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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

12 Stretching Exercises to Increase Your Flexibility

12 Stretching Exercises to Increase Your Flexibility

When thinking about stretching and learning how to become flexible, consider you are doing more than just elongating and strengthening your muscles. You are, in fact, improving circulation of the blood (lymphatic system), and optimizing the depth of your breath, which further enhances circulation[1].

Stretching and yoga aren’t just trends; they are practices that have been utilized by humans arguably for hundreds of thousands of years or more. In many cases, modern humans have simply forgotten much of their ancestry, and stretching/yoga is certainly an integral part.

The following stretching routines, if practiced consistently (every day, or a few times a week), will improve your physical and mental well-being, so let’s get into them!

Here’s a breakdown of all the exercises I’ve covered in the video:

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1. Standing Hamstring Stretch

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    • Stand straight and tall with your feet hip-width apart, knees just slightly bent, and arms by your sides.
    • Exhale as you bend forward (think of a door hinge movement at the hips), lowering your head toward the floor (imagine the top of your head being parallel with the floor), while keeping your head, neck, and shoulders relaxed (do not tense up).
    • Wrap your arms around the backs of your legs, or simply grab and hold the back of your legs; holding anywhere from 45 seconds to two minutes.
    • Bend your knees and slowly “roll up” back to the standing position when you’re done.

    2. Downward Dog

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      • Start standing with your feet hip-width apart.
      • While exhaling, hinge at the hips and lower your head toward the floor.
      • Place your hands/palms on the ground.
      • Step back with your feet while keeping a neutral back/spine and with your head/neck in-line with your shoulders and arms.

      3. Deep Lunge and Twist

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        • Start standing with your feet together hip width apart.
        • Take a large step forward with your right foot.
        • Bend your right knee and drop into a lunge, keeping your left leg as straight as you can behind you with your toes on the ground, so you feel a stretch at the front of your left thigh.
        • Place your right hand on the floor or in a pray position, and twist your upper body to the right as you extend your right arm toward the ceiling (for a deeper stretch).
        • Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes while taking slow and steady breaths.
        • Repeat on the other side.

        4. Piriformis Stretch

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          • Sit on the floor with both legs extended in front of you to start.
          • Cross your left leg over your right, and place your left foot flat on the floor.
          • Place your left hand on the floor behind your body.
          • Place your right hand on your left quad or your right elbow on your left knee (as shown), and press your left leg to the right as you twist your torso to the left.
          • If the spinal rotation causes back discomfort, remove the twist and simply use your right hand to pull your left quad in and to the right.

          5. Figure Four Stretch

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            • Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor.
            • Cross your left foot over your right quad.
            • Lift your right leg off the floor. Grab onto the back of your right leg and gently pull it toward your chest.
            • When you feel a comfortable stretch, hold there.
            • Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
            • Switch sides and repeat.

            6. 90/90 Stretch

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              • Sit with your right knee bent at 90-degrees in front of you, calf perpendicular to your body and the sole of your foot facing to the left. Keep your left foot flexed.
              • Let your leg rest flat on the floor.
              • Place your left knee to the left of your body, and bend the knee so that your foot faces behind you. Keep your left foot flexed.
              • Keep your right butt cheek on the floor. Try to move the left cheek as close to the floor as possible. It may not be possible if your hips are tight.
              • Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
              • Repeat on the other side.

              7. Frog Stretch

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              See the source image

                 

                • Start on all fours.
                • Slide your knees wider than shoulder-width apart.
                • Turn your toes out and rest the inner edges of your feet flat on the floor.
                • Ensure your legs are maintaining approximately a 90-degree angle (squared off).
                • Shift your hips back toward your heels.
                • Move from your hands down to your forearms to get a deeper stretch, if possible.
                • Hold for for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

                8. Butterfly Stretch

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                  • Sit tall on the floor with the soles of your feet together, knees bent out to the sides.
                  • Hold onto your feet (or ankles), engage your abs slightly to keep an upright posture with steady breathing, and slowly lower your body toward your feet as far as you can while pressing your knees toward the floor. Keep a neutral spine during this stretch.
                  • If you cannot lower your torso, then simply hold the stretch and aim to lower your knees closer to the ground gradually.
                  • Hold this stretch for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

                  9. Tricep Stretch

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                    • Kneel, sit, or stand tall with feet hip-width apart, arms extended overhead.
                    • Bend your right elbow and reach your right hand to touch the top middle of your back.
                    • Reach your left hand overhead and grasp just below your right elbow.
                    • Gently pull your right elbow down and toward your head.
                    • Switch arms and repeat.

                    10. Extended Puppy Pose

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                      • Start on all fours.
                      • Move your arms forward a few inches.
                      • Push your hips up and back halfway toward your heels, or until you feel a deep stretch.
                      • Push through the palms of your hands to keep your arms straight and engaged.
                      • Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

                      11. Neck Stretch and Release

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                        • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, or sit down with your back straight and chest lifted.
                        • Drop your right ear to your right shoulder.
                        • To deepen the stretch, gently press down on your head with your right hand.
                        • Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

                        12. Standing Quad Stretch

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                          • Stand with your feet together.
                          • Bend your left knee and use your left hand to pull your left foot toward your butt. Keep your knees together.
                          • If you need to, put one hand on a wall for balance.
                          • Squeeze your glutes to increase the stretch in the front of your legs.
                          • Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
                          • Repeat on the other leg.

                          Conclusion

                          The key take away here is that consistency with your stretching routine, followed by good quality sleep and lots of hydration, will instantly begin to improve your quality of life. Find which stretches feel the best in your body and add them to a daily routine you can enjoy.

                          More on How to Become Flexible

                          Featured photo credit: Scott Broome via unsplash.com

                          Reference

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                          Adam Evans

                          BioHacker, competitive athlete, researcher in many fields including health and fitness, science, philosophy, metaphysics, religion.

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                          1 15 Bodybuilding Tips for Beginners for More Effective Workouts 2 7 Important Tips for Working out You’re Probably Overlooking 3 11 Resistance Band Exercises for Legs to Strengthen and Tone 4 7 Practical Stretching Tips to Enhance Your Next Workout 5 How to Get Six Pack Abs Without Leaving Your Couch

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                          Last Updated on March 2, 2021

                          15 Bodybuilding Tips for Beginners for More Effective Workouts

                          15 Bodybuilding Tips for Beginners for More Effective Workouts

                          If you are new to bodybuilding and want to improve the way you look, bodybuilding tips can help you get started the right way. Bodybuilding is a great way to strengthen, tone, and stabilize your entire body, but it’s easy to make mistakes that can cause injuries that keep you out of the game for months. If you really want to dedicate yourself to building muscle mass over time, be patient, start with some bodybuilding basics, and move forward from there.

                          Here are 15 of the best bodybuilding tips for beginners.

                          1. Stick to Free Weights

                          Even though the modern gyms are full of complex, high-tech machines, they will not help you build a solid foundation of muscle mass. Dumbbells and barbells are the best when it comes to building muscle, especially for a beginner.

                          Free weights offer a wide range of motion and rely on proper form, which ultimately helps to build more muscle than the restricting machines often found in a gym.

                          2. Do Compound Lifts and Movements

                          While you might be tempted to try all the possible exercises you see on fitness magazines or websites with heavy weights, you should stick to the basic movements first as one of your first bodybuilding tips.

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                          Exercises like the squat, the deadlift, the barbell bench press and the military shoulder press should not be lacking from your routine[1]. These are popular for a reason. They’ve been designed to tackle major muscle groups that will help you build on your routine from the ground up.

                          3. Find a Program, and Stick to It

                          In order to be successful with bodybuilding, you need to have a strict routine and follow it closely. Ask a personal trainer or an advanced bodybuilder to provide you with a program that includes the exact exercises you need to do, the number of sets, and the number of reps per set.

                          When you set foot in the gym, you need to know exactly what you will do in that training session in order to create a weekly routine that will lead to more muscle mass. By knowing what you’re doing on a specific day and knowing what came in the days before, you can avoid injury and overuse.

                          4. Don’t Train Every Day

                          If the person that made you the program knows what s/he’s doing, your routine should have 3 or 4 workouts per week. As a beginner, you don’t need to train more often than that. Doing so can lead to muscle strain, which can eventually cause debilitating injuries, so paying attention to this bodybuilding tip is essential.

                          Each time you do a bodybuilding routine, remembering that you are literally tearing your muscle fibers. If you do this 7 times a week without allowing them to recover, you can cause permanent damage. Allow at least one day between each workout to keep your muscles healthy.

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                          5. Train Each Muscle Group Every Week

                          While too many days in the gym won’t help you get bigger, too few workouts are not good either. You need to work each muscle group at least once each week to really see effects. You should also be increasing the weight you’re lifting every week or every other week in order to continuously challenge your body to keep building more muscle.

                          6. Learn Correct Form

                          While you may be tempted to see how much you can lift, you need to start with lower weights and learn the right form of each exercise. If you’re going to a gym, they often have trainers who will show you the correct form for various exercises. If you need more guidance, consider hiring a personal trainer for one or two weeks to get you started.

                          Once you have the correct form, you’ll be able to continue pushing yourself without going too far using the other bodybuilding tips for beginners.

                          7. Gradually Increase the Weight

                          After you master the correct form of each exercise, you need to start adding heavier weights periodically. Keep track of how much you lift on each exercise, and slightly increase the weight about every two weeks. This will increase your strength and will lead to muscle gains.

                          If you stay at one weight too long, your body will get comfortable and won’t build more muscle, so it’s important to keep offering your body challenges.

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                          8. Be Cautious

                          When you get to the point of using big weights, use a safety belt for lower back protection. You may not have back problems right now, but you don’t want to have them in the future either. When it comes to bodybuilding tips, this is one many overlook until it’s too late.

                          9. Eat a Lot of Protein

                          Protein is essential when it comes to building muscle. It can be found in good quantities in chicken, fish, eggs, milk, beans, nuts, and some vegetables. Most experts recommend at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight for the best results. If consuming enough protein each day becomes difficult, add a protein shake as well.

                          10. Be in a Caloric Surplus

                          This is one of those bodybuilding tips that most people don’t understand at first. In order to build muscle, you need to eat more calories than you burn[2]. Use a calorie calculator to find out your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), and adjust that according to how active you are. If you have a sedentary job, you will need fewer calories, and if you are very active you will need more.

                          Make sure to avoid eating too few calories as this will mean your body may start burning the muscle you’re building for energy. Losing fat requires a caloric deficit, but building muscle requires the opposite.

                          11. Eat More Often

                          If you’re bodybuilding as a beginner, it’s a good idea to eat more often. Try eating 4-5 times each day, and don’t go more than 3-4 hours without a meal. As your body builds muscle, it will want a consistent source of fuel, which comes from food.

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                          12. Avoid Junk Food

                          It’s true that you want to gain some weight, but you want that weight to be muscle mass and not fat! For this bodybuilding tip, consume quality food like lean proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats, and stay away from junk food, sweets, and fatty foods[3].

                          The only time when you should consume fast-absorbing carbohydrates (usually foods that have a lot of sugar or white flour) is right after your workout.

                          13. Eat Fruits and Vegetables

                          Besides macronutrients (proteins, carbs, and fats) your body also needs micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). These come mostly in the form of fruits and vegetables, so make sure you’re getting enough each day, both pre- and post-workout.

                          14. Rest and Recover

                          One of the most essential bodybuilding tips for beginners is to allow your body time to recover. Your muscles don’t grow when you work out but during rest periods, especially when you’re sleeping. 8-9 hours a night is optimal. If you have trouble falling asleep, try settling into a night time routine that can get your sleep schedule on track.

                          15. Act Like an Athlete

                          If you want to dedicate yourself to bodybuilding, get into the mindset of an athlete. Building a stronger, healthier body means doing so both in and out of the gym. When you’re not working out, avoid smoking, alcohol, and other unhealthy vices as much as possible. This will help you create an overall healthier lifestyle to match your efforts in the gym.

                          The Bottom Line

                          The above bodybuilding tips are a great place to start if you’re trying to get into bodybuilding. These kinds of workouts can be amazing for your muscle mass, as well as joint stability and cardio health. Start slow and safe in order to build up to a beneficial routine that will help you enjoy bodybuilding for many years to come.

                          More Bodybuilding Tips for Beginners

                          Featured photo credit: Anastase Maragos via unsplash.com

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