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Why Improving Flexibility Is Critical To Your Health (+5 Stretch Exercises To Try At Home)

Why Improving Flexibility Is Critical To Your Health (+5 Stretch Exercises To Try At Home)

Staying flexible through our lives is extremely important for our overall health. As we get older, having muscular flexibility will help with a greater quality of life, allowing us to keep moving freely in everyday activities and maintain balance throughout the body.

The Benefits Of Good Muscular Flexibility

  • Prevents everyday injury: Muscle and disc strain from simply turning in bed, shoulder strains from lifting, and even walking up and down stairs can be prevented with greater flexibility.
  • Lengthens muscles: This helps you look much leaner.
  • Improves posture: Flexible muscles around the back are able to support the spine.
  • Makes cardio workouts much easier: Running or walking will become much lighter and easier.
  • Enhances sport performance: Flexible movements in the joints and muscles will allow you to be more efficient in various sports.
  • Allows you to move better in confined spaces: The ability to sit in different positions while traveling will be much easier.

Simple Stretches For Better Flexibility

1. Seated Spinal Twist

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    This exercise is good for targeting the back, abs, and obliques.

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    • Sit on the floor with your back straight and tall. Engage your abs and stretch both legs out in front of you.
    • Bring your right leg up and place it over your left leg.
    • With your left arm holding your right leg, slowly rotate your upper body around to the right, keeping your nose in line with your breastbone.
    • Stretch around as far as possible until you feel a gentle stretch throughout your back and side.
    • Hold for 30 seconds and return to center. Repeat on the left side.
    • Aim to do 10 reps.

    2. Reclining Pigeon

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      This exercise is good for stretching lower back, hips, glutes, and hamstrings.

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      • Lie down facing up, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor.
      • Cross a flexed right foot over your left thigh. Hook your arms around the left hamstring.
      • Lift your left foot off the floor, keeping your back and shoulders flat to the ground.
      • Gently pull your right leg towards you until you feel a stretch. Hold this position for a 1-2 minute(s) and release your feet to the ground.
      • Repeat on the opposite side.

      3. Standing Tricep Stretch

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        This exercise stretches the muscles in your neck, shoulders, back, abs, and triceps.

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        • Stand up tall, straight-backed with feet hip-width apart and arms extended above your head.
        • Bend your right elbow so that the palm is placed on the upper back.
        • Reach your left hand over to grab your right elbow and gently pull your elbow back and towards your head.
        • Hold this position for up to a minute, release, and swap sides.

        4. Swan Stretch

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          This exercise target the shoulders, back, chest, abs, obliques, and hip flexors.

          • Lying face down on the floor, place your hands in front of your shoulders, fingers facing forward, and legs stretched out behind you.
          • Pressing down with your hands, gently lift your belly off the floor. Keep your abs engaged, shoulders down, and pelvis grounded parallel with the floor.
          • Lengthen the upper body away from the floor, reaching up and out from the crown of the head. Make sure you draw your shoulder blades together. Hold this pose for 30 to 45 seconds and release. Repeat 5 times to increase flexibility.

          5. Hip Flexor/Quad Stretch

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            This stretch targets hip flexors, quads, and hamstrings.

            • Kneel on the floor with both knees bent, shins on floor.
            • Lunge your right leg forward, so that your right knee is bent 90 degrees in front of you, your right foot is flat on the floor directly under the knee, and your left leg is still bent underneath you, parallel to the right.
            • Place both hands on top of your right knee and press back, hip forward, and lean into the stretch.
            • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other leg.

            Things To Keep In Mind

            • Keep water handy when stretching to encourage yourself to hydrate.
            • Try to perform these stretches daily to see and feel the best results.
            • Perform them either first thing in the morning or before bedtime, but especially after any exercise.
            • Make sure you don’t over-stretch. Go as far as it’s comfortable for you. You’ll get more flexible with ease with practice.
            • Work with warm muscles because they lengthen more easily and with less discomfort.
            • Breathe comfortably. Exhale as the muscle lengthens to assist in relaxation.

            Featured photo credit: unsplash.com via pexels.com

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            Last Updated on October 18, 2018

            7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

            7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

            Bodyweight exercises are gaining ground in the fitness world due to the practicality and simplicity of getting in shape using your own body weight. Planks are one form of bodyweight exercises that will never go out of fashion.

            Planks are one of the most effective exercises you can do. Why? Because they require a small time investment on your part, and offer the chance to achieve substantial results in a relatively short span of time.

            Video Summary

            Why is it important to train up our core strength?

            There are numerous sites and blogs which detail ways to build your core muscles or core strength. Often though, these sites neglect to explain what your core muscles actually are, and why building them is important.

            This is quite surprising, as core muscles are quite easy to explain. Your core muscles are a series of muscles in your midsection, and are used in most forms of movement. Though they aren’t housed in your arms or legs, your core muscles can help transfer force from one limb to another, or are used in addition to muscles in your arms or legs to increase their effectiveness. As such a strong core will make a big improvement on your ability to move and exercise further.

            Also, they are great for helping other muscles in your midsection such as your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles are important for supporting your back and spinal column, and as such are important aids in preventing injuries. However, for them to be most effective, you need to spend a lot of time developing your core muscles.

            In short, planking exercises can make a huge improvement in your muscles down your whole body. Making them a hugely effective exercise to perform.

            Think you’re too late to start training your muscle, wrong! Here’s the proof.

            One exercise, multiple benefits

            There are few forms of exercise as effective at building your core as planking exercises. However, planking exercises benefit far more than just your core strength.

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            By holding yourself in the position for a planking exercise, you’ll notice that your biceps, neck, and shoulder muscles are also being tested and strained. This this encouraging their buildup and development. This is great news if you like to do press ups, developed shoulder muscles will have a big impact on your press up performance.

            When planking, you are holding yourself up through your arms and biceps and so by holding a planking position, your arm muscles are being toned and developed. Making planking a great alternative exercise to other forms of bicep developing exercises.

            Moving down your midsection, successful plank exercises actually develop the muscles in your butt! These muscles tend to be ignored by a lot of exercises, so this is another great benefit of plank exercises.

            In much the same way as you develop your biceps and arm muscles, holding the planking position helps develop the muscles in your thighs too.

            What is even better is that planking exercises don’t take much time at all. In fact you should probably only spend about ten minutes max per day in the planking exercise.

            7 Things that happen when you start doing planks every day

              1. You’ll improve core definition and performance

              Planks are an ideal exercise for the abdominal muscles exactly because they engage all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominusthe external oblique muscle, and the glutes. The importance of strengthening each muscle group cannot be underestimated either, for all of these groups serve their own purpose. If you strengthen these muscle groups you will notice:

              • Transverse abdominis: increased ability to lift heavier weights.
              • Rectus adbominis: improved sports performance, particularly with jumping. This muscle group is also responsible for giving you the renowned six pack look.
              • Oblique muscles: improved capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting
              • Glutes: a supported back and a strong, shapely booty.

              2. You’ll decrease your risk of injury in the back and spinal column

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                Doing planks is a type of exercise that allow you to build muscle while also making sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips. According to the American Council on Exercise, doing planks regularly not only significantly reduces back pain but it also strengthens your muscles and ensures a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.

                Check out this article if you would like to find out about how doing planks on different surfaces can impact the effectiveness of this exercise in strengthening your core.

                3. You’ll experience an increased boost to your overall metabolism

                  Planking is an excellent way of challenging your entire body because doing them every day will burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups. The muscles you strengthen by doing this exercise on a day-to-day basis will ensure that you burn more energy even when sedentary. This is especially important if you are spending the majority of your day sitting in front of a computer. Also, making it a daily 10- to 1 minute home exercise before or after work will not only provide an enhanced metabolic rate but it will also ensure that that metabolic rate remains high all day long, (yes, even while you are asleep).

                  4. You’ll significantly improve your posture

                    Planking exercises have a great impact and improvement on your posture. This is great news as a strong posture brings with it a huge number of fantastic benefits .

                    A good posture keeps your bones and joins in the correct alignment which means both your bones and joints will be better maintained and more healthy, but also means the overall effectiveness of your muscles will be improved.

                    A good posture will ensure your back or spine is in the correct position and so you will suffer less back pain.

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                    On top of everything, someone with good posture looks better, healthier, and more confident.

                    5. You’ll improve overall balance

                      Have you ever felt that when you tried standing on one leg, you couldn’t stand up straight for more than a couple of seconds? It’s not because you were drunk- unless you happened to be at the time!-  but rather, it’s because your abdominal muscles weren’t strong enough to give you the balance you needed. Through improving your balance by doing side planks and planks with extensions you will boost your performance in every kind of sporting activity.

                      6. You’ll become more flexible than ever before

                        Flexibility is a key benefit of doing planks regularly, for this form of exercise expands and stretches all your posterior muscle groups – shouldersshoulder blades, and collarbone – while also stretching your hamstrings, arches of your feet, and toes. With a side plank added in to the mix, you can also work on your oblique muscles. This will provide you with further benefits when it comes to hyper-extending your toes, a movement that is crucial for supporting your body’s weight.

                        7. You’ll witness mental benefits

                          Plank exercises have a particular effect on our nerves, making them an excellent means of improving overall mood. How? Well, they stretch out muscle groups that contribute to stress and tension in the body. Just think about it: you are sitting in your chair, at home or at work, all day long; your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy due to being bent for several hours; and tension develops in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. These are all circumstances that put too stress on the muscles and nerves. The good news is that planks not only calm your brain, but they can also treat anxiety and symptoms of depression– but only if you make it part of your daily routine.

                          How to hold a plank position

                          1. Get into pushup position on the floor.
                          2. Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
                          3. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
                          4. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
                          5. Hold the position for as long as you can.
                          6. Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.
                          7. When your form begins to suffer, pull the plug. You’re only benefiting from the plank by actually doing the plank.

                          Watch the video if you have any doubt!

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                          Here is a great infographic that shows the best plank variation exercises to evenly target all abdominal muscle groups:

                            How to improve your plank time gradually

                            1. Start with the easier variation if needed. You can start with a bent-knee plank if you can’t perform a regular plank yet. If you can hold a plank for more than two minutes with ease, you can move on to these tougher variations.
                            2. Practise every day. Space your planking exercise throughout the day and do 3-4 times every day. Try to hold the position 10 seconds longer each time.
                            3. Perform other body-weight exercises at the same time. Push-up and squat will improve your core strength too.

                            Are you ready to devote 5-10 minutes of your day, every day, to stay fit, healthy and, most importantly, strong as a bull? Then jump in and make doing plank exercises a part of your life.

                            It’s all about hacking your body by building a lasting habit like this.

                            Who should be cautious doing the plank?

                            You need to be cautious doing Planking exercises if any of these risks apply to you:

                            • Prolapse
                            • After prolapse surgery
                            • Pelvic pain conditions
                            • Weak or poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles
                            • Previous childbirth
                            • Overweight

                            Choose an alternative pelvic floor abdominal exercise or consult your doctor before performing plank regularly.

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