Tone Up Fast With These Simple Stretches
Hitting the gym like a champion has its obvious rewards (hello, cute booty, pleased to meet you). The extra strain on your muscles and joints hurts so good but does require some extra care to keep that pain from becoming, well, hurtful. Luckily, there are plenty of easy stretches that will not only aid in recovery but keep you on the fast track to toning up while keeping it low-key.
Need a Full Body Stretch? Downward Dog is the Answer
The classic yoga pose can do double-duty as a full-body toner when held for an extra few seconds. Make sure you suck in your tummy and stretch your heels back toward the mat (touching if you can!) to strengthen your core and lengthen your hamstrings and calf muscles. Here’s a quick how-to for those in need of a refresher:
- Begin in tabletop position, arms directly under shoulders, palms flat on the floor, knees on the floor, and tops of feet flat on the mat.
- Tuck toes under, exhale and lift your tush into the air, shifting your weight off of your hands and into the legs.
- Press your palms firmly into the mat with your fingers spread. Arch your back just slightly inward so your butt rises as high as possible toward the sky. Your head should hang down between your arms.
- You should feel a good stretch in your legs and lower back, and will notice some positive fatigue in your shoulders and abdominals as you maintain the position for a substantial period.
Windmills Will Stretch Your Upper Body
A stable core paired with slow, consistent arm movements will give you a slow burn to yield noticeable changes.
- Stand with feet apart. Reach one arm forward and the other back with palms facing down, allowing hips to rotate slightly.
- Stretch arms a little farther and twist spine as you slowly rotate arms in a circular motion. Repeat eight times.
Chaturanga to Tone Those Triceps
A part of the vinyasa flow, this pose is a fantastic ab and tricep strengthener. While it physically focuses on keeping your body briefly compact and rigid, be sure to remember to breathe as you pause in this movement.
- Begin in a straight-arm plank position, arms directly under shoulders, hands flat on the floor. Bend your arms—elbows close to the ribcage—to lower your body, so it's a few inches above and parallel to the floor.
- Keep elbows pushed back toward the heels, legs straight, stomach held in. Do not put extra strain on the neck; simply look down and a bit forward.
- Try to hold the pose for at least 30 seconds
Diagonal Reaches to Improve Posture and Tone Your Torso
Slouching over a keyboard all day isn’t doing your back any favors, but did you know it could be the culprit of your slight stomach pooch as well? This stretch will open up your chest and torso, improving your posture and allowing you to stand taller, straighter, and pooch-less.
- Lunge with right leg forward, raising arms to shoulder height, with left arm in front.
- Lift left arm toward your ear, elongating body from the hips to avoid putting pressure on your spine.
- Feel the stretch down your torso as you open up your chest. Hold for 15 seconds.
- Return to start and repeat three times. Switch sides. Do four sets.
Peaceful Warrior/Warrior III to Stretch and Strengthen Your Thighs
Slim, strong thighs are a goal for almost everyone. Finding a good balance between strength training and stretching when it comes to awesome quads will give you the lean results you’re looking for, and you could be that much closer to doing the splits (a guaranteed crowd-winning party trick in a pinch).
- Begin in Warrior II pose. Soften your front knee bend.
- Drop your back hand to the top of your thigh or calf. Lift your front arm up, lean back, and look up. You should feel the stretch in your abdominals as well as your inner thighs on both legs.
- Hold for five deep breaths.
Leg Lifts to Tone Your Lower Body
Stretching is typically consolidated into one muscle or group of muscles at a time. If you can find one that not only elongates your lines but gives you significant tone all over, hold that pose for as long as possible. Three sets of ten will also do.
- Leaning on one elbow, lie with your upper leg extended and lifted slightly above the ground.
- Keep your hips stacked above one another and both knees facing forward. With toes pointed, extend your upper leg from the hip as far out as you can.
- Now slowly lift this leg up. Do three sets of ten lifts with each leg.
Superwoman Stretches Will Open Those Tight Hip Flexors
A great stretch to open up the chest and hip flexors while strengthening your lower back and glutes, the Superwoman stretch is a great low-impact core builder. Cape optional but strongly encouraged.
- Lie face down, chin on floor, arms stretched out in front like you’re flying through the air to fight Lex Luthor.
- Slowly exhale all of your air out. Pressing your lower abdomen into the floor, inhale and raise arms and legs at the same time.
- Hold for 10-15 seconds, continuing to breathe slowly.
- Release and lower.
Try Full Boat Pose to Tone Your Tummy
A pose that looks so simple but will set your abs on fire while lengthening your hamstrings and seeking support from your back. Hold for 30 seconds with a serene expression that won’t reveal that every muscle in your body is working hard.
- Sit with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Grab legs under your thighs and just above the knees. Lean your torso back just a bit.
- Raise your feet off the floor. Keep your legs straight and feet together, lift them as high as you can. Do not round your back or lift so high that you roll off of your sit bones; you should be balanced.
- Extend your arms straight out in front of you.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
Every little bit of your workout program helps to nip a little more in here and lift a little more over there. Stretching is just as important as lifting weights when it comes to developing muscle and showing off a tighter physique, so don’t downplay it as an “extra.” Taking a few minutes pre- and post- your BikiniBOD filled exercises to condition your muscles and get ready to reveal a body that’s completely new, awesomely firm, and just a bit bendier.
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