These 17 Flexibility Exercises Will Help You Get Bendy
If you don’t give flexibility exercises much attention in your usual workout routine (I get it, you want to build muscle and break a sweat!), hear me out: Though it may not sound as exciting as a six-pack, flexibility is key to feeling mobile, agile, and strong in our bodies.
Stretching — especially when paired with deep breathing, like in yoga — promotes both greater range of motion (your joints’ abilities to move to their fullest potential) and extensibility (how well your muscles and connective tissues allow those joints to move). Plus, yes, it also strengthens your muscles.
As such, I’ve put together the following list of stretches, yoga poses, and movements so that you can build a daily flexibility and mobility routine that will loosen you up (both body and mind).
The key here: Make sure you warm up a bit before jumping in. Just a few minutes of movement — like jumping jacks, high knees, and butt kicks — will get your blood flowing and your muscles ready to move, so you can stretch deeply and reap the most benefits from every exercise. I guarantee you’ll feel stronger, more relaxed, and more grounded by the time you finish.
Time: 10-20 minutes
Good for: full-body flexibility and mobility
Instructions: Choose five to 10 flexibility exercises to focus on. Complete each exercise, pose, or stretch for the indicated amount of time, then immediately move on to the next. Once you’ve finished all of the moves, repeat each a second time. For maximum bendy results, incorporate some variation of this routine every day.
How to: Start on all fours with hands directly under shoulders and knees under hips. Inhale and arch spine so belly sinks down while face and tailbone lift upwards. (This is cow pose.) Then, exhale and push into hands and knees to hollow belly, round spine, and tuck chin towards chest. (This is cat pose.) That’s one rep. Perform three to five.
Pro tip: Feel the collarbones spread wide in cow pose, and the back of the neck lengthen in cat pose.
How to: Start ying facedown with legs straight and arms at sides with palms facing down. Inhale, draw shoulders back and down, and lift chest, arms, and legs up as high as comfortable, keeping neck long. Hold for a few moments, then lower back down with control. That’s one rep. Perform three to five.
Pro tip: Reach fingertips back to open up chest.
How to: Start in high plank with wrists beneath elbows, body straight, and core tight. Then, pull right knee toward chest and slide right foot outside of left hand, coming to balance on edge of foot. Draw left hand up toward ceiling and rotate torso to face extended leg. Hold for one breath, then reverse the movement to return to plank position. Repeat on the other side. That’s one rep. Perform three to five.
How to: Start in a low lunge with right foot outside right hand and left leg extended straight back. Keep spine long and core engaged, then slowly lower onto forearms. Hold for five to eight deep breaths, allowing hips to relax and open with each exhale. Push up through hands to return to low lunge. That’s one rep. Perform three.
Pro tip: To modify, lower back knee to the ground.
How to: Start standing with feet wider than shoulders and parallel. Hinge at hips to bring torso in front of thighs, allowing head to relax and shifting weight toward balls of feet to open up backs of legs. Hold for a few breaths, then return to standing. That’s one rep. Perform three to five.
Low Lunge Twist
How to: Start in a low lunge with left foot forward between hands and right leg extended straight back. Draw left hand straight up overhead toward ceiling and rotate torso from waist to gaze up at it. Hold for a few breaths, then return to low lunge and repeat on the other side. That’s one rep. Perform three to five.
Pro tip: Keep back leg engaged and lift up out of hand on the floor.
Seated Forward Fold
How to: Start sitting up straight with legs together and extended, feet flexed. Extend both arms up overhead. Then, hinge at hips to reach chest forward and fold over legs, grabbing shins, ankles, or feet with hands. Hold for a few breaths, then release. That’s one rep. Perform three to five.
Pro tip: Start with bent knees, if needed. Keep shoulders back, down, and away from ears.
How to: Start lying on back, bend knees to 90 degrees, and lift feet into air. Then, hook right ankle over left thigh (just above knee) and interlace hands over left hamstring. Exhale and draw left knee toward chest, feeling left hip and glutes opening. Hold for a few breathes, then release and repeat on the other side. That’s one rep. Perform three.
How to: Start in child’s pose with butt resting on heels, forehead pressing into floor, and arms extended straight out on mat. Then, look forward and walk hands toward top of mat so hips lift off heels. Continue until hips reach straight up towards ceiling and chest comes to rest on the floor. Then, reverse the movement to return to start. That’s one rep. Perform three to five.
Pro tip: Draw ribs and belly in to lengthen spine.
Interlaced Forward Fold
How to: Start standing with feet hip-distance apart and hands interlaced behind back, arms straight. Lift fists up away from body, gaze toward ceiling, and spread collarbones wide, then hinge at hips to fold torso over legs and stretch arms overhead. Relax head down and shift weight towards balls of feet. Hold for a few breaths, then release and return to standing. That’s one rep. Perform three to five.
How to: Start sitting with legs as wide as possible and extending straight out. Keep spine long and shoulders back and down while walking hands forward to place forearms on the floor. Bow head down and breathe deeply. Hold for a few breaths, then walk hands in to return to start. That’s one rep. Perform three to five.
How to: Start standing with feet hip-distance apart and parallel, arms extended up overhead with hands interlaced. Inhale and lean up and over from waist to left side. Hold for a few breaths, then push through feet to return to standing and repeat on other side. That’s one rep. Perform three.
Pro tip: Focus on lengthening through both sides of torso while keeping hips stable and facing forward.
How to: Start standing with feet just wider than hips. Roll both shoulders up toward ears, then down back. That’s one rep. Perform 10.
How to: Start standing with feet just wider than hips. In a clockwise circular motion, tuck chin toward chest, then roll head so right ears comes over right shoulder, tilt skull straight back, then bring left ear over left shoulder, stopping when chin returns to chest. That’s one rep. Perform 10, then switch directions and do 10 more.
How to: Start standing with feet hip-distance apart. Tightly interlace hands in front of chest. Then, circle from wrists to draw a figure-eight with hands. That’s one rep. Perform 10, then switch directions and do 10 more.
Pro tip: This stretch is great for achy wrists and tight forearms often caused by lots of texting and typing.
How to: Start standing with arms extended straight out at shoulder height and palms facing up. Then, use right hand to gently pull left fingers down toward floor. Hold for five breaths, then switch sides and repeat. That’s one rep. Perform three.
Pro tip: This stretch is great for achy wrists and tight forearms often cause by lots of texting and typing.
Wide Squat With Twists
How to: Stand with feet wider than shoulders and feet pointing outward (knees facing in same direction as toes), arms at sides. Bend legs to lower down until thighs are parallel to the floor. Then, place hands on knees and push through right hand to drop right shoulder forward and down, while rotating torso to face left knee. Hold for a few breaths, then reverse the movement and repeat on the other side. That’s one rep. Perform three to five.
Pro tip: Don’t allow knees to fall inward during twists.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com