Regular stretching can boost your strength, according to a study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
How? Increasing your range of motion can add mass and length to your muscles, allowing you to generate more force and lift more weight. And ultimately, of course, that leads to more muscle.
Adopt these six situational stretches for some quick fixes without going all yoga on yourself.
They can help you feel younger, improve your posture, strengthen your core and back, and make your entire physique better equipped for sports, workouts, and sex.
Related: Grow Muscle While Doing Nothing
1. For healthy shoulder mobility
Lie on your left side. Form a 90-degree angle with your left arm, your upper arm on the floor and your forearm pointing up. Use your right hand to stretch your left forearm forward toward the floor without allowing your upper arm to rise. Hold for 5 seconds, do 9 more reps, and then switch sides and repeat.
Tip: A flexible rotator cuff improves your range of motion, which helps in many sports.
2. While sitting at your computer
Sit in a chair with your hands on your hips and your feet flat on the floor. Gently raise your chest toward the ceiling, but don’t look up; keep your chin level with the floor. Now squeeze your shoulder blades together, feeling the stretch in your chest. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, and relax. That’s 1 rep. Do this a total of 10 times.
Tip: When your muscles are elastic, it’s easier for you to maintain good posture, says Harold Millman, D.P.T. Good posture can alleviate the muscle strain that develops when you sit for long hours at your desk.
3. To warm up for sports
Back lunge and twist
Stand with your feet together. Now step back with your right leg and bend your left knee 90 degrees. Twist your torso to the left, extending your arms out horizontally to deepen the stretch. Then step forward to bring your feet together. Repeat the back lunge with your left leg, twisting your trunk to the right. Do a total of 10 repetitions with each leg.
Tip: Dynamic stretching is a good warmup because it gets blood flowing and excites the nervous system, says Ron DeAngelo, C.S.C.S.
4. For tight lats
Kneeling swiss-ball lat stretch
Kneel on the floor and place a Swiss ball in front of you. Place your hands on the ball, lean forward at your hips, and press your shoulders toward the floor. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat twice. Do this up to three times a day.
Tip: Lie on the floor, palms facing each other. Raise your arms like you’re signaling a touchdown. If you arch your lower back, bend your elbows, or rotate your palms, you need this stretch.
5. Before any exercise
Start in a pushup position. Walk your feet toward your hands until the stretch in your legs starts to feel uncomfortable. Keeping your feet still, slowly walk your hands forward until you’re back in pushup position. Do this 5 to 10 times.
Tip: This works your whole body, especially your legs, lower back, hips, and shoulders.
6. After a long day at work
Corner chest stretch
Stand facing the corner of a room. Raise your arms to shoulder height and place your forearms, elbows, and hands against each wall. Lean inward to stretch your chest muscles and hold for a count of 15. Repeat for a total of 10 to 12 reps.
Tip: Raising or lowering your arms stretches different parts of your pectoral muscles.
Illustrations: Kagan Mcleod