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Flexibility & Stretching Routine

W.O.W. #7 February 21, 2021

Flexibility & Stretching Routine

Flexibility is super important for everyone, especially the sedentary (couch potatoes) and the 55+ demographic. Both lack of use and simple aging cause muscles to shorten and tighten up. Flexibility exercises, like stretching and yoga, gently reverse these.

A well-stretched muscle more easily achieves full range of motion. This improves functional abilities, such as reaching, bending, or stooping during daily tasks. And it improves athletic performance—imagine an easier, less restricted golf swing or tennis serve. Stretching can also be a great way to get you moving in the morning or a way to relax after a long day. This week’s W.O.W. workout is a routine of Morning & Evening Stretches.

Before we get to the specifics of the routine, take a look at some important points about Flexibility Exercising, i.e., stretching:

  • Stretch all muscle groups.
  • Never bounce as you stretch. This triggers a contracting reflex that actually tightens the muscle you’re trying to loosen.
  • Feel mild tension only. Extend your muscle to the point where you feel mild tension. You should never feel pain.
  • Breathe easily through your nose while stretching.
  • Hold and repeat. For best results hold a stretch for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat each stretch 2 to 6 times for a total of one minute.
  • Activities such as yoga combine stretching and relaxation and also improve balance, a wonderful combination.
  • The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults do flexibility exercises at least two or three times a week.

Now to our workout.


Morning & Evening Stretch Routines

For Morning Routine: focus on using a full range of motion. Only hold the stretch for about 10 seconds each time and work up to more repetitions.

For Evening Routine: Hold the stretches longer to help you and your muscles relax.

1. Full-body stretch

Starting position: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and hip-distance apart. Rest your arms at your sides.

Movement: Slide your feet until your legs are flat on the floor. Lift your arms to raise them over your head, lowering them until the backs of your hands and arms touch the floor. Hold. Return to the starting position.

Where you’ll feel it: Entire body

Reps: 2–6  Hold: 10–30 seconds

Tips and techniques:

• Keep your shoulders away from your ears.

• Keep your spine neutral, not overarching; do not flatten your back to the floor.

2. Knees to chest

Starting position: Lie on your back with your legs extended on the floor. Rest your arms at your sides.

Movement: This is a three-part stretch. Relax your shoulders against the floor.

1: Slowly bend your left knee and pull it in toward your chest with your hands. Hold. Return to the starting position.

2: Repeat, pulling your right leg in toward your chest. Hold. Return to the starting position.

3: Then repeat, pulling both knees in at the same time. That’s one rep.

Where you’ll feel it: Lower and middle back

Reps: 2–6 Hold: 10–30 seconds

Tips and techniques:

• When holding the stretch, remain as still as possible. Don’t repeatedly pump your leg to pull it in closer. As you hold, your muscles will gradually relax.

• Keep your head on the floor.

• Keep your shoulders away from your ears.

3. Lying torso rotation

Starting position: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet together, flat on the floor. Extend your arms out comfortably to each side at shoulder level.

Movement: Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift both knees toward your chest. Keeping your knees together, slowly lower them to the right side, resting them on the floor. Keep your shoulders relaxed and pressed into the floor as you turn your head in the opposite direction, looking toward your left hand. Feel the stretch across your chest and torso. Hold. Bring both knees back to center and return your left foot, then your right foot, to the floor. Repeat in the opposite direction. That’s one rep.

Where you’ll feel it: Back and chest

Reps: 2–6             Hold: 10–30 seconds

Tips and techniques:

• If it’s too difficult to rest your knees on the floor, place a folded blanket on the floor and rest them on it. If necessary,

put a rolled towel between your knees to make this stretch easier.

• Try to bring both knees up into the fetal position. Ideally, keep them together throughout the stretch.

4. Child’s pose 3 ways

Starting position: Kneel on all fours, knees hip-width apart, big toes touching, and head and neck in neutral alignment.

Movement: This is a three-part stretch.

1: Slowly lower your buttocks back toward your heels as you extend your hands in front of you and rest your forehead on the mat. Hold. Return to the starting position.

2: Walk your hands diagonally out to the left and place your right hand on top of your left hand. Slowly lower your buttocks back toward your heels. Hold. Return to the starting position.

3: Walk your hands diagonally out to the right and place your left hand on top of your right hand. Slowly lower your buttocks back toward your heels. Hold. Return to the starting position. That’s one rep.

Where you’ll feel it: Back, shoulders, and sides

Reps: 2–6             Hold: 5 deep breaths or 10–30 seconds

Tips and techniques:

• If you can’t lower your buttocks onto your heels, place a pillow or towel between your thighs and calves.

• While holding, take full breaths by inhaling gently through your nose and lengthening the outbreath as you exhale through your nose.

5. Cat-cow

Starting position: Kneel on all fours, knees hip-width apart. Align your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Keep your head and spine in neutral alignment.

Movement: Slowly round your back upward like a scared cat as you exhale. Pull your belly button in toward your spine and tuck your chin. Hold. Return to the starting position, then lift your head, chest, and tailbone, letting your belly slowly drop toward the floor as you inhale. Hold. This is one rep.

Where you’ll feel it: Back

Reps: 2–6             Hold: 5 deep breaths

Tips and techniques:

• The slow movements of this stretch are like a wave of your spine.

• Keep your shoulders away from your ears. Imagine sliding your shoulder blades down toward your back pockets.

• While holding, take full breaths by inhaling gently through your nose and lengthening the outbreath as you exhale through your nose.

You can do this routine daily

This information and routine are excerpted from “ Starting to Exercise,” Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School  |  www.health.harvard.edu  


*The exercises and progressions presented in this feature are intended for educational purposes. Always consult your healthcare practitioner before participating in exercises or activities that are contraindicated or more advanced than you are accustomed to. Discontinue exercise if you experience chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, dizziness, or unusual pain or fatigue.