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Try These Flexibility Stretches to Enhance Your Daily Workout

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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.

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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.

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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]

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    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.

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    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.

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      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

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      Last Updated on January 26, 2022

      Best Fitness Trackers to Get in 2022 To Stay on Top of Your Health

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      Best Fitness Trackers to Get in 2022 To Stay on Top of Your Health

      Years ago, when I started my wellness journey and looked for the best fitness trackers, I was familiar with a few wearable step counters, aka the pedometer, Fitbit, Polar, and more recently, the Apple Watch. These wireless wearable “bracelets” offer high-tech fitness and health metrics at the press of a button.

      I didn’t realize how many tracker brands there were, and I felt as overwhelmed as when I walked down the cereal aisle.

      How do you decide which fitness tracker is right for you with so many to review? Below, I will share my experience and research to remove the confusion and overwhelm, and I hope it helps you decide.

      It was also fun to discover that step counting originated in the early 1700s by a Horologist and inventor Abraham-Louis Perrelet. It was later suggested that Tomas Jefferson created the first mechanical pedometer.[1]

      Fitness trackers—or wearable health devices as we know them today—later surfaced in 1965 by Dr. Yoshiro Hatano, a Japanese professor at the Kyushu University of Health and Welfare. His research offered a method to combat obesity and created the Mankoe-Kei pedometer, translated to “10,000 step meter.”

      Fitness trackers and, more recently, smartwatches have come a long way. With multiple styles, features, and price ranges to select, it can be challenging to find the best choice. With so many options to choose from, which one is the best? And how do you decide?

      Let’s briefly look at some of the most popular brands and the similarities and differences between a fitness tracker and a smartwatch. Let’s also look at the pros and cons of wearable trackers to see if they develop or hinder motivation.

      Fitness Trackers vs. Smartwatches

      There is quite a bit of overlap between the two, but the fitness tracker is the way to go if you want to keep things simple and focus solely on your fitness and daily activity. Both also offer an app experience to review several health statistics.

      However, the smartwatch takes it up a notch by sending notifications and updates from your phone to your wrist. If you are looking for a detailed tech analysis, I will link the website to the brand.

      Suppose simplicity and interest in reviewing the below top health metrics are the primary reasons for choosing a fitness tracker. In this case, selecting a wearable step counter and affordable fitness wristband is the way to go—no need to get caught up in data analysis paralysis.

      • Tell time
      • Step counter
      • Calories burned
      • Heart rate

      If you are interested in additional advanced features, want to receive a detailed analysis of all the following health metrics, and need your wearable to track more than just your health, a smartwatch would be the way to go.

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      • Breathing rate
      • Resting variability
      • Skin temperature
      • Oxygen saturation
      • Movement notification
      • Female health tracking
      • Sleep monitor
      • GPS tracker
      • Receive calls, texts, and emails
      • Workable apps such as mobile payments and music storage

      So, how do you choose the brand? It all depends on personal preference, ease of use, style, and how many details of your health and fitness data you would like to analyze.

      Bear in mind, there may be various products within each brand, each offering something a little different based on when it hit the market. Here are some of the best fitness trackers and smartwatches in the market.

      The best thing about these wearables is that they all track your health and fitness from super simple to more advanced. Let’s compare a few statistics to see how each stack up against their competitor.

      1. Fitbit

        Price Range: $80 to $200

        Battery length between charges: up to 6 days

        Launched in 2007, Fitbit offers nine different models and 21 products to choose from, offering everything from a simple clip-on pedometer to fitness wristbands to the latest in the high-tech smartwatch. Easy to set up, sync to the app, and use immediately, each watch can meet the needs of basic use to high-tech statistical analysis.

        2. Apple Watch

          Price Range: $199 to $429

          Limited battery life between charges – charge every two days

          The Apple Watch is a multifunctional wellness tracker and phone on your wrist. Launched in 2015, Apple Watch offers two models with a slue of tech specs that change yearly.

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          Prices are steep. It takes time to navigate with all the bells and whistles, but this watch has many unique features that most brands don’t offer. If you are a multi-tasker and are looking for a watch that could almost cook you dinner, this would be the one.

          3. Samsung Galaxy

            Prices Range: $60 to $350

            Battery life between charges – 2.5 to 4 days

            In 2014, Samsung introduced its first fitness wristband designed to be just an activity tracker, then later the smartwatch. With two models to select from (each having yearly updates), this brand offers all the above specs.

            One thing sets it apart from the rest: Samsung is the first smartwatch to measure body composition, namely Weight, Skeletal Muscle, Body Fat Mass, BMI (Body Mass Index), Water, and BMR (Basel Metabolic Rate).

            4. Polar

              Price Range: $90 to $500

              Battery life between charges – up to 4 days

              Polar is not just a fitness tracker but also a sports science and technology on your wrist. Polar offers heart rate monitoring, fitness tracking, and GPS sports tracking.

              This watch is great for athletes looking to improve athletic performance and exercise enthusiasts looking to improve their overall health. They are the leaders in heart rate monitoring and offer proprietary Smart Coaching technology. This technology turns your training data into personalized, actionable training guidance.

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              5. Timex

                Price Range: $45 to $180

                Extended Battery life – 12 to 14 days

                Timex, the foundation builder for smartwatches, began in 1994 with a watch made for space flight for NASA. Timex has everything, from the basics of calorie counting, stopwatch, step counting, and distance traveled to ironman smartwatch capabilities with GPS tracking.

                If you are a runner, cyclist, or swimmer and are just interested in the basics, this one is for you. With a durable design (Aluminum Alloy Case and Gorilla Glass™), these watches were designed to last forever.

                It is also one of the most stylish fitness watches and has the most affordable smartwatch on the market, coming in at only $180 compared to other popular brands. Expect this watch to cover all your health metrics and offer a great battery life in between charges.

                6. Garmin

                  Price Range: $149 to $1,149

                  Battery life in between charges – between 5 to 50 days (Yes, you read that correctly.)

                  Garmin Smartwatch, founded in 2014, doubles as the leader in GPS wearable tracking devices and high-performing athletic data tracking watches on the market. It is one of the best brands with a fantastic battery life with the Garmin Enduro (made for endurance athletes and ultra-marathon runners), clocking in at 50 days.

                  If you aren’t the athletic type and want to stay off the grid and use it to track your activity, Garmin is also an excellent choice. But be sure to know what you want before investing because Garmins price point can be pretty steep due to the premium material in its design.

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                  There are two products on the market worth mentioning that focus on how your body is functioning, so you are well-rested and ready to go for your next workout. We focused on multifunction health and fitness devices around fitness and wellness specifics. But what about recovery? Meet Oura Ring and Whoop.

                  7. WHOOP Fitness and Health Membership

                    Price Range: monthly membership is $30 (additional premium upgrades)

                    Battery life in between charges – 4 to 5 days

                    WHOOP, founded in 2011, is a fitness and recovery tracking all in one. It monitors your sleep, recovery, and daily effort 24/7, then delivers in-depth feedback on how you can optimize your performance.

                    If knowing when to push harder or rest is vital to improving your performance, this tracker is a sure winner. Join as a member, and you will receive the latest WHOOP wearable for free—every time another generation is released.

                    8. The Oura Ring

                      Price: $200

                      Battery life in between charges: 4 to 7 days

                      The Oura Ring, founded in 2013, is focused on sleep quality and recovery, so it will not track your fitness or daily activity. Features include tracking your motion, heart rate, and temperature to tell you how well you are sleeping and recovering your body.

                      Final Thoughts

                      The purpose of health and wellness trackers is to create awareness around increasing one’s daily activity level and provide a valuable tool for tracking important health and non-health-related statistics. Make a list of the essential features you will consistently keep track of and interest you, and perhaps that will ease the pain when choosing which best fitness tracker to use.

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                      Which one you choose is entirely up to you, and you can spend months researching over every spec. The most important thing is that you don’t get caught up in the minute details and keep moving.

                      Featured photo credit: dusan jovic via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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