Tempted to skip the stretch? We’ve all been there. Start with these three simple stretches to improve your flexibility.
Flexibility reduces injury risk and muscle aches while increasing your range of motion and blood flow. The problem? Many of us skip stretching altogether. Add these three simple stretches to your repertoire to increase flexibility and get the most out of your workout.
Standing Forward Fold
Standing forward fold is a great stretch to target your lower back and hamstrings. This stretch can be done in a variety of ways based on your needs and available props.
Begin standing shoulder-width apart with your knees slightly bent. Slowly lower your upper body down to the floor. It may feel good to pedal out your knees and shift your hips side-to-side.
Enjoy this stretch for 30 seconds to three minutes. During this time, you have the option to add on your choice of upper-body layers:
- Grab both elbows and pull them down to the floor.
- Place your hands on a waist-high surface, such as a counter. This allows you to pull your hips further back, opening up the lower body even more.
- Interlace your fingers behind your lower back, then lift your hands and arms upward, so they are closer to your head. Breathe deeply and melt any tension out of your shoulders.
Crescent pose, also called a crescent lunge or anjaneyasana pose, not only increases flexibility, but improves balance and focus. In addition to stretching the hip flexor of the back leg, crescent pose strengthens the front leg.
Here’s how to do it: step one foot forward and one foot back. Press your front foot flat onto the floor and lift your back heel up to the sky. As you inhale, engage your core and begin to lift your palms overhead, reaching your fingertips to the ceiling.
Take your crescent lunge deeper by shifting more weight into your front foot, squeezing your inner thighs together, and lowering your hips closer to the floor. For any shoulder pain, hold your hands in prayer at your heart’s center. You can also hinge forward to help relieve lower back pain — just make sure your spine stays long and straight. Hold side one for 30-60 seconds and then repeat on side two.
Now that your legs and hips are open, it’s time to increase lateral flexibility. Spinal twist will stretch your spine, neck and shoulders. While it’s okay for your back to crack in this position, be careful not to push yourself too far. Your stretches should focus on increasing flexibility, not adding pain.
Start by sitting up tall with both legs stretched out. Cross your right foot over your body, so it lands on the outside of your left thigh. Place your right hand behind you. As you inhale, use your left arm to hug your right knee closer to your chest. On your exhale, deepen your upper-body twist to the right. Focus on lengthening your spine as you continue breathe deeply, holding for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on side two.
After you’ve completed these stretches, take a few minutes to focus on your breath. How do you feel? While it’s no secret these three stretches improve flexibility, you may also notice additional benefits such as improved energy, increased stamina, better posture and even reduced cholesterol.
If you’re recovering from an injury and have questions about stretching, our team of sports medicine doctors is here to help. We provide expert care for bones, muscles, tendons and joints. Reach out to schedule an appointment today.