How to Be Flexible

Four Methods:Dynamic StretchingStatic StretchingStretching Safely and EffectivelyOther Flexibility-Enhancing Activities

Flexibility can be an asset in gymnastics, dance, and most sports, as well as helping to prevent the risk of injury during any form of physical activity. The number one way to increase flexibility is by stretching - using both dynamic stretches (before a workout) and static stretches (after a workout). Using these methods, increasing your flexibility is actually pretty simple, all it takes is dedication and patience. See below for sample stretching exercises, along with tips on the safest and and most effective ways to increase flexibility fast.

Method 1
Dynamic Stretching

  1. Image titled Be Flexible Step 1
    Do walking lunges. Lunges are great for improving flexibility in your legs as they engage many of the main leg muscles, including your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves, in addition to loosening up your hips.[1] Incorporating a walking movement makes this stretch more dynamic. This is important as dynamic stretching has been found to be more effective than static stretching in increasing flexibility before a workout.[2] To perform a walking lunge:
    • Take a big step forward, bending your front knee until it is over or slightly behind the toes. Your back knee should almost be touching the ground, while your back should remain upright and your abdominal muscles tight.
    • Slowly raise yourself out of the lunge and step forward with your back leg, entering into a second lunge. Use slow, controlled movements to get the most out of your stretch. Repeat 10-15 times.
  2. Image titled Be Flexible Step 2
    Do straight leg kicks. Leg kicks are great for stretching out the hamstrings and improving hip mobility - two areas that are essential for good flexibility.[3] Just be careful not to kick your leg too high - you should only swing as far as feels comfortable, otherwise you risk injury. As your flexibility improves you will be able to kick your leg higher. To perform a straight leg kick:
    • Swing your leg upward in front of you, keeping your knee straight. Bend your toes back, so you feel the stretch through your heel. Remember to keep your back straight and don't bend the knee of your supporting leg.[4]
    • Aim to get your leg parallel with your hip, at first, then try to get your toes parallel with your shoulder, once flexibility increases.
    • You can do 10-15 repetitions of this exercise using the same leg, or you can perform it using a walking motion, alternating the stretches between both legs. Think of a marching tin soldier!
  3. Image titled Be Flexible Step 3
    Do arm circles. Arm circles are simple exercises with an important function - namely, loosening the shoulder joints. The shoulder joints have a higher potential range of motion than any other joint in your body - so they are a great place to start when you're looking to improve flexibility.[1] To perform arm circles:
    • Stand with your feet about a shoulder-width apart and extend your arms straight out to the sides, so they're in line with your shoulders. Begin rotating your arms forward in small, circular motions, without moving your wrists or elbows. After about 20 circles, change direction and begin rotating your arms backwards.[5]
    • To increase the intensity of the arm circles, you can rotate your arms faster or use weighted plates or dumbbells that are light enough to allow you to do 8-10 rotations.
  4. Image titled Be Flexible Step 4
    Do hacky-sacks. The hack-sack exercise - which imitates the movement used when playing hacky-sack - is great for targeting muscle groups that are often neglected, such as those in the inner thigh. It improves leg flexibility while also increasing the heart rate and helping coordination. To perform the hack-sack exercise:
    • Lift your leg up, bending your knee so that it points outwards. Try to tap either your ankle or the inside of your foot with the opposite hand, without bending forwards.[6]
    • Repeat 10 to 15 times on each leg. Incorporate a hopping motion to increase intensity.
  5. Image titled Be Flexible Step 5
    Do butt kicks. Butt kicks are a type of dynamic stretch which mainly target the quadriceps muscles, along with stretching the hip flexors. They can be performed while walking or jogging and are a great way to warm up before doing any exercise that involves running.[7] To perform butt kicks:
    • Bend your knee backwards in an exaggerated motion, until your heel hits your glutes. Your knee should be pointing towards the floor and form a straight line all the way to your torso. Repeat the exercise with the other leg, using either a walking or jogging movement. Do 10 to 15 repetitions with each leg.
    • Don't worry if your heel cannot quite reach, it is quite common to have a limited range of motion with this movement. You should be able to complete the exercise once your flexibility increases.

Method 2
Static Stretching

  1. Image titled Be Flexible Step 6
    Do hamstring stretches. Hamstrings stretches are an example of static stretching, which is great for increasing flexibility while the body is cooling down after a workout. To perform a hamstring stretch, sit down on the ground and extend your left leg straight in front of you. Bend your right leg so that that the sole of your right foot rests against your left knee. Bend forward while attempting to grasp your left ankle with both hands. Hold the stretch for approximately ten seconds, then repeat on the other leg.[8]
    • Once your flexibility increases, you can intensify this stretch by attempting to lock your fingers around the sole of your foot, rather than grabbing your ankle.
  2. Image titled Be Flexible Step 7
    Do calf stretches. To perform a calf stretch, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, facing a wall. Place both palms flat against the wall, at shoulder height. Bend your right knee and slowly move your left leg backwards, until you feel a stretch in your calf muscle. The heel of your left foot should remain firmly against the ground and the leg should be completely straight. Hold the stretch for about ten seconds, then repeat with the other leg.
    • Remember to keep your spine straight and your hips squarely facing the wall while doing this exercise, otherwise you won't get the full benefit of the stretch.[8]
  3. Image titled Be Flexible Step 8
    Do butterfly stretches. This exercise stretches the groin area and the inner thighs. To perform it correctly, sit on the ground and bend your legs so that the soles of your feet rest against each other. Your knees should be pointing up and out to the sides. Hold an ankle in each hand and rest your elbows on your knees. Using your elbows, exert a downward pressure on your knees, until you feel the stretch in your groin and inner thighs. Hold this position for approximately ten seconds. Repeat, if desired.[8]
    • As your flexibility increases, you will eventually be able to touch your knees to the ground - though this may take some time.
  4. Image titled Be Flexible Step 9
    Do the front splits. To perform this stretch, extend one leg in front of your torso and the other leg behind, placing a hand either side of your body for support. Slowly lower yourself as far into the stretch as you can go. You should feel a significant stretch, but it should not be painful. Hold the position for ten to thirty seconds. Repeat with the opposite leg in front, to stretch both sides equally.
    • Although you will probably be unable to achieve a full front splits until your flexibility increases dramatically, practicing the movement helps to stretch the hamstring and iliopsoas muscles and is a great way to work on your flexibility, while seeing measurable results.[9]
  5. Image titled Be Flexible Step 10
    Do an abdominal and lower back stretch. To get into position for this stretch, lie down facing the ground, then prop yourself up on your toes and elbows. Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders and the palms of your hands should be flat on the ground, pointing straight ahead. Make sure your spine is straight, forming a line from your head down.[8] To do the stretch:
    • Lift your right arm off the ground and point it straight ahead, until you feel the stretch in your core. Hold the stretch for ten seconds, then return to your starting position. Repeat with your left arm.[8]
    • When you have finished with your arms, lift your right leg off the ground and stretch it out directly behind you, toes pointing towards the ground. Hold for ten seconds, then repeat with the opposite leg.[8]
    • Next, simultaneously lift your right arm and leg off the ground and stretch them both together. Hold the stretch for ten seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat with the left arm and leg.[8]
  6. Image titled Be Flexible Step 11
    Do an upper back stretch. To perform this stretch, place your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart and bend your knees slightly. Interlock your fingers, palms facing outward, and stretch your arms out in front of your chest at shoulder-height. You are performing the exercise correctly if you can feel a slight stretch between your shoulder blades. Hold for ten to fifteen seconds.[8]
    • Allow your upper back to relax, in order to really get the full benefit of this stretch.
  7. Image titled Be Flexible Step 12
    Do arm/shoulder stretches. To perform this stretch, place your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart and bend your knees a little. Stretch your right arm across your body, in front of your chest, so that it's parallel with the ground. Bring your left arm up and use the forearm to gently squeeze your right arm closer to your body. You should feel the stretch in your upper arm and shoulder. Hold this stretch for ten to fifteen seconds, then repeat with the other arm.[8]

Method 3
Stretching Safely and Effectively

  1. Image titled Be Flexible Step 13
    Stretch regularly. Stretching can help you to significantly improve your flexibility, but only if you do it regularly. This is because stretching is all about keeping the muscles loose and limber - if you wait too long between stretching sessions, your muscles will tighten up again, leaving you right back where you started. For this reason, it is much better to do short but regular bursts of stretching than an hour-long weekly session.[10]
    • Try incorporating 20 minutes of stretching into your workout routine, five times a week.
    • To gain maximum benefits, break these 20 minutes up into 10 minutes of dynamic stretching before a workout and 10 minutes of static stretching post-workout.
  2. Image titled Be Flexible Step 14
    Breath properly. Breathing fully and deeply can noticeably improve your stretching sessions. Breathing deeply increases the oxygen flow to your bloodstream, improving circulation and removing harmful toxins and lactic acid from your muscles. This loosens up your muscles, making them easier to stretch. Inhaling deeply also helps your body to relax and really focuses your mind on the task at hand.[10]
    • Concentrate on breathing from your belly, rather than your chest. If you're doing this correctly, your stomach should inflate each time you take a breath. This engages the diaphragm, allowing for optimal oxygen intake.[11]
    • Inhale slowly through the nose and out through the mouth, in a measured, controlled fashion. Focus on the muscle or muscles that you're stretching as you breath - this awareness will help the muscles to relax even further as you exhale.[10]
  3. Image titled Burn Calories Fast Step 8
    Stay hydrated. Keeping your body hydrated is important for any form of physical activity and stretching is no exception. Muscles are mainly composed of water, so without adequate hydration muscles will fail to operate at peak levels. If your muscles are not working at an optimal level, you will fail to get the most from your stretches and find it more difficult to improve flexibility. Make sure to drink plenty of water before and during a workout to prevent dehydration.[11]
    • Drinking sports drinks is another way to rapidly improve hydration levels after a tough workout, while replacing lost energy and electrolytes.
  4. Image titled Be Flexible Step 15
    Stretch warm muscles. Stretching is most beneficial when performed on warm, even slightly tired muscles. It is for this reason that traditional, static stretching is best performed after a workout than before. Even your pre-workout dynamic stretches should be preceded by 30 seconds of jumping jacks or running on the spot to get the blood flowing and the muscles ready to go.[10] If you want to stretch but don't have time for working out, don't worry. You can also effectively warm muscles by contracting and releasing them:
    • Just hold the specific muscle that you want to stretch in a contracted state for a minimum of 30 seconds, before releasing and moving into your stretch. Your muscle will automatically feel more relaxed.[10]
  5. Image titled Be Flexible Step 16
    Focus on specific muscle groups. Stretching works most effectively when you target specific muscles or muscle groups individually, rather than trying to stretch them all at once. A properly performed stretching exercise will isolate just one muscle or group of muscles, so you can focus all of your energy where it's needed. The combined effect of each individual stretch will produce higher flexibility levels overall, than stretches which attempt to work several muscles at once.[10]
    • Therefore, to improve overall flexibility, you will need to develop a routine of at least 5-6 different stretching exercises, which target specific areas of the body, in order to increase the flexibility of each individual muscle.
  6. Image titled Be Flexible Step 17
    Stop immediately if you feel any pain. Stretching should never be painful, and if it is you are either pushing yourself too far or performing the exercise incorrectly. Increasing your flexibility is a process - you will not suddenly achieve it overnight. As a result, you need to ensure that you are performing your stretches in a safe, controlled manner, without putting your muscles at risk of pulling or tearing.
    • If you feel pain while stretching, stop immediately or at the very least reduce the intensity of the stretch - pushing yourself to stretch further than your body feels comfortable with will only do more harm than good.

Method 4
Other Flexibility-Enhancing Activities

  1. Image titled Be Flexible Step 18
    Do yoga. Yoga is great, low-intensity way to increase flexibility while relaxing the mind and improving overall feelings of well-being. Yoga combines static stretching exercises which involve holding a pose for a number of seconds - such as the Warrior or Forward Bend - along with slow, flowing sequences which stretch the body as it moves.[12]
  2. Image titled Be Flexible Step 19
    Take up pilates. Pilates is a more intensive form of stretching exercise than yoga, which has become extremely popular in recent years. Pilates works on increasing flexibility and endurance all over the body, with particular emphasis on strengthening the core. If you attend one or more pilates sessions a week, you can expect to see a dramatic increase in your flexibility in quite a short space of time.[12]
  3. Image titled Be Flexible Step 20
    Try dance classes. Dance classes can be a really fun way of improving your flexibility, especially if you try types of dance which incorporate a wide range of movement, such as ballet, zumba or salsa.[12] Find out what kind of dance classes are offered in your local area and rope in a partner or friend to come with you. You'll have so much fun your flexibility will increase without you even realizing!
  4. Image titled Be Flexible Step 21
    Eat healthily. Eating healthy, while not directly related to increasing flexibility, will help keep your body in good shape overall, thus allowing you to get more out of your stretching sessions and workouts. Eating right also helps to keep your muscles trim and lean, which will optimize their potential flexibility.
    • Try to incorporate more lean protein, like chicken and fish into your diet, along with plenty of fruit and vegetables, and complex carbohydrates like wholegrain cereals and bread and rice.
    • Avoided junk food which will leave you feeling bloated and sluggish, making stretching routines uncomfortable.


  • Don't expect to become extremely flexible the first day. Like anything else, gaining flexibility will take time.
  • Try not to skip breakfast; you need all the energy you can get. Studies show that by eating breakfast you will do better during the day.
  • If you feel strains in your muscles, don't push it. Try to get farther every day but don't go over it; it can tear your muscles.
  • If you forget to stretch, you may pull a muscle.


  • Don't go too far or too fast; you could tear your muscles.

Article Info

Categories: Warm Ups Stretching and Flexibility