When you think of exercise, cardio and strength training are the first two variations that come to mind. You don’t consider flexibility as a pillar of exercise, but it is. If you neglect flexibility, you limit mobility and it becomes increasingly difficult to execute your regular workouts. On top of that, our sedentary lifestyles increase stiffness and decrease mobility, but you can counteract that with simple stretches.
When you have tight muscles, you put unnecessary strain on the joints, which increases your risk of injury. Sitting down all day can shorten the muscles, which also happens naturally with age, so making the decision to stretch everyday can improve and maintain muscular and joint health. There’s no reason to be in pain when you exercise, so here are five stretches that improve mobility and flexibility.
Hip Flexor Stretch:
Most people suffer from tight hips, and they often stretch them incorrectly when they try to create more mobility. Start in a kneeling position with your left knee on the ground and your right foot on the floor out in front of you. Your right thigh should be parallel to the ground and the toes on your left foot should be tucked. Squeeze your glutes as you tuck your pelvis and lean forward just a little. You should feel a stretch along the front of your left hip. You can stay in this position, or you can go deeper into the stretch by reaching your left arm above your head and leaning a little to the right. To go deeper than that, you can reach both hands back to grab your left ankle and pull it towards your left glute. You’ll feel that in your thigh as well. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
Once you finish the hip flexor stretch, all you need to do is straighten your front leg as much as you can (it’s okay if it’s slightly bent), put your heel on the ground, and sit back until you feel a stretch in your hamstring. You can place your hands on the ground on either side of you for support, but we recommend keeping your arms extended out in front of you. The goal is to keep your back straight because you want to feel the stretch in your hamstring, not your lower back. Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds and then repeat on the other leg.
Lunge With Spinal Twist:
There are many names for this stretch, but the most popular name is the World’s Greatest Stretch. That’s because you feel all the feels and it really opens up the body. Start by standing upright with your feet hip-distance apart. Take a big step forward with your right foot and drop into a lunge. Keep your left leg straight with your toes on the ground. Plant your left hand on the ground near your right foot and then slowly twist to the right, opening up your body. Extend your right hand up towards the ceiling and direct your gaze at your fingertips. Hold this pose anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. Repeat on the other side.
Seated Neck Stretch:
Too often do people neglect neck mobility, and this stretch addresses any stiffness you may have. Sit down on your butt and keep your back straight; you can also stand up straight for this stretch. Lean your head to the right, dropping your right ear to your right shoulder. You can deepen the stretch by pressing down on the left side of your head with your right hand. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
Knees To Chest:
Anyone with tension in their low back or hamstrings will benefit from this stretch. Lie on your back and draw your knees into your chest. Depending on your flexibility, you can wrap your arms around your shins, or simply pull your knees into your chest with your hands on your knees or shins. The most important thing about this stretch is to keep your lower back on the floor. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds or one minute and then release.