These 21 Stretching Exercises Will Improve Your Flexibility.

Although stretching may not seem like the most exciting aspect of exercising, flexibility work is equally important to a balanced fitness program as strength and cardio. You can improve flexibility, decrease tightness, and make your workouts safer and more efficient by including stretching exercises in your workout routine.

Sasha Cyrelson D.P.T. clinical director at Professional Physical Therapy, Sicklerville, New Jersey tells SELF that tight muscles can put undue strain on neighboring joints or cause them to become injured. She says that as we age, our muscles become less elastic and shorter. “We must take active steps to maintain and improve the length of our muscles to continue to enjoy our talents without pain.”

Stretching is not glamorous or hardcore. It won’t give you that same rush as a run, HIIT class, or even a run. Cyrelson states that stretching is difficult and takes time so many people don’t enjoy it. However, cardio and strength training are not enough to avoid injury or pain. Your muscles will become imbalanced if you do too much work that contracts them (which reduces their length) and not enough stretching them (lengthening them). Because imbalances can lead to injury, some muscles and joints may overcompensate for others that are too tight. This can lead to strains and discomfort.

Your muscles will be more flexible and loose if they aren’t tightened. This allows you to move your muscles more freely (ROM). You can sink deeper into a squat if you have more motion in your hips, knees, and hips. A greater range of motion in your hips and knees will allow you to perform more exercises, and do them correctly.

Charlee Atkins C.S.C.S. is an instructor at Soul Annex in New York City. She also created Le Stretch to emphasize the importance of stretching for daily life. It’s all about the daily tasks that get more difficult as you age, such as bending down to tie your shoe, getting up from the ground, picking up your child, or just getting up from the couch. Atkins states that improving mobility can make these everyday activities more enjoyable.

It’s not difficult to improve your mobility and flexibility. It takes very little effort. To help ease muscle tension and improve mobility, you can incorporate the flexibility stretches that Atkins demonstrates below into your workout routine.

1. Standing Hamstring Stretch

  • Standing tall, with your feet at your hips, your knees bent and your arms outstretched, keep your legs straight.
  • Inhale and bend forward at your hips. Keep your head down toward the floor while you exhale.
  • Hold the position for 45 seconds to 2 minutes by wrapping your arms around your legs.
  • When you are done, bend your knees and roll over.

Stretches neck, back, glutes, hamstrings, calves

2. Piriformis Stretch

The deep inner hip rotator of the piriformis is located outside the butt. Atkins states that its primary function is external rotation. Although they are small, deep internal rotators produce a lot more movement at the hip than the smaller ones and are often overlooked. Cyrelson explains that the piriformis crosses the sciatic nerve and can cause irritation. This muscle can be stretched to prevent future sciatica or treated.

  • Place your legs out in front of yourself on the ground.
  • Place your right foot on the ground by crossing your right leg over your left.
  • Place your right hand behind your body on the ground.
  • As shown, place your left hand on the right quad or your left elbow on the right knee. Press your right leg towards the left while twisting your torso toward the right.
  • If you feel the spinal rotation is causing pain in your back, simply take it out.

Stretches hips, back, glutes

3. Lunge with Spinal Twist

Atkins points out that this stretch is often referred to in the fitness world as the World’s Greatest Stretch. It’s important to relieve posture-related pain and for those who sit for long periods of time,” Dan Giordano D.P.T. C.S.C.S. cofounder of Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy New York City and Seattle. He tells SELF that it helps open the hips and improve mobility in the thoracic (mid back) area.

  • Stand with your feet together.
  • Make a big step forward using your left foot so you can stand in a staggered position.
  • Keep your left leg straight and bend your knee. Then, drop into a lunge. Your right leg should be straight ahead of you, with your toes on ground.
  • Your right hand should be on the ground. Now, rotate your body to the left and extend your left arm towards the ceiling.
  • For 30 seconds to 2 min.
  • Repeat the process on the opposite side.

Stretches hip flexors, quads, back

4. Triceps Stretch

  • With your feet at hip width, kneel, sit or stand, with arms outstretched overhead, reach your arms up to the heavens.
  • Reach your right elbow to touch your top middle with your right hand.
  • Reach your left hand up and grab your right elbow just below the surface.
  • Gently bring your right elbow towards your head.
  • Reverse the process and do it again.

Tightens neck, shoulders and back

5. Figure Four Stretch

This specifically works the piriformis, iliopsoas and IT bands muscles. This and the passive nature it offers, makes it an ideal and gentle way to relieve sciatica pain and knee pain.” John Murray, yoga instructor and cofounder of Lyons Den Power Yoga tells SELF.

  • Place your feet flat on the ground and lie on your back.
  • Cross your left foot over your right quad.
  • Your right leg should be lifted off the ground. Hold onto your right leg, and pull it towards your chest.
  • Hold on to the stretch until you feel it is comfortable.
  • For 30 seconds to 2 min.
  • Reverse the process and do it again.

Stretches hips, glutes, lower back, hamstrings.

6. 90/90 Stretch

Atkins says that this modification to pigeon pose allows for internal rotation of one leg, and external rotation the other. “So you’re hitting both moves of your hip simultaneously,” she said. She adds that it’s a great option for those with tight hip flexors. “The front thigh is in a safe position, not causing too much stress.

  • Your right knee should be bent at 90 degrees in front of your body. Keep your calf parallel to your body. The sole of your left foot should face to the left. Keep your right foot straight.
  • Place your leg flat on the ground.
  • Your left knee should be to your left. Bend your knee so your foot faces forward. Keep your left foot flexed.
  • Your right cheek should be on the ground. Move your left cheek as close as you can to the ground. If you are extremely tight, it may not be possible.
  • For 30 seconds to 2 min.
  • Repeat the process on the opposite side.

Stretches hips

7. Frog Stretch

“Most people sit cross-legged, which can cause tight hips and lower-back pain,” Lacee, a NASM certified personal trainer and instructor at New York’s Fhitting Room tells SELF. This stretch targets tight spots in the hips/groin, and is particularly useful for runners.

  • Get on your toes.
  • Place your knees slightly wider than your shoulder width apart.
  • Place your toes on the floor and place your inner feet on the ground.
  • Your hips should be pointing back towards your heels.
  • To get a deeper stretch, move your hands from your fingers to your forearms.
  • For 30 seconds to 2 min.

8. Butterfly Stretch8

  • Place your feet on the ground, bringing your knees to the sides.
  • Keep your ankles or feet in place, engage your abs and lower your body towards your feet. While pressing your knees to the ground, hold onto your ankles.
  • You can press your knees to the ground if you are unable to bend over.
  • This stretch should be held for between 30 seconds and 2 minutes.

Stitches hips, glutes and back

9. Seated Shoulder Squeeze

“I love this stretch as it relieves poor posture, and releases tension in my upper back,” Jess Sims tells SELF. She is a NASM-certified personal coach and instructor at Shadowbox in New York City.

  • Place your feet flat on the ground and bend your knees so that you can sit on the floor.
  • Place your hands behind your lower back.
  • Straighten your arms, extend your arms, and pinch your shoulders together.
  • Continue this for three seconds and then let go. Repeat this process 5-10 times.

10. Side Bend Stretch

Place your knees on the ground, keeping your back straight and core tight.

Your left leg should be extended to the side. It should be perpendicular to the body, not in front or behind.

Place your right arm above your head, rest your left hand on your left knee, and bend your torso to the side.

Keep your hips forward.

This stretch should be held for between 30 seconds and 2 minutes.

Repeat the process on the opposite side.

Stretches the groin, hips and inner thigh.

11. Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch

  • Place your left foot on the ground. Your right foot should be flat on the ground in front of your knee.
  • Stretch your left hip towards the floor by leaning forward.
  • You can squeeze your butt to increase hip flexibility.
  • For 30 seconds to 2 min.
  • Reverse the process and do it again.

Stretches hips, quads, glutes

12. Lying pectoral stretch

Zack Daley is a NASM-certified personal coach and head coach at Tone House in New York City. He tells SELF, “This is a great stretching to do before/after pushing motions,” such as push-ups, rows or push-ups.

  • Place your arms out in front of you so that your body forms a T shape.
  • For balance, push your left hand off the ground and bend your left leg to support your left foot. As you begin to roll to your right side, your left hand should be pushing off the ground. This should be felt in your right-side pectoral muscles.
  • You’ll find that you can stretch and roll more easily as your mobility improves.
  • Repeat the process on the opposite side.

Chest, shoulders

13. Stretch your chest from the knees

  1. Place both your legs out in front of you.
  2. Keep your right knee bent and your lower back flat on the ground.
  3. For 30 seconds to 2 min.
  4. Continue with the opposite leg.

Stretches lower back, hips, hamstrings

14. Relaxed Neck Release

Karen Joubert D.P.T. is the owner of Joubert Physical Therapy in Beverly Hills. She tells SELF that many people forget to stretch their neck. Relieving tension in the neck can have a positive effect on your entire upper body, from your shoulders down to your spine.

  • Either stand with your feet shoulder width apart or lie down straight with your chest raised.
  • Place your left ear on your left shoulder.
  • For a deeper stretch, press your head gently with your left hand.
  • For 30 seconds to 2 min.

Stretches neck

15. Stretch your quadriceps

  • Place your hand on the other side.
  • Keep your bottom leg straight, and bend your top knee to place your foot by your butt.
  • Keep your top foot in your hand and pull it towards your butt.
  • Make sure your hips are stable to ensure you don’t rock back when you pull.
  • For 30 seconds to 2 min.
  • Reverse the process and do it again.

Stretches quads

16. Pose of the Sphinx

Shanna Tyler, a New York City-based yoga instructor, tells SELF this pose gently stretches the lower back. It also engages your abs which further supports the lower spine.

  • Place your hands on your stomach and extend your legs behind you.
  • As you raise your chest off the ground, place your elbows below your shoulders.
  • Place your hips, thighs and knees on the floor. Next, think about lengthening and keeping your shoulders open.
  • You should only raise your back enough to feel some stretch in your lower back. Do not hyperextend and stop immediately if there is any discomfort or pain.

Lower back, chest, and shoulders

17. Extended Puppy Pose

  • Get on your toes.
  • Move your arms forward for a few inches, and then curl your toes below.
  • Your hips should be pushed up to your heels.
  • To keep your arms straight, push your palms through your hands.
  • For 30 seconds to 2 min.

Stitches back, shoulders and glutes

18. Pretzel Stretch

Cyrelson states that the pretzel stretch is a great way to stretch multiple important postural muscles at once, which can save you a lot of time. This will stretch your quads, spine, hip flexors, glutes, and top leg.

  • Place your head on your arm and lie on your left side.
  • Your right knee should be bent and your hips should reach towards your chest. Then, let your hips drop to the ground.
  • Your left leg should be bent at the knee. Grab your left foot with your right hand.
  • When gently bringing your top shoulder blade towards the ground, make sure your leg is straight.
  • To give your spine a twist, tilt your head so that you look over your right shoulder.

Stretches quads, glutes, obliques, hips, back

19. Reclining Bound Angle Pose

Murray states that this is an excellent stretch that can be used as both a warm-up or as a release pose at the end of a workout. Because the posture is passive, it can be and should always be adjusted according to how your body feels to promote proper stretching and release. If you require support, he suggests that you use pillows or rolled-up towels under your knees.

  • Place your head on your stomach.
  • Place your soles on your feet and let your knees open to allow you to move closer to the ground.
  • For 30 seconds to 2 min.

Wraps the inner thighs, hips and groin

20. Standing Quad Stretch

  • Keep your feet together.
  • Your left leg should be bent at the knee. Now, use your left hand and pull your left foot towards your butt. Keep your knees together.
  • To balance, place one hand on a wall if you feel the need.
  • To increase your leg stretch, squeeze your glutes.
  • For 30 seconds to 2 min.
  • Continue with the opposite leg.

Stretches quads

21To the chest, knees

Place your hands on your stomach and extend your arms out to the sides.

Keep your lower back down on the ground.

For 30 seconds to 2 min.Stretches lower back, glutesTrainer Charlee Atkins is wearing Tory Sport Seamless Cropped Leggings for $95, torysport.com. MPG Sport Elliptical 2.0 Medium Sport Bra for $48, mpgsport.com. Reebok Crossfit Grace sneakers for $100, reebok.com.

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