The Best Flexibility Exercises
In this day and age, we’re supposed to work smarter, not harder; we’re supposed to minimize excessive effort that could, in turn, be used effectively elsewhere. For those of you new to the exercise routine, or even those familiar gym bunnies, here’s why you need to add my best flexibility exercises into your routine!
I’m a firm believer in incorporating stretches into my fitness regimen. I am the unfortunate victim of super tight shoulders and hamstrings that cause me endless amounts of pain on a regular basis, believe me when I stress the importance of using tried and tested methods to relax the body and soul – I’d be absolutely crazy if I didn’t have a way of de-stressing.
If you’re going to stretch, let’s not do half a job (and I know many of us skip stretching because it can be boring), use my tips below for a better, more flexible version of you:
● Figure out your needs: Most of us have a problem area, by identifying our “sore” spots, we can effectively target these areas without specific stretches. While there is no such thing as spot targeting re: exercise, with stretching it’s the complete opposite.
● Dynamic Warm up before the Work-out: The Jane Fonda workout videos, while fun to watch, are not my idea of proper or effective stretching when it comes to preparing the body for a workout. Before you start your cardio or weight session, perform a series of bodyweight movements like push-ups, squats, lunges, jumping rope or maybe a stair mill. These exercises warm up the entire body in an active manner where you don’t run the risk of injury.
● So no Static Stretches ? Actually, we’re going to keep these for after the workout. Depending on which muscle groups we worked on, we’re going to focus on those but give ourselves a complete cool down. It’s important to realise that your muscles bunch up / tighten after exercise and we need to stretch them out / lengthen them in order to relax.
● Commonly tight muscles need extra help: Work, home, kids, debt – all these bring some type of stress to one’s life and certain muscles are normally hit harder than others, including lats (under the shoulder blades), chest, hip flexors, glutes and hamstrings. If you’re on your feet a good deal of the day or wear heels for work, you may find your calves tighten up / cramp.
Try these major muscle group stretches and hold each for 60 seconds a pop for a basic, full body all round relaxer. The best flexibility exercises always encompass the biggest muscle groups:
1. Hamstring Stretch – 2 ways to do this. The first is to sit on the floor, split legs in as wide a V stretch as you can and reach forward. The second, for those of you who aren’t as flexible, fold one leg in at the knee and reach with both hands towards the opposite leg/foot. Do the opposite side –
2. Lying Hip Flexor & piriformis Stretch – Lay on your back, one knee (A) off the ground and bent at 90 degrees, the opposite ankle sits on knee A, use both hands and pull the 90 degree knee towards you while trying to keep the other knee parallel to the floor. Do the opposite side –
3. Quad stretch – While there are a number of quad stretches on the market, I favour this one because it stretches all 4, especially around the knee where it can get pretty tight.
Get into a long lunge position and drop the opposite knee onto the ground so that foot points towards the ceiling, keep your balance and stabilize yourself. Using the same side, take that hand and reach behind, pulling your foot towards your bottom. Do the opposite side –
4. Calf Stretch – While you can do this against a wall / chair or basically any surface that gives you a decent angle, I like doing mine on the floor in the horizontal position. Get into a low downward dog position (basically a pyramid shape with your bottom as the highest point. Put on top on top of the other, making sure the bottom leg is slightly bent. Add pressure on the bottom foot, you should feel it stretching. Do the opposite side –
5. Tricep Stretch – This feel excellent when you’re really tight and I find it also eases my shoulders somewhat. Ensure you stretch towards your full range of motion, extend one hand down the centre of your back, take the other hand and place it on your elbow pulling down gently behind the head. Do the opposite side –
6. Shoulder Stretch – You can do this seated or standing, extend one arm (A) across your chest and gently press the opposite hand (B) on the elbow of arm A. Do the opposite side –
While these may seem pretty basic, the best flexibility exercises are basic and are the best foundation to return to, especially when you have tight muscle groups. Remember to hold each position for 60 seconds and alternate each side. Happy stretching!