Does the cold weather have you feeling tight? Try this simple stretching routine for increased flexibility.
Many people overlook the importance of flexibility, but a balanced fitness routine includes cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises. Stretching isn’t only for gymnasts and runners. It’s for all who want to keep their muscles strong, lean, flexible, and free of injury. Being flexible also improves your range of motion, circulation, balance, and coordination. That’s a lot of perks!
Fitness experts agree that flexibility exercises should be done on a regular, if not daily, basis. With more than 650 different muscles in the human body, it can be hard to know how to effectively stretch. The most important muscles to stretch include your hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, and quadriceps. It’s also smart to stretch your neck, shoulder, and lower back. Remember, flexibility doesn’t happen overnight. Stay committed to your routine and over time you’ll see improvements.
Your hamstrings are the muscles along the back of your thighs. To get an effective hamstring stretch, sit on the floor and straighten your legs out to either side. Lean over and reach your hands toward your left foot as far as you can go without pain. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Sit up, reach toward your right foot, and hold.
To stretch the muscles that run along the back of your lower legs, do the lunging calf stretch. Stand in front of a wall, extend your arms, and place your hands against the wall. Step your left foot back, slightly bend your right knee, and lean into the wall. Keep your left leg straight and press your left heel down toward the ground. The greater the distance between your feet, the more you’ll feel the stretch in your calf. Hold the stretch and then switch legs.
Flexible Hip Flexors
Your hip flexor muscles are found at the top of your thigh. Aiding in walking, bending, and twisting, it’s important to keep them limber. To stretch your hip flexors, kneel on your right knee on the floor and bend your left knee to a 90-degree angle in front of you. Keep your back straight and place your hands on your left knee. Lean forward, squeeze your glutes, and feel a stretch in your right hip. Hold, and then switch legs.
The muscles that run along the front of your thighs are some of the largest in the body. To effectively stretch your quadriceps, do the standing quad stretch. Stand up and hold onto a wall or chair for balance. Bend your right leg behind you and grab hold of your right ankle with you right hand. Gently pull and hold while you feel a gentle stretch. Switch legs and repeat.
Neck with Range
Help prevent tension, pain, and injury in your neck with neck tilts. Sit or stand up straight and slowly lower your chin toward your chest. Hold for 15 seconds, relax, and lift your head. Now slowly tilt your head back and look up toward the sky. Hold, relax, and lift your head. While standing, slowly tilt your head down toward your left shoulder. Hold, relax, and lift your head. Now slowly tilt your head down to the right shoulder.
To gain flexibility in your shoulders, do the cross-body arm stretch. Stand up, extend your right arm, place your left hand on your right elbow, and gently press your right elbow toward your left shoulder. Hold and switch arms.
Limber Lower Back
A great stretch for lower back pain and tightness is the double knee twist. Lie on your back and open your arms out to either side, palms facing down. Bend your knees and bring them up toward your chest. Slowly lower both knees over towards the floor on your left while keeping both shoulders on the floor. Hold and then raise your knees back to your chest. Slowly lower them toward the floor on your right.