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Fitness looks different for everyone. For some, it means slimming down to reach an ideal weight, while others prefer to bulk up and pack on some additional muscle. No matter where your fitness goals lie, it’s important to maintain a well-rounded workout routine. Flexibility plays a vital role in this, though it’s an element that many exercise plans overlook. Flexibility is crucial because it keeps your muscles limber and stimulates blood flow throughout your body before and after you exercise. Incorporating flexibility exercises into your workout plan reduces the risk of injury and makes it easier to maintain proper posture as you progress through various exercises and poses. Certain exercises and stretches are better for flexibility than others, with some designed to stretch specific muscles and body parts. This guide explores some of the best exercises that improve flexibility and explains how incorporating these exercises can take your workout routine to the next level.
Starting with the bottom and working our way up, we begin with the wall calf stretch. This simple stretch is a great preliminary one to perform before a cardio workout. From a standing position, brace your hands on a wall directly in front of you. Place your hands at about shoulder height or a bit lower. Step one foot back into a lunge position and bend the other slightly at the knee. Press into the lunge and use your hands to stabilize yourself and deepen the lunge further. Feet should be facing forward. Hold the pose for 15 to 30 seconds before switching to the other leg.
This pose requires a bit of balance and attention to posture, so it’s a great way to work your mind as well as your body. In a standing position, shift your body weight so it’s centered on one foot. Raise the other foot and bend at the knee, pulling your foot toward your glutes. You can use a chair or a wall to stabilize yourself during this stretch. Keep your chest open and hold the stretch for about 30 seconds before switching legs. You can also lean forward slightly to deepen the stretch even further.
One of the most popular exercises to increase flexibility is the single hamstring stretch. This stretch is so popular because it’s very simple, yet it works multiple muscle groups at once. Start in a seated position with one leg stretched outward and the other bent at a 90-degree angle. Bend forward at the hips and stretch toward the toes on your outstretched legs. Don’t worry if you can’t reach your toes at first. With a bit of practice, you will be able to deepen the stretch. In addition to stretching your hamstrings, this exercise is also great for improving flexibility in your back and hip flexors.
The knee-to-chest stretch also flexes your back and hamstring muscles, though it takes place in a slightly more relaxed position. Begin by laying on your back on a flat surface. Leave one leg outstretched and bend the other at the knee. Bring the bent leg to your chest, pulling in slightly until you feel a stretch. Hold this position for about 30 seconds and then switch legs. You can also roll side to side slightly as you hold your knee to your chest. This will add a nice element of massage to the exercise that will loosen your muscles even further.
The seated groin stretch goes by several different names, including the butterfly stretch. This exercise takes place in a seated position, with both legs bent at the knee and pulled slightly inward toward the groin. The soles of your feet should touch each other comfortably, and you should not pull your feet so close to your body that you feel a painful tug. As your flexibility increases and you begin to feel more comfortable with this stretch, try leaning forward slightly. Bend at the hips and drop your head to feel a stretch from your hips, up your back, and all the way through your neck. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
A standing or seated toe touch achieves many of the same benefits of a single hamstring stretch, with one additional bonus. This stretch requires no balance, and you can perform it easily from a more relaxed, seated position. Simply extend both legs in front of you, bend at the waist, and lean forward. Try to reach for your toes, which should point toward the ceiling. Bear in mind that you may not be able to reach your toes upon your first attempt. This is very normal. Reach until you feel a slight stretch in your thighs, and then hold it for 30 seconds. Over time, you will find that you can reach further and deepen the stretch. Eventually, you may even be able to reach your toes.
Is there any position more comfortable and relaxing than child’s pose? This yoga pose focuses on stretching the upper and lower back, as well as the shoulders and lats, and it provides a great moment of reprieve during particularly strenuous exercise routines. Start on the floor in a kneeling position. Push your hips back so they rest over your heels and bend your body forward so that your forehead rests on the floor. Extend your arms in front of you and lean your chest toward the earth. Hold this position for 30 seconds and breathe deeply.
Back flexibility is a very important element for many exercises, as it allows you to maintain your form and posture much easier throughout your workouts. In a seated position, extend one leg outward and bend the other at a 90-degree angle, with your knee pointed toward the sky. Cross the foot of your bent leg over the knee of the outstretched leg. Slightly twist your back so you are facing away from the foot of your bent leg. Hold this pose for 30 seconds and switch. This pose provides a great stretch for the piriformis muscle, as well as the glutes and thighs.
Incorporating balance balls and resistance bands can also help you achieve a deeper stretch in your flexibility exercises. Visit American Home Fitness to find flexibility equipment for your routine. With exercise equipment stores in Sylvania, Toledo, and the surrounding areas, you’ll be able to find the perfect piece of equipment for your workout.