A proper stretching routine is essential to avoiding injury and getting the most out of your fitness routine, no matter what kind of training you’re doing or what athletic level you’re at. As fitness professionals, we all know that one of the first things you teach a new client or member is the proper way to warm up, stretch, and cool down.
Now, you can get pretty technical with your stretching routine, but you don’t always need something that ambitious. On the other hand, too many people think they don’t need any equipment at all to get a good stretch in—and that’s not just wrong, but a little dangerous. Here are the absolute necessities when it comes to stretching.
Necessity #1: A Mat
A fitness mat is essential for stretching routines. Stretching can put you off-balance, and gym floors (even home gyms, sometimes located in garages and basements) aren’t always reliable. Spare yourself unnecessary injury with a high-quality fitness mat and protect yourself from slips and falls.
A good, clean, sweat-resistant mat will also make stretches like the Sitting Hamstring or Raised Hamstring, that require you to sit on the floor, a little more comfortable – and in large commercial gyms, a little healthier, too.
Necessity #2: Stability Ball or Balance Trainer
Stretching should include balance work as well. Your balance is just as important as being loose and warm, and balance and stretching are totally interlinked – stretching will improve your balance and vice versa. Something simple like a stability ball will do the trick. Alternatively, a balance trainer gives you a whole new option in balance training and stretching routines that will improve your overall health and performance.
A stability ball can be a godsend when doing the Bridge stretch or the Foot to Hand Press Up, giving you extra support so you can concentrate on stretching properly instead of worrying about maintaining stability. A balance trainer can also add an element of balance challenge to any stretch, literally keeping you on your toes.
Necessity #3: Foam Rollers
The foam roller is one of the simplest and least expensive pieces of equipment out there, and its stunning how many supposedly experienced fitness enthusiasts – and trainers – don’t use them. They provide extra stability and increased options for stretching exercises, and can be used in a huge variety of ways to make your workouts more productive, effective, and comfortable. A ridged foam roller, in particular, enables release of sore and tired muscles.
A foam roller is ideal for the Bridge stretch and Raised Hamstring stretch as well, supporting your head while you stretch and concentrate on the rest of your body.
Never underestimate the power of stretching, and never underestimate the impact a small piece of equipment can have on your stretches specifically and your overall workout in general.