We get it, guys: Bending over for all the gym to see our butt sticking up in the air as we try—and fail—to touch our toes is, in a word, awkward. Almost seems like a valid reason to skip stretching entirely.
However, as many a trainer has instructed us, every move can be modified, and a warmup or cooldown stretch is no different.
If those sore hamstrings and calves continue to linger, ditch the “ignore the pain, and it will go away” philosophy and turn to Yoga Hikes DC’s Danielle Reyes.
Below, the yoga instructor and avid runner recommends three key moves to increase flexibility in those muscle groups where men face limitations in limberness, paired with another vital component: proper breathing. Inhales and exhales should measure the duration of each stretch. As far as stretching before or after your workout? Reyes says, “It depends on your workout and what your body needs that day. Overall, [stretching] is so good at enhancing your physical activity. Both will benefit any athlete.”
1) Pigeon Pose (Adjusted)
Kneel on the ground with your upper body erect and your chest open. Stretch one leg straight out behind you. Bend the knee of the front leg and bring the foot near your pelvic bone with your toes pointed back. Lean forward slightly and place your hands out in front of you. Here, you will feel your hips open as you stretch.
Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs for another 30 seconds. Reyes suggests doing 1 rep and gradually increasing time rather than reps. Remember, it’s more about “sustaining.”
2 High Crescent Lunge
Face forward with your hips open and arms extended straight up in the air. Extend one leg behind you, standing on the ball of your foot with your heel in the air.
Your front leg should be bent as close to 90-degree angle as possible.
Hold the pose for 3 slow breaths on each leg and repeat 1 to 2 times on each leg.
3) Seated Forward Fold
Sit on the floor with your back straight up and your legs extended straight in front of you. Point your toes back toward your chest while pushing through your heels to stretch the entire back of your leg.
Inhale as you extend your arms above your head reaching toward the ceiling, and exhale as you lean forward with your chest open. Gradually with each rep, reach closer toward your toes. Think progression.
Repeat the stretch with 2 to 3 slow breaths at 3 to 5 seconds each.