When it comes to flexibility and stretching, people either love it or love to hate it. For the latter, it’s often due to the tension within their bodies that restricts them from deepening their stretch. Tight muscles and joints do not equate to flexibility; however, the body can, over time, improve its overall flexibility and improve its range of motion to support your body’s health.
What is Flexibility?
Flexibility is one’s ability to move, stretch, and bend their body. According to UC Davis Health, “flexibility is the ability of a joint or series of joints to move through an unrestricted, pain-free range of motion.”
Each person has their own range of dynamic flexibility, some naturally have more than others. However, in order to maintain well-rounded health and fitness, it is always important to incorporate flexibility exercises into your routine. Lack of activity and active stretching leads to the loss of normal flexibility, which can promote injury and negatively impact your day-to-day lifestyle.
You may be wondering, what are the types of flexibility exercises? Well, there are many different types of flexibility exercises, so, today we’re sharing some of our favorite ones.
Yoga is a great way to improve your flexibility. Yoga is an ancient practice that derives from India some 5,000 years ago. Fusing the physical with the spiritual, yoga is a practice that works to unify mind, body, and spirit through breath and movement. The practice has swept through the western world, and there are many different types of yoga practiced today. However, traditional yoga postures all follow strict alignment queues that enable your body to deepen into and stretch the joints and muscles, improving flexibility over time.
The hamstring muscle tends to be one of the tighter muscles in the body, especially if you’re a runner. Stretching the hamstring is a great way to warm up or cool down the body before or after exercise.
Laying on your back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, lift one foot up and straighten your leg towards the sky. Using your hands, or a strap for assistance, reach for the bottom of your foot, pulling it gently towards your face and the ground beneath you. You should feel a slight stretch at the back of your thigh. Maintain a micro bend in your knee to prevent hyper-extension, if you feel the stretch at the back of your knee, use that as a sign to bend more. Switch out with the other leg to stretch both hamstrings.
A supine twist is a yoga posture that is excellent to stretch the back, hips, ribs, and glute muscles.
Begin lying flat on your back. Pull up your right knee towards your right armpit, squeezing it towards your ribs with your hands. Keeping both shoulder blades grounded on the floor beneath you, begin sweeping your right knee across your body so that it lands on the ground to your left, rotate your hips on the ground so that you’re laying on your left side hip. Keep both shoulder blades on the ground, even if it means that your right knee doesn’t land fully on the floor. Extend your right arm out to the right and rotate your neck so that your gaze is on the tip of your right middle finger. Hold this position for as long as you’d like, we recommend holding it for at least one minute. For additional relaxation, try closing your eyes and taking deep breaths in and out as you do this exercise. Allow gravity to do most of the work for you.
When you’re finished, come out of the posture in the same way you went into it, and then repeat these steps to get the left side stretched.
Begin in a seated position on the floor. Bend your knees so that the bottom of your feet touch one another. Pull your feet in towards your center as best you can. On your next inhale, fill up your belly with air, lengthening your spine tall. On the exhale, round your back and lean your upper body towards your feet and the ground. You should feel a stretch at your groin and in your spine and neck. Stay in this position for as long as you’d like, we recommend holding for at least one minute. If this stretch is too uncomfortable for you, use blocks or pillows to support your knees. Over time, you’ll see flexibility improve in your hips, allowing your knees to fall closer towards the ground.
Begin in a tabletop position, with your knees stacked under your hips and your wrists stacked under your shoulders. On an inhale, drop your belly towards the ground, flip your tailbone up towards the sky, and raise your gaze towards the sky. On your exhale, round your back, lifting the back of your heart space towards the sky, tuck your tailbone in, and drop your chin in towards your chest. Continue this cycle with your breath for as long as feels good, we recommend at least a minute. This stretch awakens your spine and stretches your back and neck.
Beginning in a standing or seated posture, you’ll want to make sure your spine is straight. This stretch is pretty self-explanatory, you’ll begin by rotating your shoulders forwards and rounding them in a circle. Then, reverse the roll so that you begin by sending your shoulders backward in a circular motion. Work to isolate the movement to just your shoulders.
Begin seated criss-cross with a straight spine. Place one hand on the ground and use the other hand to reach over to the opposite side of your head. Gently pull your head towards the side of the arm pulling it, keep your gaze straight ahead. You should feel a gentle pull in your neck, stretching it slightly. Hold this posture for up to one minute, and be very gentle and slow when exiting the stretch. Switch your arms to get the stretch going on the other side for balance.
We recommend incorporating some form of flexibility training into your fitness routine. Stretching is a great way to warm up your body before a workout as well as help your body cool down after an intense and strenuous session. Additionally, stretching right when you wake up in the morning is a great way to mindfully tap into your body and the present moment and get your day going.
While you can practice flexibility strength exercises in nearly any location, finding a designated place to exercise often helps people get into and commit to their workout. Here at Chuze Fitness, we have state-of-the-art machines and equipment to help you achieve your fitness goals. Find your nearest Chuze and stop in today to see for yourself.