Full-body flexibility for beginners
A guide to full-body flexibility exercises
We all know we need to stretch and the specific stretches you need to do really depend on the type of activities you do. For example, if you are into swimming you will need to focus more on the upper body while a runner needs to focus on the legs. However, regardless of your activity, if you swim, run, play golf or even sky dive – it’s a good idea to do a full body stretch regularly. The stretching routine below addresses all the major muscle groups, so you can pick and choose the ones you need if you are short of time.
You should stretch to the point at which you feel tension and a slight pulling sensation in the muscle but not pain. Aim for 15-30 seconds to improve flexibility and ideally repeat each stretch twice.
Stand in front of a support between knee and hip height. Extend your right leg and place it on the support, with the foot relaxed. You should be at a distance that allows the left leg to be perpendicular to the floor. Now hinge forward from the hips, keeping the pelvis level and the right knee straight. Feel the stretch along the back of the thigh. Change to the left leg.
Stand tall with feet parallel and then lift your right heel, taking your right hand behind you to grab the foot, bringing it towards your buttocks. Keep the pelvis in a neutral position and gently press the foot into your hand, keeping knees close together. It doesn’t matter if your stretching thigh is in front of the supporting one (this indicates tightness), as long as you feel a stretch. Swap sides.
Hip flexors stretches
From a lunge position on the floor, with the right foot forward, take your left back knee to the floor with the lower leg extended behind it, and adjust your position so that your pelvis is in neutral and your right leg bent at a right angle. You can support yourself with your hands on the floor or on the front thigh (not the knee). Feel a stretch along the front of the left thigh and hip.
Standing in front of a wall, take a lunge forward with the left leg, keeping the right leg straight out behind you, with the heel on the floor. Feet should both be pointing directly forward or the toes pointing slightly inwards. Use the wall for support and keep your pelvis in line with your back (your bum shouldn’t be sticking out!) Now stand on a step or curb with your right heel overlapping the back edge of it. Bend at the knees and hips and, keeping most of your weight on the left leg, gently press the right heel down, simultaneously pulling the toes up. Repeat both stretches on the left leg.
Outer thighs stretches
Sit on the floor with legs outstretched. Bend your right knee up, placing the foot on the floor close to the back of the thigh. Wrap your left arm around the bent leg and gently turn the torso until you feel a stretch along the outer right thigh. Swap legs.
Inner thighs stretches
Sit up tall, with the soles your feet together and your hands wrapped loosely around your feet. Gently press down on the inside of the knee or thighs with the elbows to open the legs, creating a stretch along the inner thighs.
Lie on your back and bring the right knee close into your chest, hands wrapped around the shin, the knee fully bent. Hold the position, release and then bring the knee across the body towards the left shoulder, and hold again. Swap sides.
Lower back stretches
Begin on all fours, hands under shoulders, knees under hips, head in line with spine. First, extend the spine by arching the back gently, opening the chest, lifting the head and tilting the hip bones backwards. Pause, then go back through the start position into a rounded position, dropping the head, opening the back of the shoulders and tucking the hips under. Gently pull in the tummy.
Stand with feet hip distance apart, arms by your sides. Allow your right hand to travel down the right leg as you allow the entire torso to drop to the right feeling a stretch along the left side. Pause, then return to the start position and sink down to the left side. To increase the stretch, perform with your hands linked above your head.
Stand in a doorway with your right foot in front of your left and your right arm bent at shoulder level, the forearm resting against the frame. Now gently lean through the doorway until you feel a stretch along the front of the chest and right shoulder. Turn around and repeat the stretch on the left.
Upper back stretches
Clasp your hands together, palms facing your body and push the arms away from you, feeling a stretch along the back of the shoulders and upper back. Try to make your upper back into a ‘C’ shape.
Raise your right arm overhead and allow it to drop down behind your back. Now take the left hand up and gently push the right elbow back until you feel a stretch along the back of the right arm. Swap sides.
Bring your right arm across the body, just below shoulder height, and use your left hand (holding above the right elbow) to gently press the arm towards the chest. Don’t hunch the shoulder up. Swap sides.
Sit or stand tall, and take your head directly to the right side, not allowing it to tilt upwards or downwards. To increase the stretch, extend the left arm, pointing fingers down towards the floor. Change sides.
How often to stretch?
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that a full body stretch should be carried out at a minimum of two to three times per week and ideally after a workout, when your muscles are nice and warm. But if you can find time to complete a full body stretch more often then do it by all means.