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Fitness

6 Stretches to Improve Flexibility

Warm Up Before Exercise

Both cardiovascular and strength training are important to an overall exercise routine, but where does flexibility fit in?

“Most of us can benefit from stretching more often to increase and maintain our flexibility,” says Kara Flexman, exercise physiologist at Northwestern Medicine Executive Health and Northwestern Medical Group. “From taking a yoga or Pilates class to stretching at your desk, there are many options.”

Flexman shares how the dynamic stretching routine below (demonstrated by Clare Barry, exercise physiologist at Northwestern Medicine Executive Health and Northwestern Medical Group) can help improve your range of motion.

“This type of stretching can elevate core temperature. That warms up the body and brings blood flow to the muscles, which may improve performance,” says Flexman.

To maximize the benefit from these stretches, practice the routine below before you exercise.

Consult your physician before embarking on a new exercise routine.

Dynamic Stretch Routine

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Cat/cow

Begin with your wrists directly below your shoulders, and knees directly beneath your hips. Inhale as you push through your hands into the ground and arch your spine as you look
forward. Exhale as you round your spine, pushing your hands into the floor and looking toward your belly. Move through these five to eight times.

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Thoracic spine rotation

From cat/cow, bring your left hand off the floor and behind your head. Push into your right hand into the floor and exhale as you rotate open, bringing your left elbow up toward the ceiling. Feel the stretch across your chest, shoulders and back. Inhale to return to the starting position. Move through these five to eight times. Repeat on the other side.

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Kneeling hip flexor

Start in a kneeling position with your back straight. Keeping your back straight, lean forward into the stretch. Hold this for two seconds, and return to the starting position. Feel the stretch in your quadriceps and hip flexors. Repeat these five to eight times on each side.

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Adductor rocking

Kneel with your hands in front of your legs and your right leg out to the side with your foot planted. Inhale and then as you exhale, shift your hips back towards your back foot until you feel a stretch in the inner thigh. Hold this for two seconds. Inhale as you return to the starting position. Repeat these five to eight times. Repeat on the other side.

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90/90

Begin seated on the floor. Bend your right knee so that your shin is parallel to your pelvis, placing it in front of your body. Bring your left leg and foot behind your hips. Bring your hands in front of your right shin. Feel the stretch in your front glute and hip. Inhale, keeping your back straight, and on an exhale, hinge forward from your hips as you bend your elbows and come deeper into the stretch. Hold this for two seconds, and then inhale as you straighten your arms and come back to the starting position. Repeat these five to eight times, and then switch to the other side.

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Standing roll down

This movement should be done slowly. Stand with your shoulders against a wall and place your heels six inches from the wall. Bring your chin toward your chest as you peel your spine away from the wall, reaching your hands toward your feet. Keep going until your low back is no longer touching the wall. Allow your head, neck and arms to relax into the stretch. Inhale as you begin to return to standing, and as you exhale, slowly bring your shoulders back to the wall. Repeat these three to five times.