Let’s be honest – most of us don’t stretch as often as we should.
We’d all like to be more limber, and to help our muscles after a workout, but often a lack of knowledge of precisely what to do stops us in our tracks.
Learning the best stretches to increase flexibility is the first step towards a happier, healthier body. Read on to learn everything you need to know about stretching!
Why stretching matters
Stretching regularly keeps your muscles flexible and strong, and that flexibility works to give you a full range of motion when moving your limbs and body. If we don’t stretch—particularly after exercise—we risk our muscles becoming overly taut. This can lead to reduced mobility, strains, and poor posture.
It isn’t just exercise that tightens your muscles. Even just sitting down all day at your desk can cause the muscles in your legs to tighten, which can lead to difficulty in achieving a full range of motion when you attempt physical activity.
In short, staying limber makes any form of physical activity that much easier, and will help to ensure your body is healthy and full-functioning as you progress through life.
Where to begin stretching
We have over 600 muscles in the human body, and attempting to stretch every single one of them (while undoubtedly satisfying if you manage it!) isn’t really possible. Fortunately, in order to be flexible and mobile, you needn’t stretch all of them.
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The most important areas are primarily leg stretches: calves, hamstrings, quadriceps and hip flexors. It’s also a good idea to stretch your lower back, neck and shoulders. Ideally, you want to be doing a stretching routine between three and four times a week.
The best beginner’s stretching routine
– Lunge and twist
To perform this classic stretch—which can work wonders for back pain—begin standing upright with your feet together. Then take one large step forward with your left foot, keeping the other in place, bending your left knee as you step so you go into a lunge.
Then place your right hand beside your left foot, while turning your torso to stretch your left arm up into the sky, opening your whole torso up. Hold this pose for a minute, then repeat on the opposite side.
Good for: hip flexors, back, quads
– Standing Hamstring Stretch
Beginning standing up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, keep your arms by your sides. Then, exhaling as you do so, slowly bend forward at the waist, keeping your feet planted.
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Don’t strain your head and shoulders, and wrap your arms around your legs. Hold this position for a minute, then return slowly to your starting position in the same controlled manner.
Good for: back, neck, glutes, calves, hamstrings
– Piriformis Stretch
This stretch is great for dealing with back and hip pain. To do the move, begin by sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Cross your right leg over your left leg, making sure your right foot is flat to the ground.
Then, put your right hand behind you, about a foot away from your butt, and place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee. You should feel this stretch up your back and in your hips.
Good for: glutes, back, hips
– Triceps Stretch
Begin standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms directly overhead, then bend your right arm at the elbow, reaching all the way down to touch the bottom of your neck or your upper back, if you can manage it.
With your left arm, bend it and hold your right elbow in place for the stretch. After a minute, switch arms and repeat.
Good for: shoulders, neck, triceps, back
– Knee to chest stretch
Start by lying on your back with your legs extended and your arms at your sides. Then pull your left knee up towards your chest, ensuring that your right leg stays still and your lower back is flat against the floor.
Wrap your hands around your knee to hold it in place, and hold the stretch for one minute. Then repeat with your right leg.
Good for: hips, hamstrings, lower back
– Standing quad stretch
This is a nice easy one. Standing with your feet side by side, simply bend your right leg and lift your heel up to your butt. Hold it there with your right hand, using your left hand for balance if you need to.
Hold this position for one minute, then repeat on the opposite leg.
Good for: quads
– Sphinx pose
Lie flat on your stomach with your legs stretched out behind you. Then lift up your torso by placing your elbows beneath your shoulders, so your chest is off the ground. Place your palms flat on the floor, and face your forearms ahead of you.
Make sure you’re pressing your lower body towards the floor as you do this, and stop if there’s any pain in your lower back. All you want is a satisfying stretch!
Good for: chest, shoulders, lower back
When you begin practicing flexibility exercises, your body will take a little while to get used to the change. You won’t necessarily be amazingly bendy after one or two sessions, however if you stick at it, you’ll notice big changes in the coming weeks and months in how your body feels and functions in daily life.
If you begin with the above stretching exercises, you’ll hit all your most important muscle groups, and before you know it you’ll be feeling more limber and lively than ever before.
Ready to achieve your goals?
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Looking and feeling your best has never been easier!