Flexibility is more than just the ability to bend over to touch your toes. If you use a prosthetic limb, improving your flexibility is even more critical as it helps you prevent injuries and improve your overall prosthetic balance. And if your muscles are well-stretched, you can be sure that you can achieve full range of motion, making movement easier.
Flexibility is also essential to relieving soreness and muscle tension, helping promote relaxation. And since flexibility allows your muscles to achieve full range of motion, it also improves your endurance, aerobic fitness, and muscular strength.
However, flexibility is different from mobility. The former refers to your muscles and connective tissues' ability to stretch temporarily, while the latter refers to your joints' ability to move pain-free. Flexibility is a crucial factor in achieving mobility.
A game plan to improve your flexibility
When it comes to boosting your flexibility, merely adding a few stretches to your routine isn't enough. It requires a more holistic approach that includes static and dynamic stretches as well as breathwork. Adding strength training to your exercise routine will also further improve your overall mobility and flexibility.
We outlined below a few moves that you can add to your existing exercise plan. You can also do these in your morning and evening routines. Being consistent with your stretches and breathwork will significantly impact your flexibility and mobility over time.
Proper breathing is not as simple as it seems. Many of us tend to hold our breath when we're stressed and when exerting physical effort, such as during exercise.
Learning proper breathing techniques is essential to helping you breathe more effectively and with less energy, perfect for when you're executing a challenging exercise move. It also engages your core muscles and diaphragm, which are essential when stretching and strength training.
Belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, is the first step to being in tune with your body.
Stand or sit on a chair with your back straight. Place your hands on either side of your rib cage so you can feel it expand and deflate.
Inhale through your nose and fill your lungs with air.
Exhale through your mouth. Engage your core and pelvic floor muscles as you push the air out.
- Repeat for 10 breath cycles.
This popular yoga move opens your chest and stretches your spine, perfect after sitting on a desk the whole day.
On all fours, make sure your wrists are under your shoulders, and your knees are directly under your hips.
Arch your back when you inhale. Look towards the ceiling and allow your stomach to drop toward the ground.
Round out your back when you exhale. Allow your head to drop or hang and feel the stretch on the length of your back.
- Repeat for five breath cycles.
Static stretching refers to stretching and holding a position for a few seconds or minutes. But before attempting any stretching, be sure to warm up. Walking or marching in place is an excellent warm-up move, decreasing your chances of getting injured while stretching.
It's easy to neglect the neck area when exercising. But sitting hunched at a desk all day or sleeping in the wrong position makes you prone to a stiff neck or "text neck," which affects your alignment and overall comfort.
Place your right hand on the top left side of your head.
Gently tilt your head to the right. Hold this position for three to five breaths.
- Repeat on the other side.
We see the forward fold in every yoga class for a reason. It stretches the entire backside of your body, including your spine, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. It also helps release stress, improve digestion, and minimize headaches.
Stand with your feet close together. Slowly bend forward at your hips, bringing your head to your knees. You can release your hands to the ground, or you can hold your opposite elbows.
Allow your head to hang, and keep a small bend in your knees to protect your joints.
- Hold this pose for five breath cycles.
Dynamic stretches are movement-based. It puts your muscles and joints through a full range of motion.
We commonly hold muscle tension in the upper back and shoulders. Arm circles can help loosen up these areas.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms down at your sides.
Keep your arms straight. Aim to draw circles with your fingertips.
You don't have to do huge arm circles, especially when your shoulders feel tight. You can gradually work towards creating huge arm circles.
- Repeat going the opposite way with your arms.
Low-Impact High Knees
Think HIIT high knees without needing to jump. This move will still get the blood pumping to your lower limbs while stretching your knee joints, glutes, and hips.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Lift one knee, then bring your foot back down to the ground.
Immediately lift the other knee.
Repeat this move 10 times on both legs.
These moves are safe to do every day. However, it's important to listen to your body. If you feel significant discomfort or pain, stop immediately to avoid muscle strain.And lastly, aim for consistency over perfection. If you do these exercises regularly, you'll eventually get to where you want to be and achieve flexibility.