Stretching exercises, splits training at home. Flexibility training.
Stretching may not be the most exciting part of working out, but doing flexibility work is just as important for a well-rounded fitness routine as strength and cardio work. Incorporating some stretching exercises into your workout schedule will help you improve flexibility, reduce tightness, and ultimately, make your workouts more efficient and safe.
Tight muscles can cause undue strain on the neighboring joints during normal daily function, or they themselves can become injured," Sasha Cyrelson, D.P.T., clinical director at Professional Physical Therapy in Sicklerville, New Jersey, tells SELF. As we age, our muscles get shorter and less elastic, she adds. "We need to take an active role in maintaining and improving the length of our muscles so we can continue to enjoy our abilities without pain.
Standing Hamstring Stretch.
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, arms by your sides.Exhale as you bend forward at the hips, lowering your head toward floor, while keeping your head, neck and shoulders relaxed.Wrap your arms around backs of your legs and hold anywhere from 45 seconds to two minutes.Bend your knees and roll up when you're done.
The piriformis muscle is a deep internal hip rotator, located on the outside of the butt. Its primary role is external rotation, Atkins says. "Deep internal rotators, while small, produce a lot of the movement at the hip and are often overlooked.Since the piriformis crosses over the sciatic nerve, "if it is tight, it can result in sciatic nerve irritation, Cyrelson says. Stretching this muscle can prevent potential future sciatica, or help treat it.
Lunge With Spinal Twist
Atkins notes that this stretch is commonly referred to as the World's Greatest Stretch (WGS) in the fitness community. And for good reason: "It's essential to help with posture-related pain or for people who sit for prolonged periods of time," says Dan Giordano, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., cofounder of Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy in New York City and Seattle. "It helps open your hips and improve thoracic (mid-back) mobility," he tells SELF.
Figure Four Stretch
"This specifically stretches the piriformis and iliopsoas muscles (essentially your hip rotator and flexor muscles) and the IT band. Because of this and the passive nature of the pose, it is an excellent and gentle approach to helping relieve symptoms associated with sciatica and knee pain," John Murray, yoga instructor and co-founder of Lyons Den Power Yoga, tells SELF.
This modification of pigeon pose helps with internal rotation of one leg and external rotation of the other, "so you're hitting both movements of the hip at once," Atkins says. It's a good option for people who have extremely tight hip flexors, she adds. "The front thigh is safely on the ground in a position that doesn't cause too much stress."
"Most of us sit and cross our legs, which can lead to tight hips and result in lower-back pain," Lacee Lazoff, a NASM-certified personal trainer and instructor at the Fhitting Room in New York City, tells SELF. "This stretch directly target tights spots in the hips/groin and is especially useful for runners."