10 Ways to Improve Your Flexibility
By Jeanne Faulkner
Reviewed by QualityHealth's Medical Advisory Board
Here, ten fun moves to get you all limbered up.
Flexibility training keeps your muscles and ligaments pliable, resilient, and able to adjust to the rapidly changing demands of exercise. It also increases range of motion, improves circulation, and decreases stress. People who don't practice flexibility exercises get hurt more frequently than those who do. But what kind of exercises should you do? We've got ten moves to get you all stretched out.
The Mayo Clinic recommends people warm up before flexibility training with ten minutes of light exercise or stretch after exercising. Take it easy. If you feel pain, you're going too far. Hold stretches for 10-30 seconds. Don't bounce and remember to breathe.
1) Standing Forward Bend. Start in a standing position, hands on hips. Bend from the hips, keeping your torso long. Place your hands (or fingertips) on the floor in front of your feet. Bend your knees as needed. Hang your head between your shoulder blades. Put your hands back on your hips and roll up slowly.
2) Standing Half-Forward Bend. Start with standing forward bend. Straighten your elbows and back and arch your torso away from your thighs. Place your hands on your shins if necessary or bend knees slightly. Look forward, reach forward and return to forward bend before rolling up.
3) Standing Side Bend. Start in a standing position with feet together, back straight and arms above your head. Clasp your right wrist with your left hand and bend to the left. Switch hands and bend to the right.
4) Shoulder & Chest Stretch. Start from a kneeling or standing position. Clasp hands behind your back, below your waist and straighten your arms. Raise your hands as high as you can behind you and bend at the waist.
5) Arm Across Chest Stretch. Stretch one arm straight across your chest. Place opposite hand on your elbow and pull your arm towards chest. Alternate arms.
6) Adductor Stretch. Stand tall with your feet wide apart. Shift your weight to your right leg and bend right knee as far as is comfortable. Reach towards left leg and extend left foot. Repeat with opposite leg.
7) Standing Quadriceps Stretch. Stand tall. Grab your right leg above your ankle and pull your heel up towards your buttocks. Hold on to a wall for stability if necessary. Push hips forward and stretch thigh muscles. Switch legs.
8) Gluteus Stretch. Sit on the floor. Bend your right knee and cross your right foot over your left leg. Keep your left leg straight. Cross your left elbow over your right leg, place on the outside of your right knee and press gently. Switch legs.
9) Hamstring Stretch. Sit on the floor with one leg straight in front of you. Bend the other so your foot is against your thigh or calf. Bend at the waist but keep your back flat. Hold onto the foot, ankle or shin of the straightened leg. Switch legs.
10) Sitting Forward Bend. Sit on the floor with both legs straight in front of you. With your spine straight, lift your arms above your head. Fold forward and place your hands on your feet or shins.
For more flexibility training, try yoga, Pilates or work out with an exercise ball.
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