, stay there and shrug shoulder up and down for 45 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

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