When finished with a hike, do you go straight to your car and drive off without stretching? Stretching is a key component of fitness that many people miss after being on the trail. Having proper flexibility will allow your joints freedom of movement and increase your range of motion.
Some injuries occur due to a lack of flexibility. When hiking, your muscles have been working for you, repeatedly contracting on an unstable surface. When finished, you need to elongate the muscles and reestablish them to their normal resting length. Here are a few stretches for hiking that will help increase your performance on the trail. If you are wearing a backpack, make sure to take it off first!

1. Quadriceps Stretch

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Targets front of the thigh

  • Stand tall with your abdominals pulled in, chest open, and shoulders pressed down away from your ears. Hold onto a stable surface for balance (tree, car, fence, etc.).
  • Hold onto your right foot with your right hand; your knee should be pointing straight down.
  • Your standing leg remains soft (don’t lock out your knee).
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds; repeat on the opposite leg.

2.  Standing Hip Stretch

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Targets hips and glutes
  • Hold onto a stable surface for support.
  • Cross your right ankle over your left knee (as if you are sitting in a chair).
  • Push your hips back, keeping your chest open, and your spine straight.
  • You will feel the stretch through the right side of your hip.
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds; repeat on the opposite side.

3.  Inner Thigh Stretch

Targets the inside of your thigh
  • Stand with your feet wider than your shoulders.  You can hold onto a stable surface for added support.
  • Take a mini step forward with your right foot, lean into the right side by pushing your right hip back (your right knee should stay back over your toes).
  • Your left leg stays straight; continue to drive down through the left side of your hip to increase the stretch through the left inner thigh.
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds; repeat sequence with the left leg forward.
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4.  Hamstring Stretch

Targets the back of the thigh
  • Place your right foot on a higher surface where you can comfortably stretch your hamstrings; your left toes (on your standing leg) should be pointing forward.
  • As you slowly lean forward and reach for your right foot, only go to the point where you feel the muscle stretch. You don’t want to feel any pain; if your breathing gets shallow, you are probably pushing too far.
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds; repeat on the other leg.

5.  Calf Stretch

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Targets the back of the lower leg
  • Stand facing a tree or other stable surface.
  • Step back with your right foot, pressing your right heel down. Your toes should be pointing forward.
  • The left knee bends, but position should feel comfortable.
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds; repeat on the other leg.

6.  Shoulder Rolls

Targets all the muscles of the shoulder
  • Stand tall, as if there was a string attached to the top of your head, and someone was pulling up on that string.
  • Perform slow shoulder circles 10x forward, 10x back.
  • To increase the range of motion, place hands on shoulders and draw big circles with the elbows each direction 10 times.
  • Never push to the point of pain.
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7.  Standing Chest Stretch to Back Extension

Targets the front of the upper body and spine mobility
  • Stand tall with your abdominals pulled in and knees soft.
  • With your palms facing up, open up your arms as much as you can; keep pressing your shoulders down away from your ears.
  • Hold position for about 20 seconds.
  • From arms open, slowly raise arms overhead with your chest lifted; Keep contracting your abdominals to protect your lower back and your knees are soft.
  • Hold this position for about 20 seconds and continue to breath into the extended position.
Now you can get in your car and go home. Your body will recover faster and you’ll be ready-to-go for another epic adventure!
*Please contact your physician before starting any new exercise program.
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