Stretching is so essential for a balanced level of fitness, strength, and mobility. Still, even the biggest fitness fanatics would rather be out running or lifting weights.
Stretching is a necessary part of any training regimen, be it cardio or strength, so it's important to find a stretching routine that you enjoy, that complements your workouts. Ignoring stretches will cause inflexibility, leading to injuries or long-term chronic pains, which could easily have been avoided.
With a pull up assist band set, you can start to liven up and vary your flexibility training. Resistance bands will help you to better target muscles that need stretching and give you more exercises to include in your stretching routine.
Let's take a detailed look at why stretching and flexibility exercises are so important to add to your regular training and check out our favorite resistance band stretches for flexibility and fitness!
Will stretching actually increase my flexibility?
We're always told how important stretching is. It is well known that we should stretch before and after exercising. But we should also be stretching when we're not exercising because it can enormously help to improve our flexibility
When we stretch, we lengthen and decompress our muscles. Stretching also helps to loosen up joints, which enhances mobility. In practice, this is important because we actually shorten and contract our muscles when we exercise. When we take the time to extend our muscles, it prepares them for the strain they will endure and helps recover from the stress they just got.
To be flexible, we need to be able to contract and elongate our muscles. The only way to achieve this is through stretching. Flexibility helps avoid injury and train better by giving your muscles the balance they need against the regular contractions of training. If you're not stretching, you're more prone to short-term and long-term injuries because your body just doesn't have the ability to cope with the stress it's regularly enduring!
Stretching is perhaps even more important if you live a relatively sedentary life. Our body adjusts to the regular movements and strains we put it through. Spend most of the day in the office or working on a laptop from home, and your body gets used to this lack of movement. It will start to cramp up and lose its natural flexibility. The only way to properly accommodate a sedentary lifestyle is to start stretching and exercising actively.
We'd suggest stretching out before and after any exercise or training sessions. We'd also suggest trying to find time for one or two dedicated stretching sessions each week. Take the time to focus solely on stretching and flexibility, rather than merely stretching as a warm-up or cool-down.
Other benefits of stretching for flexibility
Besides directly contributing to flexibility, regularly practicing and improving stretches for flexibility will have plenty more benefits for fitness and overall health.
Learning how to stretch correctly can not only help you to avoid injuries, but it will actually help you see better gains and improvements across a range of sports, exercises, and even simple everyday movements. Simply put, improving your flexibility means you're less likely to throw your back out when you're taking the laundry up the stairs!
Here are the most important benefits (aside from flexibility) of implementing a regular stretching routine:
- Avoid injuries and chronic pains
- Improve posture
- Loosen up and feel more relaxed (physically and mentally)
- Reduce tension and stress levels (again, physically and mentally)
- Improve your range of motion
- Make everyday movements easier
- Improve your capacity for weight lifting or running (and any other sports or training)
- And many more benefits...
Resistance band stretches to increase flexibility
There are countless stretches for flexibility that you can perform to loosen up your muscles. We suggest starting with some simple full body stretches. When you are ready to take it up a notch, you can use resistance bands for a deeper, more intense and targeted stretch.
Using resistance bands for flexibility training can help you improve your joints' health and mobility and your overall fitness level. When you first start out, begin your flexibility training with a lighter resistance band and only move up the bands as your flexibility improves. Remember, though; this is stretching, not a full workout, so don't perform these exercises against too much resistance!
#1 Shoulder warm-up stretch
Warm-up and gently loosen your shoulders with this versatile shoulder stretch. You will need a long resistance band fo this one. Move your arms about to give your shoulders more movement and get them ready for weight lifting or bodyweight exercises.
- Plant your feet firmly on top of a long resistance band.
- Grab the other end of the band in both hands and bring the band straight overhead.
- Holding the band firmly, keeping your arms straight, move them forward, back and out to the sides, before lowering.
- Keep moving your arms around to loosen up your shoulders.
#2 Kneeling shoulder stretch
A more targeted version of the standard shoulder warm-up stretch above is the kneeling shoulder stretch. It helps to loosen up your back and improve overall flexibility in your upper body. This is one of the best shoulder and back stretches for flexibility, but you need a long resistance band for it to be effective.
- Kneel down on the ground and place a long resistance band around your feet.
- Take the other end of the band in both hands and pull it up behind your back until your arms are straight above your head.
- Slightly arch your back while keeping it firm and push your arms up towards the ceiling to stretch your shoulders.
- Hold the pose at its fullest extent for a few seconds, then relax.
#3 Lying pike stretch
The lying pike is a more intense stretch that requires a high level of flexibility to achieve. You can work your way towards it using a resistance band for support. If two legs are proving to be too much, you can start by stretching one leg at a time. You will need a short resistance band or a long resistance band folded in half.
- Lie flat on your back and place the resistance band around both feet.
- Keeping your legs as straight as possible while slowly lift so your feet touch the ground above your head. Your glutes and lower back will begin to rise off the floor.
- Support your raised legs by holding onto the other end of the resistance band with your hands.
- Keep pulling your legs towards your chest until you've reached your limit, then relax and slowly lower your legs back to the ground.
#4 Standing pike stretch
The standing pike stretch is easier to perform than the lying pike stretch and is a good way to improve your upper body flexibility while also stretching your hamstrings. You need a short resistance band or a long resistance band folded in half for this stretch.
- Stand up tall and maintain a straight back to start this stretch.
- Take a short resistance band and hold it behind your back, in both hands.
- Keep the band tense and pull your arms up and behind your shoulder blades.
- At the same time, bend the upper half of your body forwards while keeping your legs completely straight.
- Stretch and hold, before standing up straight, loosening and releasing.
#5 Pancake stretch
The pancake stretch will make you look like a pancake as you stretch out your arms and legs at the same time! Seriously though, it's one of the best stretches for flexibility if you're aiming to improve your capacity to perform the splits. You'll need a long resistance band for the best results.
- Sit down on the ground and keep your legs straight and as wide as you can make them go on each side of your body.
- Keep your upper body straight and hold a resistance band in both hands, with your arms spread out as wide as you can.
- Lean forwards, keeping your back straight and your arms up behind your head.
- Lower your chest towards the floor, attempting to get as close as you can before releasing slowly back to your start position.
#6 Band assisted straddle stretch
The band assisted straddle stretch is another fantastic resistance band exercise that will help you reach a full split as you learn how to better control and straddle your legs away from your body. For this stretch, you will need a long resistance band.
- Sit down on the ground and place the resistance band around both feet.
- Straddle your legs as wide as you can, then lie flat on your back.
- Raise your legs up, so they point in the air.
- Keep pushing your legs apart while also bringing them towards the ground.
- You can hold your thighs for support as you raise your legs in the air and use your hands to then push apart your legs into a wider straddle.
- Stretch as far as you can, then slowly release and lower your legs to the floor again.
The final say on stretches for flexibility
Flexibility stretches are one of the most important aspects of a balanced and healthy training regimen. Without flexibility, you'll struggle to work out for long periods and increase your fitness or strength. Stretching allows you to loosen up, cool down, and avoid short-term and long-term training-related injuries.
Stretching before and after a workout is essential, but it's also good to start training your flexibility throughout the week, on rest days, or when you have some spare time to loosen up. Why not include resistance band stretches for flexibility in your weekly training schedule?