Advertising

Last Updated on December 16, 2020

Try These Flexibility Stretches to Enhance Your Daily Workout

Advertising
Try These Flexibility Stretches to Enhance Your Daily Workout

Having a flexible body is essential for everyday life, and particularly for exercise. Think of all the things you do throughout your day that cause your muscles to tighten or create discomfort: Being stuck behind a desk, standing for long periods of time, repetitive motions, driving long distances, and exercising without properly maintaining a limber body are all ways that keep you from having a well-balanced and efficient lifestyle.

To fully optimize your workout, it is necessary to be flexible in order to perform your exercises properly — by getting full range of motion in which your joints can potentially move. Here’s why:[1]

When we don’t stretch before and after a workout, our muscles hold onto toxins, we risk injury, recovery time takes longer, and our performance is decreased.

In order to prevent restrictive mobility, we must do flexibility stretches.[2] Common areas that need stretching and/or flexibility are the hips, back, knees, and ankles. In this article, you will see why it is not only important to stretch, but to balance the planes of motion in which our body parts move.

How To Stretch

Done consistently, the following flexibility stretches will enhance your workout, you will gain greater range of motion, improve balance, and recover more quickly for your next workout.

Typically, a static stretch should be held for 20-60 seconds (International Sports Sciences Association), remembering not to overstretch which can cause injury as overstretching can cause pulled muscles and tears.

In a comfortable stretch, you should feel just a slight pull without going beyond normal range of motion. Always be aware of your breathing during a stretch.

Advertising

For example, if you are doing a flexibility movement for the knee, just before you go into the stretch, take a deep breath and then exhale once you are into the stretch. Breathing is important as it relaxes the muscles and helps to loosen them.

Your body should be warm before stretching to increase blood flow. This can be a 3-minute ride on a stationary bike or slowly-controlled, 45-60 second body weight squats.

Hips Stretches

The hips tend to give us trouble when we get into our 40’s and 50’s, and the cause of pain is not always injury or over-use, but rather, lack of stretching in the hip flexor muscles.

Even if you’re not a sedentary person, you walk throughout your work day, climb stairs, or stand for long periods of time, you must keep your hips flexible to keep them from tightening which can cause other problems, like lower back pain. (Everything is connected.)

Oftentimes, people who are active tend to think that because they cycle, run, or perform other exercises that recruit the hip flexors, they don’t need to stretch because their hips are constantly moving; Not so. What people don’t recognize is that over time these and other movements create muscle imbalances, spasms, and affect posture.

When your hips are flexible, the exercises that recruit gluteal muscles, like the squat and lunge, have better control. Take a look at these 4 hip flexor stretches by Guerilla Zen Fitness:

Back/Spine Stretches

The back and abdominal muscles support the core and are necessary to have a strong gait. In order to have a strong back, you must open up your chest and sides of your back with various stretches.

Advertising

Sometimes, without noticing it, we rely on our back for a variety of movements, such as looking over our shoulder to pass safely in our vehicle, rising up from a chair, reaching up high for an object, etc.

These passive movements seem easy, but without a stable core, you’re left with a weak spine and the movements can become challenging over time.

Having a flexible spine and strong core is great for exercises like crunches, torso circles, side bends, lying leg raises, and sit-ups.

Here are 3 spinal flexibility stretches by Strength Side:

You can also incorporate regular yoga practice into your daily routine as a holistic approach to gaining flexibility in your back.

One of my favorite things about yoga is that it moves energy throughout the entire body, with special attention to the spine. In addition, yoga helps to lengthen muscles and opens up the space between the ribs and vertebrae, which minimizes tension and reduces headaches and backaches.[3]

Try these yoga poses that are not only good for flexibility but for overall relaxation. Hold each pose for 10 to 15 breaths:[4]

Advertising

     

    Knees Stretches

    The use of our legs to walk, run, swim or do any the movement that involves the legs also involves the knees. Flexibility in and around the knee joints is essential for mobility, and because everything is connected, flexibility in the knees will also create flexibility in other areas, such as the ankles, which will I will address next.

    So, if the exercises you perform on machines, such as the leg extension or leg curl, which move in the sagittal plane – that is, forward and backward or up and down – are among your go-to’s when training your lower body, you must have flexible knees.

    Here are 3 knee strengthening examples by Strength Side:

    Ankles Exercises

    Ankles run into all kinds of problems, like walking, wearing high heels or uncomfortable shoes, flat feet, trauma, improper footing when performing exercises, arthritis, and even swimming. All of these can cause tendonitis – The inflammation surrounding tendons in the lower leg muscles.

    Despite what it may look like, the foot does not remain in the same position during up-and-down movements which is why it is important to maintain flexibility in the muscles surrounding the ankle joint.

    Advertising

    Flexibility allows for various positions (International Sports Sciences Association). In addition to the following exercises, R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is also effective for relieving ankle pain. Here are some examples of how to increase ankle and foot mobility:

    Planes of Motion

    Balancing your body’s planes of motion is necessary, not only for weight training and other exercise, but for gaining flexibility as well.

    Our body is a powerhouse because it is not limited to a single plan of motion movement, and instead has the ability to move in multiple directions – Sagittal, frontal, and transverse.

    For example, when doing flexibility exercises for your back, you should also work our abdominal muscles. Similarly, when weight-training your quadriceps, you should balance them by also training your hamstrings. This creates balance, coordination, and functionality:[5]

      Bonus Tip

      Keep in mind that stretching can go hand-in-hand with the use of sports medicine equipment, such as a foam roller to pre-condition tight muscles and break up lactic acid, compression apparel to maintain warmth, and even a lacrosse ball to target trigger points.[6]

      Now that you are familiar with stretches where common injuries occur, you should experience relief in multiple areas of your body and in your daily life. Tension, stress, and tight muscles can now be curtailed by effective stretching before and after your activities, and your muscles will be more relaxed and efficient, thereby increasing your performance.

      Advertising

      More Resources About Stretching Exercises

      Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Muscle Mechanics, International Sports Sciences Association, “Fitness: The Complete Guide,” page 166
      [2] Flexibility Training, International Sports Sciences Association, “Fitness: The Complete Guide,” page 343
      [3] Top Fuel Crossfit: Yoga Poses to Relieve Headaches: Lengthening the Spine
      [4] Rukmani Iyengar: 5 Yoga Asanas to Reduce Back Pain
      [5] Kai Simon: How To Improve Your Workout: Planes Of Motion
      [6] Flexibility Training, International Sports Sciences Association, “Fitness: The Complete Guide,” page 343.

      More by this author

      Terri West

      Certified Fitness Trainer & Nutrition Specialist

      The Best Cardio for Weight Loss (and Routines to Try) 7 Killer Upper Back Stretches to Reduce Pain and Boost Endurance The Best Fitness Plan for You Based on Your Body Type Try These Flexibility Stretches to Enhance Your Daily Workout 17 Weight Loss Recipes That Are Incredibly Nutritious and Super Delicious

      Trending in Exercise & Training

      1 Best Bodyweight Workouts For Beginners (The Complete Guide) 2 9 Simple Cardio/Core Exercises You Can Do At Home 3 30-Minute HIIT Workout You Can Do At Home (Without Equipment) 4 7 Best Resistance Bands to Work Out at Home 5 7 Best Foam Rollers for Muscle Relaxation

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising

      Last Updated on September 23, 2021

      Best Bodyweight Workouts For Beginners (The Complete Guide)

      Advertising
      Best Bodyweight Workouts For Beginners (The Complete Guide)

      Think you can’t get a great workout or build muscle with your body weight? think again. Getting fit doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep it simple, safe, and effective with bodyweight workouts you can do anytime and anywhere for the rest of your life.

      Regardless of whether you are an athlete, recreational exercise enthusiast, or someone who hasn’t lifted anything but small children or everyday household items, using your body weight as resistance is one of the best ways to get and keep your body in tip-top shape for years to come.

      What Is Bodyweight Training?

      Bodyweight training or workout uses your body as resistance and is essential for gaining and maintaining muscles, especially as you age. According to the National Institute of Health, beginning as early as age 30, we gradually lose muscle mass and strength as a natural part of the aging process.[1] The rate of loss varies from person to person and will increase due to a sedentary lifestyle and poor nutritional selections. If you don’t do anything about it, the average human will lose 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade. But there is excellent news. With the addition of daily movement, weekly strength training, and proper nutritional choices, gaining muscle is more straightforward than you will expect.

      If you want to build confidence, endurance, move better, feel stronger, and lose weight, start with bodyweight workouts. Your body is one of the most fantastic fitness machines ever created to handle life’s physical demands and challenges, and it is always available to you. With a bit of effort, consistency, and proper progressive programming, you will not only improve your fitness level, but you will also continue to feel mentally focused, and you might even minimize the effects of the aging process.

        Photo Credit: Kaileen Pfeiffer of Pfeiffer Photography

        Need more convincing?

        Advertising

        Jane M. Taylor, MS, CSCS, PN L1, Owner/Coach of Raw Fitness Performance, says:

        “Mastering bodyweight strength is crucial if you plan to add strength training to your overall fitness plan. Having coached thousands of athletes, adults, teens, and kids, I apply the same movement paradigm to everyone, especially beginners.

        First, can you get in position? In other words, do you have proper mobility and stability? You do? Great.

        Next, can you get in and out of position? That’s bodyweight strength—movement with control.

        Spending time practicing bodyweight workouts is time well spent. Not worrying about an external load allows you to groove the movement, laying down the foundation and establishing the fundamentals to eventually express more significant amounts of strength with weights when you are ready to progress.

        Not only that, no matter where you go, you’ll NEVER miss a workout!”

        Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises

        Here are 12 benefits that will motivate and excite you to put your body to work.

        1. It helps improve any muscle imbalances, especially from rounded shoulders and tight hips from sitting too long (hello, new work from the home model).
        2. It works the whole body.
        3. It lays down an excellent foundation for future weighted programming.
        4. It helps improve strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, and coordination.
        5. It can increase your confidence.
        6. It saves time going to the gym.
        7. It can be done anywhere, so there is never an excuse not to work out.
        8. No equipment is necessary.
        9. It never gets boring.
        10. It’s free.
        11. It’s great for any body type.

        Will I Build Muscles With Just My Body Weight?

        Yes!! Following an intense workout, muscle fibers break down and need to repair. It’s during this repair phase that the muscles will strengthen and grow. Note that for this process to occur, the body must be pushed outside of its comfort zone. Using external resistance, aka free weights, barbells, or bands, will speed up this process and is a fantastic addition to any strength program, but it is doable with just your body weight.

        As you improve, the trick is to continue changing your training variable (sets, reps, intensity, time under tension). Once you have mastered your technique, it is time to take it to the next level by mixing high-intensity exercises with exercises performed slowly, focusing on engaging the muscle during the contraction phase, which I will demonstrate in the video.

        Let’s break down a few beginner exercises and body parts to get you started.

        Advertising

        First, there are seven basic movements the body can perform; pushing, pulling, hinging, squatting, twisting, skipping, jumping. From these seven, there are many different variations for each body part which I will show you below. With bodyweight workouts, you work all your muscles, including your heart, as you elevate your endurance.

        1. Back – Plank Push-Ups, Back Extensions
        2. Chest – Push-Ups, Incline Regular, High to Low Plank
        3. Arms – Modified Side Plank, Side Plank Hip Drop, Dips
        4. Core/Hips – Planks (high and low; you may perform off your kitchen counter), Elevated Mt Climbers, Opposite Arm Leg Reach, Bear Crawl Hold, Isometric Knee Press (Single and Double Knee Hold), Heel Drops (Single and Double Heel Drop), Deadbug, Crunches, Floor Bridge
        5. Legs/Hips
        6. Quadriceps – Seated Bent Knee Extensions, Seated Straight Leg Lift
        7. Hips – Side Leg Raise, Deadlifts, Prone Leg Lifts, Glute Extensions
        8. Squats – Chair Squat, Step Out Squat, Plie Squat, Wall Squat Hold
        9. Lunges – Step Ups, Stationary, Side Lunge, Curtsy Lunge, Swing Lunge

        Designing a Bodyweight Workout Program

        With bodyweight workouts, the variety is endless and can be applied to any current life situation. Whether you have 10 minutes or an hour, use the simple format below to keep your muscles constantly guessing. If you are just starting, begin with 20 minutes twice a week for two to four weeks. As your fitness level improves, increase the time and amount of days/week.

        The greatest thing about bodyweight workouts is there are multiple variations, and you will never get bored. Select an exercise from each category. Always starting with a movement that works numerous muscles at once ex push-ups and squats, then move to exercises that work smaller muscles, aka dips for the triceps.

        Best Beginner Total Body Workout

        Beginner: two times a week

        (Repeat 2 x 10 to 15 repetitions)

        Advertising

        1. Plank Push-Ups

        1. Begin on your elbows on an elevated surface such as your kitchen counter or dining table.
        2. Step your feet back and together so you are supporting your body weight on your elbows.
        3. Maintain a straight line from the top of your head to your toes.
        4. At the same time, brace your core by pulling your stomach muscles in towards the back of the body and begin to retract your shoulder blades as if you are squeezing a pencil, then push the counter away with your core and elbows and come back to the starting position.
        5. Perform the prescribed repetitions (reps).
        6. Your whole body should move as a unit.

        2. Push-Ups

        1. Begin by placing your hands shoulder-width apart on an elevated surface such as your kitchen counter or dining table.
        2. Step your feet back and together so you are supporting your body weight on your hands, maintaining a straight line from the top of your head to your toes.
        3. At the same time, brace your core by pulling your stomach muscles in towards the back of the body and begin to bend your elbows and lower your chest towards the counter, then straighten your arms and push back up to the starting position.
        4. Perform the prescribed reps.
        5. Your whole body should move as a unit.

        3. Step-Out Squat

        1. Begin standing with your feet together.
        2. Step out to the right and lower your hips back behind you, pushing through the heels. Keep the knees behind the toes.
        3. Stand up and step together, tucking the tailbone under and squeezing the butt at the top.
        4. Perform the prescribed reps.
        5. Repeat on the left.

        4. Stationary Lunge

        1. Step out about hip bone/hip distance.
        2. Step the right foot back and stagger your stance about the same distance as the length of your leg.
        3. Keep the back heel off the ground and begin to bend into both legs, lowering your body towards the floor.
        4. Be sure to place more of your body weight through your front heel and keep the front knee behind the toe.
        5. Perform the prescribed reps.

        5. Hip Bridge

        1. Lie on your back, either on the floor or couch.
        2. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor.
        3. Press through the feet, squeeze your butt and press the hips to the sky.
        4. Lower down 1/2 way, then repeat.
        5. Perform the prescribed reps.

        6. Isometric Knee Press

        Depending on your core strength, begin with one side at a time or both legs on a tabletop.

        Level 1: Single-Leg Knee Press

        1. Lie on your back, either on the floor or couch.
        2. Bend your knees and place your right foot on the floor.
        3. Keeping the left knee bent, bring it up off the floor into a 90°-angle (otherwise known as tabletop position).
        4. Place the left hand on your thigh.
        5. At the same time, push your hand into your thigh and thigh into your hand. You should feel your abdominals contract.
        6. Hold that contraction for 10 sec, then pause.
        7. Perform the prescribed reps.
        8. Switch sides.

        Level 2: Double Knee Press

        1. The exact format as above, only this time, both legs will be in tabletop.
        2. Keep the abdominals braced for 10 sec, then pause.
        3. Perform the prescribed reps.

        Conclusion

        If your goal is to move and feel better in your body and continue to progress to an advanced fitness level, begin with bodyweight workouts. Not only will it lay down a solid foundation, but it will also help you minimize injury and give you the confidence to keep progressing to more challenging workouts.

        Commit to yourself and future strength gains by incorporating bodyweight workouts into your weekly routine. I promise you won’t be sorry.

        More Beginner Workouts You Can Try

        Featured photo credit: Fortune Vieyra via unsplash.com

        Reference

        Read Next