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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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            Jenny Marchal

            A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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            Last Updated on October 15, 2020

            10 Lower Body Workouts Anyone Can Try at Home

            10 Lower Body Workouts Anyone Can Try at Home

            Are you having a hard time going to the gym for strength and conditioning? Do you want to work on your lower body strength but aren’t sure where to start? In this article, we’ll be breaking down 10 lower body workouts anyone can try at home. No gear is needed for these workouts, just some space and a bottle of water waiting nearby.

            What Do Lower Body Workouts Target?

            When you tackle a lower body workout, you’ll be focusing mostly on leg workouts that strengthen your thighs and calves

            .

            However, a lower body workout can also be great for strengthening your hips, glutes, and core, as well as stabilizing your knee and ankle joints[1].

            Major muscle groups for lower body workout

              Building lower body strength is key to helping you move through your day without pain and stiffness[2]. It can also help you achieve your other workout goals.

              Do you want to train for a marathon? You’ll definitely need to build up your leg muscles. Do you want to start endurance training? It’s hard to do if your legs and glutes get tired before your heart rate goes up.

              To get started, try a lower body workout from the list below.

              10 Great Lower Body Workouts

              This will give you an overview of some workout combinations that will help you build lower body strength using your own body weight. In the next section, we’ll go deeper and give you an overview of each major exercise.

              1. The Starter Workout

              3 sets of 8-12 reps of:

              • Squat
              • Single Leg Deadlift
              • Glute Bridge

              (30 sec to 2 min rest between each set)

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              2. The 7-Minute Workout

              3 rounds of 30 seconds of each exercise:

              • Walking Lunges
              • Quarter Squat
              • Step Up
              • Single Leg Deadlift

              (1 min rest between each round)

              3. The Unilateral Workout

              4 sets of 16 reps of:

              • Reverse Lunges
              • Single Leg Deadlift
              • Skater Squat
              • Single Leg Glute Bridge

              (30 sec to 1 min rest between each set)

              4. The Endurance Workout

              2 sets of 20-50 reps of:

              • Squat
              • Walking Lunge
              • Single Leg Deadlift
              • Glute Bridge

              (1-2 min rest between each set)

              5. The Back-to-Back Lower Body Workout

              5 rounds of 10 to 20 seconds of each exercise:

              • Skater Squat
              • Step Up
              • Single Leg Deadlift
              • Single Leg Glute Bridge
              • Quarter Squat

              (30 min rest between each round)

              6. Strength Lower Body Workout

              5 to 10 sets of 4 reps of:

              • Walking Lunge
              • Single Leg Deadlift
              • Squat

              (30 sec to 2 mins of rest time between sets)

              7. Glute Burner Workout

              4 sets of 10-30 reps of:

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              • Walking Lunge
              • Single Leg Deadlift
              • Single Leg Glute Bridge
              • Quarter Squat

              (1 min of rest time between sets)

              8. The Advanced Lower Body Workout

              3 rounds of 20 seconds of:

              • Squat
              • Walking Lunge
              • Skater Squat
              • Reverse Lunge
              • Glute Bridge
              • Single Leg Deadlift

              (2 mins of rest time between sets)

              9. The Quick Lower Body Workout

              2 sets of 10 reps of:

              • Reverse Lunge
              • Step Up
              • Single Leg Deadlift

              10. The 100 Repetition Challenge

              2 sets of 50 reps on each leg of:

              • Walking Lunge
              • Single Leg Deadlift

              (4 mins of rest time between sets)

              Lower Body Workout Exercise Breakdown

              Here’s the breakdown of the lower body exercises[3] that you found in the workouts listed above.

              1. Squat

              Squat
                A squat is a compound movement which uses the major muscle groups of the lower body (quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteal muscles, spinal erectors).
                How to Do a Squat

                Place feet hip-width apart or a little wider. Your toes should be pointed slightly out, arms out in front of you. Sit into your heels until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Drive through the heels, return to the starting position, and repeat.

                2. Walking Lunges

                Walking lunge for lower body workout

                  A lunge is a complex movement that focuses mostly on thigh and knee strength, but it also gets into the glutes and core.

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                  The walking lunges are a harder version of a split squat, which is stationary. It then adds the component of stepping and keeping balance, which engages the gluteus medius, as well as allowing a larger range of motion.

                  3. Reverse Lunge

                  Reverse lunge

                    A reverse lunge is very similar to the split squat, but instead, after every rep, you are returning to the starting position and stepping back.

                    By reverse stepping, you are allowing for more emphasis on the hamstrings and gluteal muscles as opposed to the quadriceps muscles in a forward stepping lunge.

                    4. Quarter Squat

                    Quarter squat for lower body workout

                      A quarter squat is the top ¼ movement of a squat. This will work mainly the gluteal muscles as it emphasizes the hip extension and not a lot of range of motion on the quadriceps.

                      5. Skater Squat

                      Skater squat

                        A skater squat is a unilateral variation of the squat, this squat really engages the gluteus medius and hamstrings as it works unilateral stability and hip flexion, which fires up both the hamstrings and glutes.

                        6. Step up

                        Step up for lower body workout

                          The step up is the greatest balance of getting the glutes and quadriceps muscles firing. Doing steps up during a lower body workout will not only get the glutes going, but the quadriceps as well.

                          7. Glute Bridge

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                          Glute bridge

                            Glute bridges are a great way to nearly isolate the glutes and build a great butt. This entire movement works through hip extension, which the main movement of the gluteal muscles.

                            8. Single Leg Glute Bridge

                            Single leg glute bridge for lower body workout

                              Single leg glute bridge ensures that we are evenly building the glutes and not relying too heavily on our dominant leg and symmetrical butt.

                              9. Single Leg Deadlift

                              Single leg deadlift

                                Single leg deadlifts engage the entire booty and hamstrings, especially the gluteus medius due to its unilateral stability property. This is a great way to spice up some routine deadlifts and engage the core while you’re at it.

                                Before and After Working Out

                                Before engaging in any physical activity, consult a doctor if you have not worked out in years. However, if you want to go at it without consulting a doctor, start slow and build your way up.

                                Even if you’re doing an at-home workout, use dynamic stretching or some light jogging[4] as a warm up before starting the lower body workouts.

                                Try these quad stretches to get started:

                                Finally, at the end of the lower body workout, use static stretching to reduce injuries and to calm down your heart rate gradually.

                                Final Thoughts

                                Completing a lower body workout can help you look and feel great, but it can also help you engage more fully with your daily activities and keep you healthier in the long run. Get started with any of the above exercises today.

                                More on Strengthening the Lower Body

                                Featured photo credit: Benjamin Klaver via unsplash.com

                                Reference

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