We know that stretching is paramount to a safe and effective exercise regimen. Yet, while many people dutifully remember to do their lunges and toe touches, there are a number of body parts that often go un-stretched. To make sure we check all the boxes, we spoke with Stephen Pasterino, creator of P.volve and go-to trainer for Victoria’s Secret models Blanca Padilla, Nadine Leopold, Romee Strijd, and more. Pasterino’s method has a functional-movement approach that targets and elongates those hard-to-reach muscles and body parts to stretch. Read on to learn the areas you’re not stretching, but definitely should be.
Feet and Ankles
Let’s take it from the ground up—literally. “The foot is the connector to all of the muscles and joints that go up your leg, all the way up to your back and neck,” Pasterino explains. “When your body makes contact with the ground, it all starts with the foot, which starts a chain reaction of muscles, bones, and tendons that react to what is happening at the foot.”
In short, the impact that your feet and ankles make with the ground causes a reaction all the way up your legs. If your feet and ankles can’t support that impact, your legs can’t follow through with the movement. “If something at the foot is tight or not working properly, it can disrupt the chain of events your muscular and skeletal structure goes through with all upright movement,” Pasterino explains. “I always say, ‘Your body is a machine,’ meaning it is an intricate operating system that needs all of its moving parts working perfectly to perform at its best. This is crucial to understand and apply to your training.”
To stretch this area, Pasterino recommends the following moves.
Open Step (Wide)
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart (or wider). Step open, back, and out, landing with your feet perpendicular. Catch the floor with both knees bent and your pelvis centered. Step back and return to original position. Repeat with the opposite foot.
Rear Step With Open Ceiling Reach (Heel Up)
Begin standing up. Step one leg back with the heel up, stretching the middle of your foot. Reach both arms up and overhead, stretching back so that you feel it through your hips and quads. Stretch the hips by lifting up through the shoulders, chest, and rib cage, elongating the stomach.
“I concentrate most of the workout around the hips,” Pasterino says. “The hips are the crossroads of the body and all of the muscles running from top to bottom, keeping it all together and taking you through all of its motion. To me, this is the most important part of the body. What happens here will determine how well all of the muscles and joints—from the knee to the shoulder—will perform, look, and feel.” Hips are like the feet in the way that their condition impacts a large portion of the rest of your body—the thighs and butt most of all. This makes it an essential area to stretch before and after your workouts.
“Mobility is everything. With more mobility, you will have more free motion and muscle activation to tap into for your body’s peak strength and performance,” Pasterino adds. Tight hips can also lead to inflammation in the thighs, underdeveloped glutes, and overdeveloped quads. And, he adds, most back and shoulder pain can be traced back to tight hips or overactive muscles in the area. Talk about overcompensating.
To stretch the hips, Pasterino recommends these moves.
One O’Clock Three O’Clock Step
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Imagine a clock circling around your feet. With your right foot, step from the “three o’clock” position to the “one o’clock” position. Keep your knees back and planted foot straight. Return to original position and repeat with the opposite foot.
Rear Step With Forward Floor Reach
Begin standing up. Step one leg back with the heel up. Slowly lower yourself toward the floor by flexing the front hip. Keep your arms locked straight in front of you. Reach down and touch the floor, framing your front foot. Slowly lift yourself back up using the front butt while maintaining a straight back.
The core does a lot of heavy lifting. Stretching this area is not only good for form, functional movements, and workouts but also for internal organs and overall health. To make a quick connection: The condition of your core affects the health of your organs, which in turn affects your metabolism, ability to gain strength, and rate of recovery all over the body. This is all in addition to making sure we stand upright, can carry ourselves, and are able to move all our limbs without losing stability. Suffice it to say, stretching and strengthening your abs is serious business.
Keep your abs in healthy shape with these stretches.
Lying Spine Curve
Begin on the floor, lying on your front. Your hands should be close to your chest with palms on the ground. Using your arms, push your upper body up. Squeeze your buttocks, and keep your legs planted firmly on the ground. Tilt your head up and look toward the ceiling to extend the stretch to your neck.
Yogis will be familiar with this stretch. Start on the ground on your hands and knees. Begin in a tabletop position (meaning your back is straight). Take a deep breath, and then curve your back upward (cat). Stretch in this position for ten seconds, and then lower your back until it’s curved in the opposite direction below your hips (cow). Hold for ten seconds, and repeat, going back and forth between the two.
Arms and Wrists
We’ve touched on the importance of stretching your wrists and arms before, but it deserves a reminder. Whether you’re lifting weights, doing bodyweight exercises, or performing everyday motions, you want to prevent this area from getting tight. Stretching it increases your range of motion, directly improving your weight lifting and stability. If your wrists and arms aren’t properly stretched out, you could have major issues with movements such as push-ups, planks, and gripping bars and other weights. In other words, your stability and form are utterly compromised, which sacrifices full exercise benefits and increases your risk of injury.
Do the following to stretch your arms and wrists.
Wrist to Floor
Start by sitting with your legs crossed. Lean forward, extending both arms in front of you and down toward the floor. Place your palms on the ground, fingers facing your body. Now slowly lean onto your arms, using the pressure to stretch your wrists. After 20 seconds, flip your hands over so that their backs are on the ground. Slowly lean onto your arms, using that same pressure to stretch the other side of your wrists for 20 seconds.
Arm Over Chest
Start by standing up straight. Cross your left arm straight over your chest. With your right hand, grasp your left wrist and pull slightly. You can also grasp your left elbow or use your right arm to hook around the left elbow and pull.