When you follow a certain fitness program to either improve your health or physique, your attention and energy mainly goes to the strength training and cardio parts of the workout. Sure, you spend a few minutes stretching and warming up but you don’t really put enough focus into it; thinking that these are not the integral parts of the workout. However, stretching is an important part of a well-rounded exercise routine. Besides looking graceful, being flexible has its own benefits.
The Benefits of Stretching and Increased Flexibility
Apart from reducing tightness, regular stretching can also improve your flexibility. Once your flexibility improves, it’ll be easier for you to practice proper form while doing repetitive and challenging exercises. The more flexible you become, the safer and more efficient your workouts will be. Flexibility increases your mobility as well. This allows you to do more with less effort and strain on your muscles and joints. The tighter your muscles are, the more likely you are to get injured.
Now that you know how beneficial being flexible can be, here are several exercises you can try at home to improve your own flexibility.
Exercises to Increase Flexibility
Inner Thigh Stretch/Butterfly Stretch
Doing this particular stretching exercise regularly is good for increasing flexibility in your inner thigh adductor muscles, the set of muscles that are mainly responsible for drawing your legs together. The butterfly stretch also helps open your hips which is great if you are prone to sitting for long periods.
How to do:
- Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you.
- Bend your knees and make the soles of your feet touch each other.
- Reach out to your feet or ankles.
- Engage your abdominal muscles while lowering your upper body towards your feet.
- You can press your elbows towards your knees to deepen the stretch.
- Hold the pose for about 3 seconds and repeat three times.
Your hamstring is comprised of three different muscles namely the biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and the semitendinosus. This muscle group can be found at the back of your thigh and is prone to suffer strains or tears if you dive into challenging workouts without proper stretching. Stretching this muscle group can also help relieve back pain and decrease sciatica.
How to do:
- Sit on the floor with one leg bent towards the opposite knee and the other leg extending sideways.
- Lean your torso forward, making your fingertips reach the toes of your extended leg.
- Hold the pose for about 30 minutes and switch legs.
Lunge with Spinal Twist
Also known as Parivrtta Anjaneyasana in yoga, this stretching exercise can help strengthen your quadriceps and gluteus muscles while it stretches your hips and psoas. You probably don’t hear much about your psoas but it’s actually one of your most hardworking muscles. Your psoas serves as the primary connector between your legs and your torso. The stronger and more flexible your psoas muscles are, the better your posture.
How to do:
- Stand with your feet together.
- Take a huge step forward until you find yourself in a staggered stance.
- Bend the knee of the leg that’s extended in front of you, dropping you into a lunge position.
- Keep your hind leg straight and your toes to the ground.
- Take the hand that’s at the opposite side of the extended leg and place it on the floor.
- Twist your torso as you extend the other arm towards the ceiling.
- Hold the pose for at least 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Seated Shoulder Squeeze
A shoulder squeeze a day keeps the bad posture away. It’s also a great way to release tension in your upper back. It’s also quite easy to do as well. You can do it as soon as you wake up or even at your desk while you’re working.
How to do:
- Sit on the floor with both of your knees bent.
- Clasp your fingers together behind your back. Keep it at a level you’re comfortable with.
- Straighten and extend both arms, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Hold for 3 seconds and release. Repeat up to 10 times.
As with the rest of the exercises, a tricep stretch can improve your flexibility and range of motion when done right. This is best to do after an extensive upper body workout, especially one that involves a lot of pressing and pushing.
How to do:
- Raise one arm above you.
- Keep it straight.
- Bend your elbow, directing your forearm behind your head.
- With your opposite hand, push your bent elbow back.
- Hold it for 10-20 seconds and switch arms