6 stretches to become more flexible
Stretching is a crucial part of any exercise routine.
Not only is it a great way to warm up or cool down before or after exercise, it also keeps your muscles and joints healthy, strong and flexible. Which is super important as you spend more time at home, sitting down or moving less than normal.
Building up your flexibility can help a range of things like preventing injury, widening your range of motion, improving athletic performance and taking pressure off muscles when you exercise.
There are a few main things to remember when stretching:
- aim for symmetry (don’t favour one side)
- hold your stretch for around 30 seconds (you may need 60 seconds and avoid bouncing)
- listen to your body (if it’s too painful, stop)
- focus on your breathing (inhaling and exhaling slowly)
- keep stretching regularly (at least two or three times a week)
But which stretches help improve flexibility fast? Read on and find out…
1. Hamstring stretch
Whether you are standing or on the floor, stretching your hamstrings is good for leg flexibility. For the standing position, stand with your feet hip distance apart and bend forward with the top of your head facing the floor. For the floor position, start on your knees and stretch one leg out in front of you between your hands. After 30 seconds switch sides.
1. Hip flexor and quad stretch
Hip flexor and quad stretches help develop hip flexibility, improve stride length and can decrease tension in the lower back, hip, groin and even knees. For this stretch it’s a floor position, starting in a lunge with one knee on the floor and the other at a 90 degree angle. Ensure to tuck in your pelvis and keep your chest lifted, press forward and you’ll feel the stretch in the hip with the foot on the floor.
2. Knee to chest stretch
Used to create flexibility in the hip, glutes and lower back, this stretch can help relieve pressure on the spine. For this stretch start lying down on your back with your legs out straight. Draw one knee to the chest, keeping your foot straight and your lower back pressed on the floor. After 30 to 60 seconds, swap sides.
3. Butterfly stretch
A butterfly position stretches the inner thigh, groin, hips and muscles around the knee. Seated on the floor with your back in a tall upright position, drop your knees out to the side with the soles of your feet together. Hold your ankles and lean your body as far forward as you need to to feel the stretch. Make sure to keep your spine straight for this movement.
4. Side bend
Either in a seated cross-legged position or with your legs out to the side, or even seated in a chair, a side bend stretch is good for the intercostal muscles – the muscles that sit between your ribs. For this stretch, extend one hand over your head and leave the other hand resting on your thighs. Gently lean your mid section towards the opposite side of the raised arm until you feel the stretch. Remember, as always, after 30 or so seconds switch sides.
5. Triceps stretch
Stretching your triceps can improve your upper body flexibility, lengthen your muscles and increase your range of motion when exercising. This stretch can be done in a seated, kneeling or standing position. Extend one hand above your head then bend your elbow so your hand is reaching towards the middle of your back. With the other hand, take hold of the elbow and draw it towards your head or link it with your other hand. Then repeat on the other side.
Keep in mind these are only 6 stretches from a long list of other great ones. Plus, you can also stretch through other ways like Tai chi, Yoga or Pilates.
Want to try them out today? Have a go at our on demand Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates classes that are available on our video hub here.
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Harvard Health Publishing: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-stretching
Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/stretching/art-20047931
Pelvic Exercises Physiotherapy: https://www.pelvicexercises.com.au/hip-flexor-stretch/
Arthritis foundation: https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/physical-activity/success-strategies/lower-body-stretches
University of Rochester Medical Center: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=4469