The Best Stretches for Athletes

Planning to hit the gym? Ready to finally follow through on your resolution to start running this year? Before starting your workout, set aside a few minutes for an essential warm-up activity: the best stretches for athletes.

But first, take a moment to learn the difference between static and dynamic stretches. A growing body of research shows that dynamic stretching is best for warming up, while static stretching can help keep your muscles flexible and increase your overall range of motion.

Here are a few of the best stretches for athletes, with dynamic stretches listed first, followed by static stretches.

Dynamic Stretches

1. Walking Lunge

The walking lunge targets important upper leg muscles — the glutes, hip flexors, and hamstrings. It’s a great stretch to get the blood flowing before any activity that will involve your legs.

Performing the walking lunge is relatively simple. To start off, make sure you’ve got enough space in front of you to take a few steps forward. Take a forward step and, while doing so, lower your back knee toward the ground. Bend your front leg while doing so. Now, use your back leg to push off and come back to a standing position.

Take the next step forward with your other leg. Continue stepping forward, alternating legs with each step. To use the walking lunge as a warm-up exercise, do two or three sets of 10 and 20 reps with each leg.

2. Arm Circles

Arm circles are an excellent warm-up for the shoulders, arms, and traps. Use them anytime you’ll be doing an activity that involves your arms — throwing a ball, swinging a racket, etc.

Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Now, swing your arms behind you before bringing them forward in a circular motion. After 30 seconds or so, switch directions, swinging your arms forward first and then all the way around.

This dynamic stretch will quickly warm up your arms and shoulders. Do it for 30 seconds in each direction until your muscles feel loose.

3. Calf Raises

The calf raise is a dynamic stretch that’s great for the calves and ankles. You can perform this one sitting or standing, although you’ll get more benefit from the standing variety.

To begin, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Next, raise your heels so that you’re standing on the tips of your toes. Hold at the top for a second or two once you’ve gone as far as you can. Then, lower your heels back to the ground.

Do two or three sets of 20 raises as a warm-up. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, you can try standing on a platform (this will increase the overall range of motion, making the stretch more difficult).

Static Stretches

1. Seated Hamstring Stretches

The seated hamstring stretch targets…wait for it…your hamstrings, which is important because they’re among the five biggest muscles in your body. Hamstring injuries are common for athletes, so focusing on keeping them healthy and happy is a smart idea.

To do a seated hamstring stretch, sit down with one leg extended out in front of you. The other leg should be bent at the knee. Pull your abs in and then slowly bend forward from the hips, reaching toward your foot. You should feel this stretch in the back of your thigh.

You’ll want to hold this stretch for 10 to 15 seconds and then release. You can repeat two to three times and then switch legs.

2. Seated Glute Twist

The seated glute twist works not only your gluteus muscle but also your back and hips. Doing this stretch regularly will help improve your core stability and flexibility.

Start by sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bend your left leg at the knee and then cross it over your right leg. Your left foot should be on the outside of your right knee. Now place your left arm on the outside of your left leg and twist your body. Pressing your arm harder against the knee will increase the intensity of the stretch.

You can hold this stretch anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds. Then, repeat the stretch on the opposite side.

3. World’s Greatest Stretch

Can’t beat the name of this stretch. It’s cheating a bit to put it in the static stretches category since it has both dynamic and static elements. But you should find a place for it in your stretching routine since it works so many different body parts simultaneously.

To do the world’s greatest stretch, start in a lunge position. That means one foot forward, with your back leg bent at the knee. Next, put your palm on the same side as your back leg down on the ground. Now, stretch the arm on the side of your forward leg up into the air. You’ll rotate your torso toward your lead leg as you’re doing so.

Hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds (this is the static portion). Then, repeat the stretch on the other side.


These are some of the best stretches for athletes. Use the dynamic stretches to warm up and the static stretches to cool down or just as part of a flexibility workout. Happy exercising!


  • David Francis

    Dave is a published author who has written about everything from travel to finance to pop culture trends. He also has years of experience in the nonprofit industry, authoring grant proposals, training manuals, and white papers. He’s had the privilege of calling multiple Midwestern states home.

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