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I’ve written about the importance of stretching, but if you have never really stretched before it can be difficult to know where to start with a stretching routine. In the past, many experts recommended stretching before a workout. Then research suggested that maybe that wasn’t the best idea. However, last year a new study suggested that in some cases warming up before a workout is still a good idea—it just depends on the type of workout you plan to do. The bottom line is that stretching is important and good for your muscles as long as you don’t hold the stretch for too long or cause yourself any pain. Since a large number of people experience tightness in their hips and shoulders, in particular, this post looks at some of the best stretches for those areas of the body.

Hips

A lot of people have tight hips. Why? Most people work at jobs where they stay seated for extended periods of time. Tight hips can cause lower back problems if you don’t take the time to stretch regularly. Below are two stretches that will help you open your hips.

  • Happy Baby – Lie on your back and then lift your legs up into the air. Grab hold of each foot and try to move your knees to the floor. When attempting this stretch for the first time, you may not be able to get your knees close to the ground. That’s fine. Remember to never push yourself into discomfort. Don’t be surprised if you feel the urge to laugh when doing this stretch!
  • Butterfly Stretch – Sit on the floor with the bottom of your feet touching each other. Then try to make your knees touch the ground. You’ll likely feel some tension when doing this stretch, so don’t overdo it. Make sure to keep your back straight when doing this stretch.

Shoulders

If your neck often hurts then there’s a good chance you have tight shoulders. Tight shoulders develop for a number of reasons. Do you always lean your head to one side when talking on the phone? Do you always sleep on a particular shoulder? These are just two ways that tight shoulders can develop. Here are some stretches that you should add to ease shoulder tension.

  • Neck Rolls – Turn your head to the right and “roll” it toward the left. Your chin should be angled toward your chest. When you reach the left you can roll back to the right. Remember to go slowly, and don’t tilt your head back.
  • Shoulder Rolls – Don’t let the simplicity of this stretch fool you. It’s very effective when done properly. Roll your shoulders forward and up and then back and around. Picture the center of your shoulders as a wheel turning round and round. As with every stretch mentioned here, go slowly. It’s also important to remember to breathe while doing this stretch as well as the others.