The CompleteBody approach to fitness is comprised of 6 Essential Elements: Strength, Flexibility, Cardio, Nutrition, Meditation and Rest. Here we highlight flexibility, why it’s an integral part of your health and how to improve it.
Many people struggle to increase flexibility in their bodies due to pain, extreme stiffness in the ligaments, tendons, and muscles, and/or difficulty getting around. Unfortunately, staying inflexible just isn’t a good option. Inflexibility can lead to more injury and can severely impact mobility.
Inflexibility is detrimental to our overall health, and hinders our workouts, too. The good news is that you can increase flexibility quickly and steadily. While it doesn’t happen overnight, if you’re stretching every single day, you will notice more mobility and movement in your muscle s.
This guide will cover ways to increase flexibility in just ten minutes per day. But here’s the trick: you have to commit to stretching. Stay as consistent with a stretching routine as you would with a fitness routine or diet program.
Five Ways to Increase Flexibility Quickly and Without Pain
Do these five stretching techniques daily. This routine is well-rounded and will help you stretch your entire body. Often times, we focus just on muscles that are tight. What is important to note, though, is that the muscles are connected. Sometimes, we actually increase flexibility in our tightest areas by working out other muscles we didn’t realize were also inflexible!
1. Warm up with dynamic stretching (2 mins).
Dynamic stretching involves stretching through movement.
- Jumping Jacks
You might not think of these movements as stretches, but they actually are (read more things you might not know about stretching here). Experts suggest that you should do dynamic stretches during a warmup, rather than relaxed or static stretching.
In a 10 minute daily stretching routine, you only need a couple of minutes to warm up. Take 2 of the 8 minutes to warm up your body with these exercises. Do not pause in between them.
- Start with burpees. Complete 5 full burpees in this way: From a standing position, squat to the ground, put your hands on the floor, and kick your feet back so that you are in a push-up position. Then, come back to a squat (jumping your feet forward, if you can) and then jump up into standing position, coming straight back to a squat. Repeat the entire move 5 times.
- Complete 10 lunges with both legs.
- Squat 10 times with your own body weight (bring knees to 90 degrees and keep your feet flat on the floor).
- Complete 20 jumping jacks.
If there is any time left, continue with jumping jacks, squats, or lunges.
2. Stretch your upper body (2 mins, 30 secs).
All too often, people stretch only their lower bodies (hips, hamstrings, quads, and calves). Unfortunately, doing that misses the mark, because our bodies are actually connected in many ways. For example, people who have tight hips also likely have tight shoulders (read about shoulder hip connection ).
Take three minutes to stretch your upper body. When you stretch, never stretch to the point of pain. There are many variations of these, and you may have to find one that doesn’t cause pain.
As a side note, that’s one major benefit of working with a personal trainer. It may take you quite a while to find variations to exercises that you can do without pain. But a knowledgeable trainer will help you quickly and easily find something that works.
Follow this upper body stretching routine. Once you’ve gone through it, repeat it one time.
- Simple neck stretch: Lean your head to the right, attempting to bring your ear to your shoulder. If needed, gently hold your head in place with your right hand, but do not push your head down. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the left side and hold that side for 30 seconds, also.
- Chest stretch: Lying on a bench, hold dumbbells in either hand (light dumbbells work fine for this). Open your arms wide and allow your hands to fall to the floor, opening and stretching your chest. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Shoulder stretch a: Extend your right arm straight across your body as you stretch your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the left side and hold for 30 seconds.
- Should stretch B (do this on alternate days or if you have extra time): Kneeling, extend both arms all the way out, palms flat (as in the image above). Hold for 60 seconds for a very intense, deep shoulder stretch.
3. Stretch your back gently (2 mins, 30 secs)
Borrowing simple movements from yoga, stretch your back to increase flexibility in your entire body. Do the following exercises daily. Extend the movements as far as possible in order to increase flexibility over time. Remember not to push further than your body can go.
- Cat-cow. Start on your hands and knees. Breathing in, lower your chin to your chest and tilt your pelvis inward, arching your back outward (cat). Your upper back should be very rounded. Hold for 3-5 natural breaths or 30 seconds. Take a deep breath in, and then breathe all the way out, lifting your chin to the ceiling and bowing your back (cow). Hold this position for 3-5 natural breaths or 30 seconds.
- Supine twists. Supine twists gently stretch both sides of your mid to lower back. Lay on the floor with legs outstretched. Lift one leg toward the ceiling, and then cross it over the opposite leg, bending at the knee. Allow the knee to fall to the floor, twisting your back. If your knee does not touch the floor, do not force it. Twist only as far as your back allows without pain. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
- Lower back. While lying on your back, lift both knees to your chest. This simple, gentle stretch increases flexibility in the lower back (and feels really good, too). Hold it for 30 seconds.
4. Now, stretch your lower body (3 mins).
This is the longest part of your daily stretch. During these three minutes, you’ll increase flexibility in the hips, quads, hamstrings, and calves using just a few gentle stretches. These stretches are well-known for improving mobility and increasing flexibility in the body quickly.
- Hip Flexor Stretch: You can do this stretch a number of ways. The simplest way is to kneel on one knee (which automatically begins stretching the hip flexor). For a deeper stretch, push the hip forward. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
- Inclined Glute, Hamstring & Calf Stretch: Like the hip flexor, you can stretch your glutes, hamstrings, and calves in many ways. But for those who are really inflexible, one way is safer than others! To stretch safely, gently, and without pain, squat, and then stretch one leg straight out as shown in the image above. This stretch uses gravity to stretch the hamstring (also stretches the glutes and calves). Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
- Quad stretch. Wrap up your stretch routine by standing and gently pulling one foot back toward your glutes, bending at the knee. Ideally, your knee should be able to bend all the way back, but if it doesn’t, no worries. It will eventually. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat with the other leg.
To increase flexibility long term, you have to stretch every day. It is absolutely possible to get bendy without stretching for hours. Remember to keep at it, though, because some days you may notice improvement, and then other days, you might feel like you’ve taken a few steps back. That’s okay. The key with stretching is to keep going until you see a breakthrough.
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