If you feel about as supple as a steel girder, just five minutes of flexibility stretches a day can help.
One thing to know is that you're not alone, with many people suffering from flexibility issues. ‘The nature of modern life means we have become more immobile and inflexible,’ explains personal trainer Emily Cole. 'Being sat at a desk or inactive for prolonged periods can lead to muscle tightening.'
But why does flexibility matter? ‘It’s important to have a certain degree of flexibility to perform basic everyday activities without the risk of injury,’ says Emily. ‘It can also benefit your workout because you'll have an increased range to perform certain exercises, particularly big compound movements such as squats or deadlifts, which are brilliant fat-burning exercises.’
The answer is stretching. ‘Stretching regularly – even for five minutes a day – will improve your flexibility,’ says Emily.
‘Stretching will not permanently elongate the muscles fibres (which is good, as we don't want them to decrease in elasticity), but we can train our nervous system to tolerate a greater degree of muscle extension without firing pain signals,' she explains. It’s all about coaxing your body into allowing you to push the limits that little further.
With that in mind, Emily has devised a five-minute daily routine of flexibility stretches. Done regularly, your flexibility should improve within eight to 12 weeks.
Use your phone, fitness watch or an app like Seconds Pro to time stretches so you hold them long enough. With the latter, you can even set it to guide you through the routine. You might also like to use an exercise mat for some of the moves for comfort and to avoid slipping - take a look at our pick of the best yoga mats if you don't already own one.
Flexibility stretches: Couch stretch
Good for: opening up the hip flexors and releasing the hamstrings.
- Kneel on the floor with your back to a couch/wall. Place one knee directly against the back of the couch/wall, making sure you have something soft underneath it. Your shin and top of your foot should also be in a straight line up against the couch/wall.
- Bring your opposite foot out in front at a 90-degree angle to help you balance.
- Try to kneel up straight and lift the hands off the floor if possible.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then swap sides.
Flexibility stretches: Pigeon stretch
Good for: opening up the hips and stretching the glutes.
- Begin in a Downward Dog yoga position, then step your right foot towards your left hand and lower the outside of your right buttock, thigh and knee to the floor (aiming for your leg forming a 90-degree angle on the floor).
- Slide your left leg out long behind you, with the top of your left foot flat on the floor.
- Sink into the stretch, lowering your chest towards the floor.
- Hold for 60 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Flexibility stretches: Forward fold
Good for: Lengthening the hamstrings.
- Stand, feet together, bend your knees slightly and fold your torso over your legs, bending from the hips.
- Place hands next to your feet, on the ground or as low as you can reach without arching the spine.
- Inhale and extend your chest to lengthen your spine, then exhale and fold deeper, lengthening your legs as much as possible. Hold for one minute.
Flexibility stretches: Wall stretch
Good for: Working your pectoral muscles to improve posture.
- Place your right forearm against a wall – your elbow should be in line with your shoulder, with your wrist directly above your elbow.
- Turn your body away from that arm until you start to feel a good stretch through the chest.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
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