Becoming flexible doesn’t need to feel so far out of your reach. Use these stretches to gain flexibility in your entire body – even those tight areas.
These days, the terms “flexibility” and “mobility” are often mixed up. Flexibility refers to the ability of your muscles to stretch, while mobility means moving your joints through a range of motion.
You can improve flexibility and mobility using different types of stretches. Dynamic stretching is movement-based, and helps warm up the muscles before exercise and improve mobility. However, to improve flexibility, you want to do static stretching. This is the traditional form of stretching that most of us are familiar with, and it involves holding still in stretches for a specific amount of time.
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The best way to improve flexibility is to do static stretching right after exercising. This routine will help you loosen up those tight muscles so that you feel less stiff. If you do this routine regularly, you’ll ultimately improve your mobility as well. (1)
How to Stretch to See Real Results
- Warm up. Start by warming up your muscles for at least five minutes. You can do this by going for a walk or jog, taking a warm bath or shower, or using a heating pad.
- Hold the stretch. For best results, hold each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds (ideally one minute). Studies show that the older you are, the longer you should hold your stretches in order to see results. (2, 3)
- Stretch frequently. Stretch at least five times per week, or once a day if you can.
- Stick with it. Don’t expect to see huge results after just one week of stretching. Stay consistent with your stretching in order to see results.
- Always listen to your body. A good stretch should feel a bit intense, but never painful. If you aren’t able to breathe deeply in the stretch, readjust until you can take full breaths. If you ever feel sharp pain, stop the stretch immediately. If you are recovering from an injury, check with your doctor before starting a new stretching regimen.
Low Lunge | 30 sec per side
Bring flexibility back to your shortened hip flexors with this stretch.
- Begin in a low lunge position with your right foot between your hands and your left knee on the ground.
- Walk your hands onto your right thigh. Draw your navel up and in towards your spine, tilting your tailbone down towards the floor.
- Inhale, then exhale to gently press your hips forward. Keep your abs engaged and hold for at least 30 seconds. Switch sides.
Scissor Stretch | 30 sec per side
This simple stretch improves the flexibility in your hamstrings and outer hip muscles.
- Remain in a low lunge position, with your right foot between your hands. Step your left foot forward about a foot so that you can place the left heel on the ground. The toes should point out at a 45-degree angle.
- Straighten out both legs as much as you can while keeping your fingertips on the ground. Keep your right hip in line with your left hip so that you feel a stretch through the outside of the right hip and thigh.
- Hold for at least 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Pigeon | 30 sec per side
Use this classic yoga pose to bring flexibility back to tight hips.
- Begin in a high plank position.
- Pick up your right foot and bring the right knee behind your right wrist. Move your foot over towards the left hip and lower the leg down.
- Flex your right toes and straighten your left leg back behind you. Inhale to lengthen your spine, then exhale to fold your torso over your right shin. You should feel your right outer hip and quad stretching.
- Hold for at least 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Standing Quad Stretch | 30 sec per side
The quadriceps often get tight from walking or exercising. This stretch helps to stretch them back out.
- Start standing with your left hand resting on a wall or chair.
- Pick up your right foot and catch the top of the foot with your right hand. Line up your knees and hug the right heel towards the glutes to feel a stretch through your quad and hip flexor.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Kneeling Calf Stretch | 30-60 sec per side
Improve the flexibility in your calves with this easy stretch.
- Start in a tabletop position.
- Straighten your right leg back behind you and flex the toes on the ground.
- Press back into your right heel until you feel a stretch in the calf.
- Hold for at least 30 seconds. Switch sides.
Wall Chest Stretch | 30 sec per side
Shortened chest muscles are a common problem. This stretch reverses tightness by lengthening the muscles back out.
- Stand facing a wall.
- Bend your right elbow to a 90-degree angle and place the forearm on the wall.
- Slowly rotate your torso to the left until you feel a nice stretch in the right side of your chest and in the front of the right shoulder.
- Hold for at least 30 seconds and then switch sides.
Side Stretch | 30 sec per side
A sedentary lifestyle leads to tight lats and intercostal muscles that cause back pain and shortness of breath. This stretch brings flexibility back to those muscles on the sides of the body.
- Sit in a comfortable crossed-legged position.
- Place your left palm on the floor next to your left hip and inhale to reach your right arm overhead.
- Exhale to reach your right arm up and over to the left to come into a side stretch. Keep your right glute on the ground and hold for at least 30 seconds. Then, switch sides.
Cow Face Arms | 30 sec per side
This pose increases flexibility in the shoulders and triceps.
- Find a comfortable seat or standing position. Reach your right arm overhead and bend the elbow to place the hand behind your head. Place your left hand on the right elbow to feel a stretch in the triceps.
- Then, rest your left arm down by your side. Bend the elbow and reach the hand up your lower back, bringing your hands as close together as possible. If you can, clasp your hands.
- Sit up tall and hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Supine Twist | 30 sec per side
Finish your routine with this relaxing stretch that increases flexibility in the back, hips, and chest.
- Lie on your back with your legs long.
- Hug your right knee into your chest. On an exhale, use your left hand to cross your right leg over your body to come into a spinal twist. Straighten your right arm out to the side and keep the shoulder on the ground.
- Breathe deeply here for at least 30 seconds, then hug both knees into the chest to neutralize the spine. Switch sides.
Committed to increasing your flexibility? Try these yoga modifications that prime your body to get into the more complicated poses, or try your hand at these inversions that lead you up to a handstand.