Flexibility is about more than impressing people with your ability to do the splits or birds of paradise pose. Improving your flexibility can help prevent injury, stiffness, and pain.
When you stretch muscles, you’re lengthening them, making them stretchy as opposed to tight and restricted. This gives you greater range of motion, which could help with daily activities like tying shoes or workout goals.
Even if you aren’t particularly limber now, you can increase flexibility with a little practice. Katelyn Page, a certified personal trainer, offers some tips.
Release the Knots
“The muscles develop knots and if you don’t take time to work through those knots, you’re working out with these knotted muscles,” Page said. “You’re not getting the best workout.”
Imagine how much easier it would be to paddle a kayak or squat to depth without all that tightness.
“It helps you get more out of the experience if you work on the flexibility for your activity,” Page said.
To release those knots, Page recommends foam rolling to all her clients. Don’t just roll back and forth. Roll until you find the knot—a sensitive point. Once you find it, hold. Put pressure on it.
“It takes about 30 seconds of pressure to release the knot,” Page said.
Foam rolling helps prevent injuries and also increase mobility.
5 Stretches to Start Doing
Start by stretching in the morning before you get out of bed, Page said. To make it a habit, she recommends pairing morning stretches with a behavior you already do every morning, such as making coffee. Try these 5 for about 30 seconds each:
For hamstrings and lower back.
- Sitting on a flat surface, extend your legs and sit tall through the top of your head.
- If this already feels a bit tight, you can sit on a folded blanket or cushion to relieve the hip flexors.
- Keeping your back flat, hinge at the hips and flex your feet, pressing through the heels. Relax your shoulders and keep your spine long, including your neck. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, focusing on your breath.
- When ready, keeping a long spine, round your back and ready your chest towards your thighs, your forehead towards your shins, and the top of your head towards your toes.
Figure 4 stretch
Works hips and gluteus medius. Choose either the lying down or standing version.
- Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet planted, bring your right ankle onto your left thigh.
- Flex your right foot. Using your right thigh muscle, press your right knee away from your chest. You have the option of using your right hand to help with the push.
- If you want to take it up a notch, bring your left thigh in toward your chest. Intertwine your fingers around your left thigh, pulling in toward your chest as you continue to press your right thigh away from your torso.
- Standing under a doorway, bring your arms out like a goalpost with the elbows bent at 90 degrees. Keep your elbows in line with your shoulders. Bring your forearms onto each side of the doorway.
- Bring your right foot forward for a lunge. Shift the weight into your right foot to feel the stretch of the chest. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then switch legs.
- Sitting in a comfortable position with a long spine, tilt your head to the left, bringing your left ear over your left shoulder.
- Reach your left hand to the right side of your head. Allow the weight of the hand to create a pull as you relax both shoulders away from the ears.
- Hold for 30 seconds. Feel free to tilt the head more forward or more back, depending on your personal tightness.
Kneeling hamstring stretch
- Kneeling on your left leg, bring your right leg in front of you.
- Starting with a long, flat back, slowly hinge at the hips, bringing your chest over your right thigh.
- Plant your hands on the floor for balance. However, if you can’t reach, grab a block or a few books to create a “taller floor” and an easier stretch.
- Pull your right hip back and press your right heel into the floor. Keep the right foot flexed.
- Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, focusing on your breathing.
Stretching doesn’t have to be time consuming. Just 30 seconds per stretch per side. You can go through them all a second round, if you have some time. You might even find you really like it.
“My clients always say, ‘this feels so good. I should do this every day,’” Page said. “You totally have the ability to do it every day.”
Make it a Practice
“The key to flexibility is daily practice,” Page said. “If you want to do a split, you have to practice it every day.”
Some people find committing to a practice helpful. It could be daily morning stretches on your own or a web-based class.