If we’re honest with one another for a sec ladies—we probably don’t stretch as often as we ought to. Yeah, we talk a lot about how nice it would be to be all limber and flexible and strong, but when it comes down to it, it just always feels like something that would be nice to do if it wasn’t so much of a hassle. Well, what if a stretching routine didn’t have to be a hassle?
What if we laid out a few key facts about the importance of stretching, followed by basic stretching exercises that you can hop right into?
Why your body loves stretching
Regularly (read a few times a week, as opposed to once or twice a year) stretching your muscles works to keep them flexible and strong, providing you with a full range of motion in your limbs.
If you don’t stretch, regular exercise can see your muscles getting too tight to allow you proper movement, which can in turn impact your posture and cause aches and pains.
Even if you don’t exercise heavily, your lifestyle can cause your muscles to tighten. Just the act of sitting in an office chair for long spans of time can cause your hamstrings to tighten up, which can increase the likelihood of sprains and other injuries when you exercise.
In short, to stay flexible and to keep your body fighting fit and ready for anything—not to mention to give yourself great posture—you need to regularly stretch your muscles.
Where to start stretching
We have over 600 individual muscles in our body, although thankfully we don’t need to stretch every last one of them to be in good health.
To keep trim, strong and healthy, it’s enough to focus on key areas and muscle groups. The first and foremost is leg stretches, including your calves, your quads, hamstrings and hip flexors.
Then there’s also your lower back, shoulders and neck. If you can give all of these muscles a good, satisfying stretch around three times a week, you’ll be feeling great in no time at all.
The best stretches to increase flexibility
– Standing hamstring stretch
To begin, stand up straight with your feet facing forward, shoulder-width apart. Then, while exhaling slowly, bend forward at the waist while keeping your feet planted on the floor. Keep your shoulders and neck relaxed, and fold your arms around your legs when you’ve bent as far forward as you can while maintaining your balance.
Hold for one minute, then return slowly to your starting position.
Muscles stretched: back, calves, glutes, hamstrings and neck
– Lunge with twist
This one is great for your lower back. To begin, start upright as before. Then take one great big step forward with your right foot, bending your right knee and keeping your left leg unbent. From this pose, place your left hand flat on the floor beside your right foot.
At the same time, you’re gonna want to turn your torso sideways to reach up into the sky with your right hand.
Hold for a moment, then repeat on the other side.
Muscles stretched: back, hip flexors and quads
– Tricep stretch
Begin standing with your feet apart, and raise both your arms directly above your head. From there, fold one arm over, keeping your elbow raised, bending the arm so your palm touches the back of your neck or the top of your back.
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Hold it there, crossing your remaining arm to clasp your elbow to hold the stretch in place. After one minute, switch sides.
Muscles stretched: shoulders, triceps, back and neck
– Piriformis stretch
The piriformis stretch is achieved by firstly sitting on the floor with your legs outstretched before you. Crossing your right leg over your left, place your right foot flat on the ground. At the same time, reach behind you to place your right hand about a foot away from your butt.
Then deepen the stretch by placing your left elbow firmly against the outside of your right knee, and pushing gently.
Muscles stretched: glutes, hip flexors and back
– Knee to chest stretch
This time, begin on your back, legs extended. Gradually lift one leg, while making sure to keep the other one pressed against the floor along with your butt and lower back. Bring your knee into your chest as far as you can, using your arms to grip it and draw it in further, creating the stretch.
Hold for a minute, then repeat on the other side.
Muscles stretched: hamstrings, lower back, hips
– Standing quad stretch
This stretch will probably be familiar if you’ve ever played team sports! Begin standing with your feet together, then bend one leg at the knee to lift your heel up to your butt.
Hold your heel there with one hand, using the other arm for balance if you need it. After one minute, switch legs and repeat.
Muscles stretched: lower back, hips, hamstrings
– Sphinx pose
Begin this pose by lying flat on your tummy and your legs outstretched behind. From this position, prop yourself up on your elbows, thereby lifting your torso up off the ground. With your elbows positioned beneath your shoulders and your weight on them, point your forearms forward, with your palms facing down. Make sure you press your hips downwards while in this pose to maximise the stretch.
Muscles stretched: shoulders, chest and lower back
The thing to remember when you begin a new regime of flexibility stretches is that, just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, you won’t be able to fold yourself into a pretzel overnight. These things take time.
If you stick at it, however, you’ll soon find your body feeling stronger and more limber than ever—and you’ll find your posture improving, too.
The stretching exercises detailed above will hit all your most important muscles, and have you feeling fit and funky for years to come.
Ready to get limber?
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