There’s nothing better than a good morning stretch. Flexibility has many benefits including lowering blood pressure, improving circulation, lower cholesterol, and even lowering heart rate.
Are you stretching the wrong way?
There are many tools to help improve flexibility including percussion guns, infinity balls, foam rollers and even stretch straps. Which brings us to our next question of how do these help with flexibility?
Percussion tools can help relax tight muscles, break up scar tissue and adhesions, and minimize muscle soreness and tension. This may help make it easier to move but not necessarily help you become more flexible. It’s like when you have on a pair of tight jeans, and you move around to loosen them. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, percussion therapy can be as effective as massage in preventing muscle soreness.
Infinity Balls and Foam Rollers
Like percussion tools, infinity balls and foam rollers help with releasing compressed tissues. This self-myofascial release technique can help relieve muscle tightness, soreness, reduce inflammation and improve flexibility. Rolling the muscles of your thigh, feet, shoulders and back on these tools can bring blood flow to the muscles and help with recovery.
How can you improve flexibility?
The only way to become more flexible is to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the joints. Joint range of motion is limited by the structural integrity of the body, meaning the bones, ligaments and tendons. However, the muscles control how much the joint can move. Stronger muscles will pull a joint out of alignment, and the opposing muscles become tight. Stretching alone will not make you more flexible. Therefore, stretching and flexibility training are a little different. Although you can stretch daily to have the benefits of stretching like lower blood pressure and improve circulation, the only way to become more flexible is to strengthen the muscles as well.
Tech Neck and Neck Pain
Many people feel tightness in their shoulders and upper back due to the role technology plays in our daily lives. The average American spends over 7 hours looking at a screen each day. According to data from DataReportal, the average American spends 7 hours and 11 minutes looking at a screen every day.
One of the best stretches for this type of limited range of motion is the wide pull behind the back.
Wide Pull Stretch - Standing with hands on nylon straps midway between loops and rings, or where it is most comfortable, and elastic center around the back, press arms out to sides and squeeze shoulder blades together to open the chest. This stretch targets the thoracic spine and opens the chest. When the chest muscles are much stronger than the upper back muscles the shoulders round forward and create a hunched like posture.
Low Back Pain
Low back pain targets 8/10 Americans over the course of their lifetime. It can be chronic, nagging and stiff pain in and around the lower back and hips. Two great exercises to help alleviate this tightness are the Hamstring Stretch and Quad Stretch.
Hamstring Stretch - This stretch may be performed standing or lying down. When you perform it standing, it helps strengthen the tight hip flexors while providing stretch on the hamstrings. Lift one leg up towards the ceiling and flex the foot, keeping the leg straight but not locking the knee. Feel the stretch in the back of the leg and pump the ankle flexing and pointing 10x. Then lower the leg back to the ground and repeat on the other side. Perform 4-6x on each leg. Using a Flexistretcher will add resistance and stability while performing this stretch.
Standing Quad Stretch – Begin by standing on one leg and use a Flexistretcher to assist in holding the foot up towards the back side of the body. Use your glutes to push the hips forward and tuck them under. This positioning helps deepen the stretch. Hold this for 10-30 seconds and perform 4-6 repetitions on each side. This exercise will stretch the quads and front of thigh.
Total Body Stretching
If you’re looking for one great stretch for the whole body, the Side Overhead Stretch is a favorite. It helps open the sides of the body from head to toe.
Overhead Stretch - Fold the Flexistretcher in half and hold one hand on loops and other hand on the elastic center. Place arms overhead. Holding tension in shoulders, bend to the side. Increase the stretch by placing one foot behind the other as you push the hips out to the side.
Stretching on a daily basis can help improve your posture by alleviating tight muscles in the lower back and upper shoulder blade area. It's also known to help reduce stress and improve breathing control. Additionally, stretching daily can help reduce the risk of injuries and improve your balance.
Andrea Metcalf is a celebrity fitness expert specializing in functional fitness including flexibility training. With over three decades of experience in the fitness world, a best-selling book, and more than 500 media appearances, she is a trusted fitness and wellness expert.