Q. I've been strength training for a few months now, but I always feel so tight during the first 15 minutes of the workout until my muscles actually warm up. I'm sitting most of the day, so I know I have tight muscles. Is there a specific stretching routine that you would recommend to help me feel better prepared for my workouts?
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A. With a sedentary job like yours, it's common for muscles to become tight over time from a lack of natural range of motion. But, forcing a tight, cold muscle to stretch can increase your chance for injury, so we always recommend working with your natural range of motion as a means to prepare your body for the upcoming workout.
A great alternative to a forced static stretch is called dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching utilizes natural movements and doesn't put your joints into forced positions as static stretching sometimes can. There is still stretching involved, so you always want to listen to your body and not force a movement too far. Dynamic stretching is a great option for a pre-workout warm-up because it can improve your natural range of motion and prepare your muscles for the upcoming workload.
Begin your warm-up with 5 minutes of light cardio -- walking, jogging, biking, elliptical or jumping rope. This will slowly and safely increase your heart rate and blood pressure while getting your body into workout mode.
The actual stretching routine consists of five stretches. Perform each dynamic stretch for 30 seconds before moving on to the next until the circuit is complete. Repeat the entire circuit for two to three total rounds. You should feel energized and ready to exercise by the time you finish.
Squat spinners. Assume a squat position with feet shoulder-width apart. As you stand up, pivot on your right foot 180 degrees and as you land your left foot, drop back into a squat. You should now be facing the opposite direction. Stand up and pivot on your left foot 180 degrees and land on your right foot and drop immediately into a squat. Repeat.
High knee pull. From a standing position, raise your right foot off the floor while bending your knee and driving it up toward your chest. Grab your leg just below the knee and pull as you continue to drive the knee upward. Let the leg drop back down as you step forward and repeat on the left.
Hamstring kicks. While standing upright, raise your arms out in front of you until they are parallel to the floor. Kick one leg forward and upward toward your hands until you feel a moderate stretch in your hamstring. Let your leg drop back to your starting point and step forward as you repeat with the other leg. Continue to keep both legs straight as you alternate kicks.
Lunge to twist. Begin by grasping your hands together and raise your elbows until they're shoulder height. Your arms should be bent and parallel with the floor at this point. Step forward and drop into a lunge while stabilizing at the bottom. Twist your upper body to the right by leading with the right elbow and then twist to the left by leading with the left elbow. Step up out of the lunge and step forward with the opposite leg and perform the twist the same way. Repeat.
Sumo Squat to Reach. Assume a squat position with feet wider than shoulder-width apart and arms reached down toward the floor. As you stand up, swing your arms toward the ceiling and rise up onto your toes. Control yourself back down into the squat as you again reach toward the floor. Repeat.
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• Joshua Steckler and Mark Trapp are co-owners of Push Fitness, a personal training studio in Schaumburg specializing in weight loss, muscle toning and nutrition. Contact them at PushFitnessTraining.com.