The 7-Minute Flexibility Routine

March 30, 2013 | Dana Hammer

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A flexibility routine should comprise a third of your overall fitness program. Stretching your entire body not only alleviates post-workout soreness but helps to prevent injuries—both extremely important for any athlete. (See How to Optimize Your Stretching Routine.)

Here are some quick stretches for flexibility designed for the entire body. The full sequence should only take seven minutes. (Check out 8 Stretching Mistakes.)

Note: Do not attempt any of these stretches if they don't feel right for your body or an injury prevents you from carrying them out comfortably and safely.

Neck Rolls

  • Begin standing with your feel hip-width apart
  • Roll your neck side to side in little half circles
  • If you find a spot with a knot in it,  hold it there and breathe into the knot
  • Otherwise, keep rocking side to side for a minute

Upper Body Stretch

  • Start with your arms fully extended in front, palms pressed together, fingertips facing away from you
  • As you inhale, open your arms out to the sides
  • Stretch your chest and arms, lifting your breastbone toward the ceiling
  • Keep pulling your shoulder blades back and together
  • As you exhale, take your hands back together in front of you with your arms fully extended again
  • Round your upper back and drop your chin, stretching your upper back and shoulders
  • Repeat several times for up to a minute, moving with your breathing

Side Bends

  • Still standing, with your feet about hip-distance apart and rooted firmly into the ground, lift your left arm up and reach overhead, fingertips pointing to the right
  • You want to feel an opening through your ribcage, lats and obliques
  • Hold for about 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side
  • Make sure you don't let your chest collapse
  • Keep your top shoulder pulling back toward the wall behind you

Forward Fold

  • From your standing position, fold forward, letting your head drop toward the floor
  • Pretend the top of your head and the floor are magnets, pulling toward each other; the goal is to stretch out your hamstrings and back
  • If you find this stretch too intense, bend your knees a little bit; if you want more intensity, take your hands to the backs of your calves and pull your nose closer to your knees as you exhale
  • Do not hold any tension in your neck or upper body; the weight of your upper body will help you to fold more deeply into the stretch
  • Hold for up to a minute

Cat/Cow

  • Come on to your hands and knees with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hipbones
  • On an inhale, arch your back and look up, releasing your tailbone and stretching your abdominals
  • On your exhale, press into your hands and round your back, getting a dome shape in your upper back like a cat
  • Repeat a few times, moving very slowly, vertebrae by vertebrea, to stretch your spine from top to bottom

Quad Stretch

  • Sit back on your heels, stretching out your quads
  • If you don't feel a stretch, move your hands behind you for support and lean back a bit until you feel a stretch
  • Hold for up to a minute

Child's Pose

  • From an all-fours position, push your hips back toward your heels and rest your forehead on the ground
  • It's okay if your hips don't touch your heels as long as they're headed in that direction
  • Stretch your arms out in front of you
  • Assume the pose with your knees together or apart, whichever is more comfortable for you; the goal is to round the back, releasing tension from the spine
  • Hold for about a minute
Topics: STRETCHING

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