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Stretching exercises can seem pretty boring compared to other types of workouts, but trust us when we say that they’re probably one of the most important things you can do for your body. Stretching promotes a greater range of motion, allowing your joints to move to their fullest potential. When you are flexible, your muscles and connective tissues get stronger, letting you become more mobile and agile.
Here are some exercises that can help you on your journey to becoming more flexible.
Benefits of Stretching Exercises
Being healthy and fit doesn’t only mean being capable of lifting heavy weights or running fast. It also means that you have an ease of movement both in the gym and in your everyday life. This is where stretching comes in.
Research has shown that stretching can help improve flexibility, and as a result, also improve the range of motion of your joints. When you have better flexibility, you can improve your performance in physical activities, decrease your risk of injuries, help your joints move through their full range, and enable your muscles to work effectively.
You also improve your ability to do daily activities, especially as you become older. Simple things like bending down to tie a shoe or walking up the stairs can be more difficult as we age. When we improve our mobility through stretching, these daily activities are easier to do as we are able to move more freely.
Furthermore, stretching can also improve aches and pains in our entire body. Tightness in the muscles can occur during workouts or when we sit for long periods. Stretches can help in loosening up your tight muscles, relieving muscle tension, and increasing mobility across the body.
Best Flexibility Exercises
Flexibility is important in having a healthy lifestyle. It helps us become more mobile, decreases the risk of injury, reduces muscular tension, and so much more. Flexibility isn’t only for athletes, it’s something that everyone should have.
Make sure that you are properly warmed up before you jump into these exercises. A few minutes of dynamic stretches will get your blood flowing and your muscles ready to move. Once you’re done warming up, try out any of the exercises below!
For your starting position, stand with the feet slightly wider than your hips. In a clockwise circular motion, tuck your chin toward your chest and roll your head.
Your right ear should come over your right shoulder first, then tilt your head straight back, and then bring your left ear over your left shoulder. Stop when your chin returns to your chest. Perform 10 and switch sides to repeat.
Start in a standing position with feet hip-width apart, your arms straight out at shoulder height, and palms facing up. Next, use your right hand to pull your left fingers down gently toward the floor. Hold for five breaths, and then do the same on the other side. That counts as one rep. Perform three reps.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Interlace your fingers behind your back. Inhale and extend your arms. Bend at your waist as you exhale, and extend your hands toward your head. Hold for five seconds, and repeat.
Lunging calf stretches are helpful in building foundational muscle memory and improving overall fitness. To perform this, kneel on your left leg and place your right leg forward at a right angle. Then, lunge forward, keeping the back leg straight. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, and repeat two times, then switch sides.
Stand about three feet from a wall and place your palms flat on the wall, shoulder-width apart. Then, place your right foot behind you with your toes facing forward. Keep your right knee straight as much as you can, and with your heel on the ground, lean forward. Hold for a few seconds, and repeat with the other leg.
Stand with your feet together. Then, clasp your hands, with your arms extended, together behind your back. Begin to raise your arms up and bend forward at your waist. You should be able to feel the stretch in your chest.
Overhead Triceps Stretch
This is one of the most popular upper body stretches as it loosens up the muscles on the back of the upper arms. To do this, stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms extended overhead. Bend your right elbow and, leading with your middle finger, reach your right hand to touch the top middle of your back.
Next, reach your left hand overhead and grasp just below your right elbow. Gently pull your right elbow down and toward your head. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch arms and repeat.
Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
Your hip flexors are the muscles that help you lift your knees and bend your waist. Tight hips occur when you sit for long periods. To loosen up your hip flexors, try out this stretch. Drop one leg back, keeping it straight or slightly bent. Keep your torso upright as much as possible and keep your spine straight.
Next, drop your tailbone down toward the floor. Tuck your butt in until you feel the stretch on the inner thigh of your rear leg. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and then switch legs.
Standing Quad Stretch
Stand behind a chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Put your right hand on the chair for balance. If there isn’t a nearby chair, you may also hold onto a wall. Next, bend your left knee and use your left hand to pull your left foot toward your butt.
Keep your bent knee pointing straight to the floor. Squeeze your glutes until you feel the thigh stretch. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes if you can. Repeat on the other leg.
Sit with your right knee bent at 90 degrees in front of you. Your calf should be perpendicular to your body and the sole of your foot facing to the left. Keep your right foot flexed. Let your leg rest flat on the floor.
Next, place your left knee to the left of your body, and bend the knee so that your foot faces behind you. Keep your left foot flexed. Keep your right butt cheek on the floor. Try to move the left cheek as close to the floor as possible. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Repeat on the opposite leg.
Seated Shoulder Squeeze
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Clasp your hands behind your lower back. Straighten and extend your arms, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Do this for 3 seconds, then release. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
If you want to loosen up your inner thighs, hips, and knees, this is a stretch you can do. Sit on the floor or a mat and bring your feet together so that your soles touch and your knees bend to opposite sides.
With a straight spine, grasp your feet, then lean slowly forward and gently push your thighs down with your elbows. You should feel a stretch along your inner thighs. Hold for 15 to 23 seconds.
Doorway Pectoral Stretch
For your starting position, stand in an open doorway and bring your arms up by your sides. Bend your elbows and place your hands on either side of the door frame. Then, bring one foot forward and take a step. You should feel a stretch in your shoulders and chest right away. Hold for 30 seconds then take a step back. Repeat 2 to 3 times per leg.
Lie on your back with both legs straight out. Gently pull your right knee into your chest while keeping your left leg straight and your lower back pressed against the floor. You can keep your other leg bent if you are experiencing low back pain.
Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Switch legs to repeat.
Lying Quad Stretch
Lie on one side. Keep your bottom leg extended and your top knee bent so that your foot is by your butt. Hold your top foot with your hand, gently drawing it toward your butt. Try to keep your hips stable so that you aren’t rocking back as you pull. Hold for 30 seconds, then do the same on the other side.
Seated Spinal Twist
Begin from a sitting position on the floor. Keep your back upright with your hands on your thighs. Bring your right knee up and bend it. Cross your right leg over your left with your right ankle on the outside of your left thigh.
Then, place your right arm behind you, fingertips on the floor. Twist to reach as far behind you as you can without strain.
Raise your left arm upward to help drive the motion. Next, bring your left arm down so your triceps rest against the outer side of your left knee/thigh. On exhale, twist yourself a little more to the right. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths. Gently reverse out of the post. Alternate and repeat on the opposite side. Do 5 to 10 twists in total.
Start lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Bring your right ankle to your other knee, allowing your right leg to rest there, bent. Place your hands on the back of your left leg and gently draw your leg toward your chest. You should be able to feel a stretch in the left hip and left glute. Hold for a few breaths, and release. Repeat on the other side.
Doing flexibility exercises every day or every week can help increase your range of motion over time. Once you find yourself becoming more flexible, your quality of life will drastically improve. Best of all, it’s never too late to start. Try them out now!