In this article, you’ll learn why flexibility is important, and how you can cultivate and maintain it as you get older. You’ll also learn how to perform each flexibility exercise properly so that you can get the most out of your workouts as you work your way through the six-week workout plan.
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Why Flexibility Training?
Flexibility training is an important component of a well-rounded workout program. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), flexibility training is a fundamental aspect of a good training regimen because being able to move freely through a full range of motion can help you perform better when exercising as well as when doing everyday activities.
The NSCA also stresses the importance of flexibility when it comes to avoiding and preventing injuries. Just because stretching doesn’t directly improve strength or cardiovascular conditioning doesn’t mean it’s not as important as other types of exercise.
Although it’s common to leave stretching exercises until the end of a workout, stretching should ideally be done before and after getting into your other routines to help prevent injuries from happening.
How Much Do I Need?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), healthy adults should engage in a stretching program at a minimum of two to three times per week. They recommend spending a full minute on each stretch, even if you break them up into shorter lengths of time. If you can only hold a stretch for 15 seconds, consider repeating that stretch three more times to fulfil your full minute of stretching for that area.
The ACSM also notes that it’s important to include stretches for all the main muscle and tendon groups, so ideally aim to fit these stretches into your fitness program at least three times a week:
- Lower back
- Legs (both the quads in front and the hamstrings in back)
Making progress with your flexibility means challenging yourself during each workout, mindfully altering something each time to make it a little more difficult and rewarding in turn.
When it comes to flexibility, there are dynamic and static stretches. Dynamic stretches use muscles to produce the stretch by putting the muscles and joints through a full range of motion. Dynamic stretches involve movement, like swinging your leg back and forth like a pendulum in preparation for a jog or doing arm circles before a swimming session.
Static stretches are stretches that you hold. Imagine stretching your hamstrings by placing your leg on a platform in front of you and leaning forward over that leg. You could easily do this in between exercise sets and after your workout, once your muscles are warmed up and limber.
You can mix up your flexibility workout by including things like yoga and Tai Chi, which improve flexibility and bring other benefits like relieving stress, boosting mood, helping increase circulation, strengthening muscles, improving balance, and much more.
It’s always best to consult your physician or physical therapist before starting a new flexibility program. Depending on your medical history, they may suggest modifications to common exercises or want you to use caution when stretching certain areas of your body.
When stretching, remember not to stretch a “cold” muscle, so gently warm up your muscles first with a brisk walk, jumping jacks, or body squats—whatever it takes to get your circulation moving. Or you can stretch after a full workout as a cool-down session. Stretching immediately after your workout is almost always a safe bet as your body should be fully warmed up and your muscles will be receptive to both dynamic and static stretching movements.
Finally, beware of bouncing when you’re performing a static stretch. You should get into the stretched position and hold it. It’s okay to lean into the stretch during the hold to make it more challenging, just avoid the bounce.
Before beginning your flexibility training, start with 5 to 10 minutes of walking, jogging, using the elliptical, jumping rope, or another activity that gets your heart rate up safely. You can also start with myofascial release, employing foam rollers and other similar tools like foam balls and handheld rollers to help work out the knots in your muscles.
To do so, simply roll the affected area on the foam roller or on the ball. As you gently roll your body, the applied pressure helps to “release” muscle knots, allowing for a more effective stretching session. Note that it’s important to address both stability joints (knees, lower back) and movement joints (shoulders, hips, middle spine) when stretching.
Consider including dynamic stretches that cover these main patterns of movement:
- Bending and lifting motions
- Single-leg movements
- Pulling motions
- Twisting movements
To improve your flexibility overall, address all the muscles in your body when you stretch, and mix it up if you like! While you don’t need to stretch every area every single day, it’s a good idea to stretch the areas you’re going to be using later.
Remember, dynamic stretches use movement and are designed to help your body get primed for a specific exercise or sport. You may want to simulate some of the movements your body will be making, like torso twists if you’ll be playing baseball, softball, or golfing.
QUADRICEPS STRETCH – Body-Weight Stretch (Home or Gym)
Muscle Group: Quadriceps
#1. Start by standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
#2. Pick up your right leg and bend it upward behind you so that your foot is near your glutes.
#3. Grab your right foot with your right hand and gently pull it until you feel a stretch through the front of your leg. Hold the stretch for about 20 seconds. This completes 1 repetition.
#4. Repeat on the opposite side for the same length of time.
Safety Pointer: If needed, stabilize yourself by holding on to a chair or placing your hand on a wall.
HAMSTRING STRETCH – Body-Weight Stretch (Home or Gym)
Muscle Group: Hamstrings
#1. Start by standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
#2. Take your left leg and lift it, placing it on a raised platform or chair seat in front of you. Make sure to keep your leg straight (not bent at the knee).
#3. Gently lean forward at the hips to bring your torso over your leg and reach toward your toes.
#4. Continue moving forward until you feel a comfortable stretch through the back of your leg. Hold the stretch for a minute and then return to standing. This completes 1 repetition.
#5. Repeat on the opposite leg for the same length of time.
Safety Pointer: For added stability, hold on to something like a chair or the wall as you stretch.
INNER-THIGH STRETCH – Body-Weight Stretch (Home or Gym)
Muscle Group: Inside thighs
#1. Start by sitting on the floor with your knees bent and your feet together in front of you. Allow your knees to move out to each side.
#2. Grab on to your feet and lean forward until you feel a stretch through your inner thighs.
#3. Hold the stretch for a few moments and then release the tension. This completes 1 repetition.
Safety Pointer: Avoid bouncing, but rest your elbows on your knees and gently push down to enhance your stretch.
CALF STRETCH – Body-Weight Stretch (Home or Gym)
Muscle Group: Calves
#1. Start by standing in front of a wall.
#2. Take a step backwards with your left leg, then lean forward and place your hands on the wall in front of you.
#3. Press your right heel into the ground as you continue to lean forward, feeling a stretch throughout your calf muscle.
#4. Switch feet and do the same stretch on the other side. This completes 1 repetition.
Safety Pointer: Bend your knees slightly to feel a deeper stretch through the calves.
Back Stretch – Body-Weight Stretch (Home or Gym)
Muscle Group: Back
#1. Start by standing a foot or two away from a wall, table, or similarly stable structure.
#2. Stretch out your arms and place your hands on the surface while leaning forward at the waist.
#3. Feel a gentle stretch through your back. Then, slowly roll your body up into a standing position. This completes 1 repetition.
Safety Pointer: If you have any type of shoulder injury, avoid putting your hands on a surface and simply bend at the waist and allow your torso to hang forward while you feel a comfortable stretch through your back.
CHEST STRETCH – Body-Weight Stretch (Home or Gym)
Muscle Groups: Chest, shoulders
#1. Start by standing in a doorway with your feet about shoulder-width apart and placing your left forearm on the edge of the frame. Bend your arm and keep your elbow at about chest level.
#2. Gently lean your torso forward until you feel a comfortable stretch across your chest area.
#3. Remove your arm from the wall and repeat on the opposite side of the body. This completes 1 repetition.
Safety Pointer: Perform the stretch slowly and avoid rotating your arm too far back.
HIP STRETCH – Body-Weight Stretch (Home or Gym)
Muscle Groups: Hips, lower back, glutes
#1. Start by lying on your back with your feet flat and your knees bent.
#2. Pick up your right leg and turn it so that you can place your right ankle across your left knee.
#3. Reach your right arm through your legs and your left arm around the outside of your left thigh to pull your left leg toward your torso. You should feel a nice stretch through your entire hip region.
#4. Place your right leg back on the floor and repeat the stretch using the left leg. This completes 1 repetition.
Safety Pointer: Keep your back flat and your head on the floor as you do this stretch.
OVERHEAD TRICEPS STRETCH – Body-Weight Stretch (Home or Gym)
Muscle Group: Triceps
#1. Start by standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Lift your right arm up and bend at the elbow so that your hand is behind your head.
#2. Using your left arm, gently grab your right elbow and pull your arm toward and slightly behind your head.
#3. Feel a comfortable stretch in your right triceps muscles and then release.
#4. Repeat the stretch on the left side. This completes 1 repetition.
Safety Pointer: Don’t pull too hard when performing this stretch. Keep gentle pressure on the arm being stretched but never pull so hard that you cause pain.
ARM CIRCLES – Body-Weight Stretch (Home or Gym)
Muscle Groups: Arms, shoulders
#1. Start by standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
#2. Raise your arms straight out to your sides, keeping your hands fully extended. This is your starting position.
#3. Rotate your arms forward in a small circle. This completes 1 repetition.
#4. To complete a full set, do 10 circles in the forward direction, gradually increasing the size of the circles before switching directions, and do 10 more rotations in the opposite direction.
#5. For an additional stretch, repeat the same sequence but flex your hands upward. Then repeat the sequence again with your hands flexed down.
LEG PENDULUMS – Body-Weight Stretch (Home or Gym)
Muscle Groups: Legs, hips
#1. Start by standing with your feet slightly apart and your hands on your hips. For added balance and stability, grab onto a chair or a countertop.
#2. Lift your right leg and swing it forward and backwards. This completes 1 repetition.
#3. To complete a set, perform 10 repetitions on the right side, increasing your range of motion with each leg swing. Then, switch legs and repeat the sequence.
TORSO TWISTS – Body-Weight Stretch (Home or Gym)
Muscle Groups: Back, abdominals
#1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
#2. Place your hands on your hips.
#3. Keep the lower half of your body facing forward while twisting your upper body and head to the right as far as is comfortable for you.
#4. Bring your upper body back to the centre and repeat on the opposite side. This completes 1 repetition.
CAT COW – Body-Weight Stretch (Home or Gym)
Muscle Groups: Back and lower back, shoulders
#1. Start by getting on your hands and knees, with your palms down and hands directly under your shoulders. Your back should be flat like a tabletop. This is your starting position.
#2. Lower your head and arch your back upward (like a cat) until you feel a comfortable stretch through your upper back, shoulders, and hip area.
#3. Bring your belly down and gently arch your back in the opposite direction, raising your head up and back. Feel a stretch through the front of your body. This completes 1 repetition.
#4. To complete a full set, repeat both movements 10 times.
Do you have to take supplements with flexibility training?
Flexibility training can help you perform better during exercise. That said, being overweight will hinder your body’s ability to move freely.
In obese adults, flexibility is gradually impaired due to postural changes, which are exacerbated by sedentary behaviour and biological ageing.
However, it’s hard to get into shape after 40. Therefore, along with regular flexibility training, you might also consider taking natural supplements to support weight loss.
Resurge is of the most popular weight loss supplements that promise to help you shed pounds and sleep better. Because studies have shown that sleep deprivation is associated with deficiencies of growth hormone and elevated levels of cortisol, both of which contribute to obesity.
While other supplements promote nutritional factors, meal replacement forms, appetite suppression, or similar effects, Resurge boosts your body’s metabolism by increasing your core temperature. However, before making any purchases, you might want to read some Resurge reviews because the supplement industry is rife with scams.
Besides, it should be noted that pills or supplements only work when combined with a healthy weight-loss diet and regular exercise. Supplements are ineffective on their own and are hardly a solution to obesity.
In any case, it’s always best to talk with your doctor before you start taking a supplement, especially if you are taking medications or have any health concerns.