10 Stretches To Help Improve Your Flexibility

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Written By: Shannon Sweeney

Stretching is quite possibly the most skipped part of exercising — who wants to sit on a mat after an hour-long cardio sesh? But it’s arguably the most important part of exercising, too. Stretching is extremely important to any well-rounded fitness routine, and incorporating it will make you improve your flexibility, reduce muscle tightness, and make your workouts safer.

You don’t have to be a body-contorting yogi to be defined as flexible  — anyone can benefit from stretching and learning how to be a little more flexible. No matter who you are, tight muscles can cause strain on our neighboring joints, which can cause injuries. Plus, as we age, our muscles become less elastic and more prone to injury. So the older you get, the more important stretching is.

If you’re looking to try some new stretching routines (and you should definitely prioritize this) here are some of the best ones to improve flexibility. Remember — always listen to your body! If a stretch hurts or doesn’t feel right, don’t push it.

Before you do any kind of stretching, make sure to warm up. This makes your muscles more elastic and less prone to wear and tear. The rule of thumb is to aim for a five-minute dynamic workout consisting of things like push ups, lunges, walking on a treadmill, or anything to get the blood pumping.

Alright, get stretching!


1. Standing hamstring stretch

For neck, calves, back, glutes, and hamstrings

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart

  • Keep your knees slightly bent

  • Exhale and bend forward, leading with your arms and lowering your head toward the floor and staying relaxed

  • Wrap your arms around the back of your legs and hold for at least 30 seconds

  • Slowly roll up when you’re done


2. Single hamstring stretch

For hamstrings, back

  • Sit on the floor with one leg straight out and one bent in toward you (like a P shape)

  • Lean forward from your hips toward your toes

  • Hold for 30 seconds

  • Repeat with the other leg


3. Piriformis stretch (for hip rotators)

For hips, back, glutes

  • Sit on the floor with both legs extended in front of you

  • Cross your right leg over your left, and place your right foot flat on the floor

  • Place your right hand on the floor behind you

  • Place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee and twist your torso to the right

  • Hold for 30 seconds

  • Repeat with the other side


4. Lunge with a twist

For quads, back, hip flexors

  • Start with feet together

  • Take a step forward with your left foot

  • Bend your left knee and drop into a lunge, keeping your right leg straight with your toes on the ground (you’ll feel a stretch in your right thigh)

  • Place your right hand on the ground for stability and reach your left hand toward the ceiling

  • Hold for at least 30 seconds

  • Bring your feet together (put both hands on the floor for stability) and repeat on the other side


5. Triceps stretch

For neck, shoulders, back, triceps

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart

  • Put your arms above you and close to your ears

  • Bend your right elbow behind your head and use your left hand to grab your right elbow

  • Gently pull your right elbow down and toward your head

  • Hold for 30 seconds, switch arms, and repeat


6. Butterfly stretch

For back, thighs, glutes, hips

  • Sit down on the floor and bend your knees so the soles of your shoes touch in front of you

  • Hold onto your ankles or feet and slowly lower your body over your toes while pressing your knees toward the floor

  • If it’s painful to bend over, focus on just pressing your knees down instead

  • Hold for at least 30 seconds

 

7. Knee-to-chest stretch

For lower back, hips, hamstrings

  • Lie flat on your back

  • Pull one knee to your chest while keeping the other flat on the floor

  • Make sure to keep your back flat on the floor

  • Hold for at least 30 seconds

  • Release and repeat with the other leg


8. Seated neck release

  • For this, you can choose to sit with your back straight or stand straight feet shoulder-width apart

  • Drop your left ear to your left shoulder

  • To deepen the stretch, gently press down on your head with your left hand

  • Slowly release and repeat on other side

  • Hold for at least 30 seconds


9. Standing quad stretch

For quads

  • Stand with your feet together

  • Bend your left knee and use your left hand to pull your left foot toward your butt (use your right hand to balance on a wall or rail if you need to)

  • Squeeze your glutes to increase the stretch in the front of your legs

  • Release and repeat with your other leg

  • Hold for at least 30 seconds


10. Child’s pose

  • Begin on the floor on all fours, hands and knees hip- and shoulder-width apart respectively

  • Tuck your toes under and sink your hips back over your knees

  • Stretch your arms in front of you and let your forehead rest on the floor

  • Hold for 30 seconds

Incorporating some or all of these stretches into your workout routine will make you more flexible, prevent injuries, and keep your muscles healthy.