Fit Tip: Improve Your Flexibility With This Simple Workout
For my 40th birthday I decided to throw caution to the wind and take a pole fitness dance class, something way, way, way outside of my comfort zone. While I definitely won’t quit my day job, pole dancing was a lot of fun and required massive amounts of core and upper body strength, not to mention a challenge to my leg flexibility.
I ended up working with a dance instructor who also happened to be a body contortionist (true story). She gave me four exercises to do that would help my flexibility so I could do side splits and straddles, or at least get flexible enough to get over my novice nerves.
Her tips? Keep your muscles warm! She made us wear sweatshirts and run laps for a full ten minutes before we even started so our muscles wouldn’t strain. She said to maintain flexibility you should stretch 2-3 times per week, but if you wanted to improve your flexibility, do these exercises 4-5 times per week with a day off to recover in between.
My tips? Breathe into the stretches! If you’re not flexible (like I wasn’t) these stretches will hurt at first but with practice you will see marked improvement quickly (like within two weeks.) Do not push or bounce into a stretch and only hold a stretch as long as it is comfortable.
|Cardio (warm-up)||1||10 minutes|
|Ballet Kicks||3||10 to the front, 10 to the side, 10 to the back|
|Ninja Deaths||3 each leg||90 seconds total|
Here are directions for the exercises:
- Holding a bar or a chair (or a pole!) for balance, your heels are together and your toes are apart.
- Front Kick: Slide your right foot up until your leg is waist high (or as high as you can comfortably go) keeping the left leg straight on the ground. Return the right foot to the ground. That’s one rep. Do 10.
- Side kick: Slide your right foot out to the side until your leg is hip high (or as high as you can comfortably go) keeping the left leg straight on the ground. Return the right foot to the ground. That’s one rep. Do 10.
- Back Kick: Slide your right foot up behind you until your leg is waist high (or as high as you can comfortably go) keeping the left leg straight on the ground. Return the right foot to the ground. That’s one rep. Do 10.
- Get into a lunge position, but put your right shin against a wall behind you. Hold onto a chair in front of you for balance. Hold for a count of 30 seconds.
- Then move left leg from a 90 angle to straight out. Lean over seat chair to get full stretch and hold for 30 seconds.
- Then try to reach both hands over head, reach back and touch the wall behind you and hold for 30 seconds.
- Hold onto chair and slowly move your shin off the wall. Shake out your legs and repeat on the other side.
- Put a long resistance band around your angles.
- Lie on your back and lift your legs. Do a straddle split in the air.
- Once you reach the point of tension in the band do 40 pulses.
- Lie with your back on the floor and your butt against the wall.
- Put your legs up on the wall. Do five ballistic straddle kicks, opening and closing your legs, trying to get your feet closer to the ground each time.
- Hold your legs in the open straddle position after the last kick for up to 1 minute.
- Gravity will help pull your legs lower to the ground.
- When you are completely done with the exercise, slowly close your legs at the top and roll your body to the side lowering them down into a fetal position and then stand up.
Stretching your body to become more flexible leads to greater range of motion and improved balance. It’s also something that can be done at home and it is easy enough to recognize your own progress. Remember to listen to your body and go slow. You can do it!