How to Improve Flexibility

Three Methods:Exercise and StretchingYoga and PilatesAlternative Methods

It's important to have good flexibility so you don't injure yourself. This does not just apply to athletes: anyone can hurt themselves if they happen to move the wrong way and overstretch a tight muscle. Flexibility exercises are especially important as we age, since much flexibility can be lost (making it harder to complete basic tasks and slowly decreasing independence). Increasing flexibility isn't hard but it doesn't happen overnight. You have to keep at it until you reach your goal and then stretch on a regular basis to keep yourself at that level.

Method 1
Exercise and Stretching

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    Always warm up before stretching. The very first thing you must do before stretching is a warm up jog, run, or bike to get loose. You don't have to run or bike that hard or far, but it is good to do at least 20 minutes of warm up before stretching. This will prevent injury and strain.
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    Try to stretch after a full workout. Try to do a full workout before stretching. This will ensure that your muscles are as warm and loose as possible, ensuring you get the most out of your stretching sessions.
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    Do dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching should always be done before static stretching. Dynamic stretching includes motion and is meant to mimic and exaggerate the movements of actual exercise and daily motions. This is a much safer form of stretching.[1]
    • Do Inchworms: Beginning in a pushup position, slowly walk until your feet are as close to your hands as you can get them. Once you’ve managed this, walk with your hands until you are back in the starting position. You can arch your back in order to add a spine stretch.
    • Do Leg Swings: Bracing yourself against a wall, swing your outside leg up like a clock pendulum. Increase the height of the swing with each return. Switch sides to do the other leg. You can do a similar exercise with your arms.
    • Do Walking Lunges: Take the deep, exaggerate steps show in the linked article by essentially walking and nearly dropping to your knee with each step. You can add even more stretch by twisting your upper body away from the extended back leg with each movement.
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    Do static stretching. Static stretching is the form of stretching that most people are familiar with from childhood gym classes. These are stretches done in a sitting or otherwise stationary position. These can increase flexibility but should only be done when working out is completed, as they present a large risk for injury to tight muscles.
    • Do a hamstring stretch: Sit and spread your legs apart. Reach forward to touch one foot at a time with your finger tips. You can also bend the leg which is not being reached if it makes the stretch less painful.
    • Do a butterfly groin stretch: Sit on the floor. Pull both ankles in towards your crotch, getting your heels as close as you can to touching your crotch. You can also press your knees to the floor to increase the stretch.
    • Do a shoulder stretch: Pull your elbow across the front of your body, towards the opposite shoulder, pressing against your arm as you do so.
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    Try the contract-relax method. You can do this alone or assisted. Move into a stretch, then release for a moment and contract the muscles in the area. Release the contraction and relax the muscles while moving into the stretch again. You should be able to stretch a little farther with each repetition. If you have assistance, instruct the person to push your limb lightly into the stretch to help your muscle lengthen more.

Method 2
Yoga and Pilates

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    Try Yoga. Yoga is an Indian meditation technique and exercise which has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety (in turn aiding weight loss) and is excellent for building better balance and flexibility. Find a local group to practice with or take a class from a local gym or community center. You can also find lessons online or DVDs which will allow you to practice at home.
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    Try Pilates. Pilates is a series of movements and forms. Occasionally, tools like exercise balls, weights, and resistance bands can be used. It greatly improves balance and flexibility. Take a class from a local gym or community center, find a club at your university or retirement community, or find another local group to practice with. You can also find lessons online, as well as DVDs. This will let you to practice at home, which can be especially helpful if you are busy or self-conscious.
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    Consider combining these with exercise and stretching. Combining these with traditional exercise and stretching can help your flexibility even more. Alternate between the various systems and be sure not to overlap which muscle groups you work on in a given day or two. Overworking muscle groups can lead to strain and injury.

Method 3
Alternative Methods

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    Get a massage. Deep muscle techniques like Neuromuscular, Rolfing, and Myofascial Release are designed to get rid of problems in your body that can reduce flexibility. Only go to a massage therapist who is trained in these modalities because injury could occur if the therapist doesn't know exactly what she's doing. A standard massage can help as well, since it will improve circulation to the muscles, allowing them to repair any damage.
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    Use a hot tub or sauna. The heat of both of these environments can relax your muscles and aid flexibility. This should be used in conjunction with other methods, however, as it will do little on its own. Hot tubs and saunas are easily found at local fitness clubs and community pools.
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    Consider acupuncture. There is a small amount of evidence that acupuncture can help with flexibility.[2] At any rate, it is well demonstrated to relieve muscle pain and improve blood flow, both of which can help flexibility exercise regimens.


  • Hold stretches 90 seconds to a minute to really make progress, simply because it take your muscle 90 seconds to expand. Don't hold any stretches any longer than 5 mins.
  • Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply so muscles are not tense while you're stretching.
  • Also when stretching it is important not to force the stretch for example bouncing back and forth trying to touch your toes.
  • Always warm up and cool down, even if you haven't done any exercise. Your muscles will become more limber when they are warm and the risk of pulling something is lower. One possible warm-up activity is rotating your joints (e.g. shoulder rolls).
  • Always keep trying.
  • Different sports require different stretches.
  • Don't over-stretch. Stretch 2-3 times a day. Put 2-4 hours between each stretch.
  • When doing lunges make sure your front bent leg and back straight leg are aligned as you lunge.


  • Be patient. It might take a full year to reach your goal depending on how consistent you are. Keep doing it!
  • If it hurts a little just stay in that position and don't force yourself now or you will hurt yourself.

Article Info

Categories: Warm Ups Stretching and Flexibility