Flexibility is the ability to move your joints and muscles through their full range of motion. It is important for women of all ages and fitness levels, as it can improve your posture, prevent injuries, reduce stress, and enhance your performance in daily activities and sports. Flexibility can also help you age gracefully and maintain your mobility and independence.
However, many women neglect flexibility training in their workouts, focusing more on cardio and strength exercises. This can lead to stiffness, tightness, and pain in your muscles and joints, especially as you get older. To prevent this, you should incorporate some Flexibility exercises into your routine at least two or three times a week.
In this article, we will share with you the Top 10 exercises for women’s flexibility in 2023. These exercises are based on the latest trends and research in fitness and wellness, and they are suitable for beginners and advanced exercisers alike. They will target all the major muscle groups in your body, from your neck to your ankles, and help you improve your flexibility and mobility in a fun and effective way.
1. Dynamic Warm-Up
Before you start any flexibility exercise, you should always warm up your body with some dynamic movements. Dynamic warm-up exercises are designed to increase your blood flow, raise your body temperature, activate your muscles and joints, and prepare you for the main workout. They can also improve your coordination, balance, and agility.
Some examples of dynamic warm-up exercises are:
- Arm circles: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms to the sides. Make small circles with your arms in a forward direction, gradually increasing the size of the circles. Repeat in a backward direction.
- Leg swings: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold onto a wall or a chair for balance. Swing one leg forward and backward as high as you can without bending your knee or arching your back. Repeat with the other leg.
- Hip rotations: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place your hands on your hips. Rotate your hips in a circular motion to the right, then to the left. Make sure to keep your upper body still and engage your core.
- Neck rolls: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and relax your shoulders. Slowly tilt your head to the right, then roll it down to your chest, then to the left, then back to the center. Repeat in the opposite direction.
Yoga is one of the most popular and effective ways to improve your flexibility and overall health. Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines physical poses (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation (dhyana) to create harmony between your body, mind, and spirit. Yoga can help you stretch and strengthen your muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, and fascia (the connective tissue that surrounds them). It can also reduce stress, anxiety, depression, inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
There are many types of yoga that you can choose from depending on your preferences and goals. Some of the most common ones are:
- Hatha yoga: This is the most basic and traditional form of yoga that focuses on physical postures and breathing exercises. It is suitable for beginners and intermediate practitioners who want to learn the fundamentals of yoga.
- Vinyasa yoga: This is a dynamic and flowing style of yoga that links one pose to another with smooth transitions and synchronized breathing. It is suitable for intermediate and advanced practitioners who want to challenge themselves with more variety and intensity.
- Bikram yoga: This is a hot yoga style that consists of 26 poses performed in a heated room (around 40 degrees Celsius). It is suitable for intermediate and advanced practitioners who want to sweat out toxins, improve their endurance, and increase their flexibility.
- Yin yoga: This is a slow-paced and meditative style of yoga that involves holding passive poses for longer periods of time (usually 3 to 5 minutes). It is suitable for beginners and intermediate practitioners who want to relax their muscles, release tension, and stimulate their energy channels (meridians).
Pilates is another great option for women who want to improve their flexibility and core strength. Pilates is a low-impact exercise system that was developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. It aims to improve your posture, alignment, balance, coordination, stability, mobility, and control by using precise movements that target your deep abdominal muscles (the powerhouse) and other stabilizing muscles.
Pilates can be done on a mat or on specialized equipment such as the reformer, the cadillac, the chair, and the barrel. Some of the benefits of Pilates are:
- It can improve your flexibility by lengthening and stretching your muscles and joints in a safe and controlled way.
- It can prevent and relieve back pain by strengthening your core and improving your spinal alignment and mobility.
- It can tone and sculpt your body by activating your muscles and burning calories.
- It can enhance your performance in other activities and sports by improving your functional movement patterns and reducing the risk of injury.
4. Foam Rolling
Foam rolling is a form of self-massage that uses a cylindrical tool made of foam or rubber to apply pressure to specific areas of your body. It is also known as myofascial release, as it aims to release the tension and adhesions in your fascia, which can restrict your movement and cause pain. Foam rolling can help you improve your flexibility by increasing your blood circulation, reducing inflammation, breaking up scar tissue, and relaxing your muscles.
Foam rolling can be done before or after your workout, or as a standalone session. You should roll slowly and gently over the target area, stopping at any point where you feel tightness or discomfort. You should breathe deeply and relax as much as possible, and avoid rolling over bony areas or wounds. You should also drink plenty of water after foam rolling to flush out any toxins that may have been released.
Some of the areas that you can foam roll are:
- Calves: Place the foam roller under your lower legs and lift your hips off the floor. Roll from your ankles to your knees, pausing at any sore spots.
- Quads: Place the foam roller under your thighs and support yourself on your elbows. Roll from your hips to your knees, pausing at any sore spots.
- IT band: Lie on your side with the foam roller under your outer thigh. Cross your top leg over your bottom leg and place your foot on the floor. Roll from your hip to your knee, pausing at any sore spots.
- Glutes: Sit on the foam roller with one leg crossed over the other. Lean slightly to the side of the crossed leg and roll over your glute, pausing at any sore spots.
- Upper back: Lie on your back with the foam roller under your upper back. Cross your arms over your chest and lift your hips off the floor. Roll from your shoulders to your mid-back, pausing at any sore spots.
5. Tai Chi
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that is practiced for its health and wellness benefits. It involves performing a series of slow, graceful, and continuous movements that flow from one to another in harmony with your breathing. Tai chi can help you improve your flexibility by loosening up your joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia. It can also improve your balance, coordination, concentration, relaxation, and energy flow (qi).
Tai chi can be done by anyone regardless of age or fitness level, as it is gentle and adaptable to different needs and abilities. There are many styles and forms of tai chi that you can learn from a qualified instructor or online resources. Some of the most common ones are:
- Yang style: This is the most popular and widely practiced style of tai chi that emphasizes large and open movements that are smooth and fluid.
- Chen style: This is the oldest and most original style of tai chi that combines fast and slow movements with explosive power and spiral force.
- Wu style: This is a compact and subtle style of tai chi that focuses on small and precise movements that are soft and gentle.
- Sun style: This is a modern and easy style of tai chi that incorporates elements from other martial arts such as bagua and xingyi. It features agile steps and high stances.
Ballet is a classical dance form that originated in France in the 17th century. It is characterized by graceful and elegant movements that require strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, and expression. Ballet can help you improve your flexibility by stretching and elongating your muscles, especially in your legs, hips, spine, shoulders, arms, and neck. It can also improve your posture, alignment, agility, endurance, and confidence.
Ballet can be done by anyone who enjoys dancing and music, as there are different levels and styles of ballet that cater to different interests and abilities. You can learn ballet from a professional teacher or online resources. Some of the basic elements of ballet are:
- Positions: These are the foundation of ballet that define how you stand and move with your feet, legs, arms, head, and torso. There are five basic positions in ballet: first position (feet together), second position (feet apart), third position (one foot in front of the other), fourth position (one foot in front of the other but slightly apart), fifth position (one foot crossed over the other).
- Barre: This is a wooden or metal rail that is attached to the wall or a stand. It is used to support your balance and stability while you perform various exercises that warm up and strengthen your muscles and joints. Some of the common exercises at the barre are pliés (bending your knees), tendus (stretching your feet), relevés (rising on your toes), and battements (kicking your legs).
- Center: This is the part of the ballet class where you move away from the barre and practice exercises in the center of the room. These exercises challenge your balance, coordination, and technique without any support. Some of the common exercises in the center are adagio (slow and controlled movements), allegro (fast and lively movements), pirouettes (turns), and jumps.
- Choreography: This is the art of creating and performing dances that express a story, theme, or emotion. Choreography can be done solo or with a partner or a group. It can involve different styles and genres of music and movement. Some of the famous ballet choreographers are Marius Petipa, George Balanchine, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Misty Copeland.
7. Animal Flow
Animal flow is a new and innovative fitness trend that combines elements from various disciplines such as yoga, martial arts, gymnastics, parkour, and breakdancing. It involves moving your body in different ways that mimic the movements of animals such as crawling, hopping, rolling, twisting, and swinging. Animal flow can help you improve your flexibility by increasing your range of motion, mobility, stability, and fluidity. It can also improve your strength, endurance, power, speed, and coordination.
Animal flow can be done by anyone who wants to have fun and challenge themselves with unconventional and creative movements. You can learn animal flow from a certified instructor or online resources. Some of the basic elements of animal flow are:
- Wrist mobilizations: These are exercises that prepare your wrists for bearing weight and moving in different directions. They include wrist rocks (rocking your wrists back and forth), wrist circles (rotating your wrists in a circular motion), wrist waves (moving your wrists up and down), and wrist stretches (pulling your fingers back or forward).
- Activations: These are exercises that activate your core and shoulder muscles to create stability and control. They include static beast (holding a quadruped position with your knees off the floor), static crab (holding a reverse quadruped position with your hips off the floor), beast reach (reaching one arm forward from static beast), and crab reach (reaching one arm backward from static crab).
- Form-specific stretches: These are exercises that stretch specific muscles and joints that are used in animal flow movements. They include scorpion reach (reaching one leg over your body from a prone position), ape reach (reaching one arm across your body from a squat position), loaded beast stretch (stretching your arms and legs from a loaded beast position), and crab stretch (stretching your chest and shoulders from a crab position).
- Traveling forms: These are exercises that move your body across space in different ways that resemble animal locomotion. They include ape (moving sideways in a squat position), beast (moving forward or backward in a quadruped position), crab (moving forward or backward in a reverse quadruped position), scorpion (moving forward or backward in a prone position with one leg lifted), and lizard (moving forward or backward in a low lunge position with one arm lifted).
8. Resistance Bands
Resistance bands are elastic bands that come in different colors, sizes, shapes, and resistance levels. They are used to add resistance to various exercises that target different muscle groups in your body. Resistance bands can help you improve your flexibility by creating tension and resistance in your muscles and joints, which forces them to stretch and contract more than usual. They can also improve your strength, endurance, tone, balance, and posture.
Resistance bands can be used by anyone who wants to spice up their workouts with more variety and challenge. You can use resistance bands alone or with other equipment such as dumbbells, kettlebells, or stability balls. You can also use them at home, at the gym, or anywhere else you want. Some of the exercises that you can do with resistance bands are:
- Bicep curls: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold one end of the band in each hand. Step on the middle of the band with both feet. Keep your elbows close to your sides and curl your hands toward your shoulders.
- Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold one end of the band in each hand. Loop the band around your shoulders and cross it in front of your chest. Keep your back straight and lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Chest press: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Hold one end of the band in each hand and wrap it around your back. Extend your arms over your chest and press your hands away from your body.
- Rows: Sit on the floor with your legs extended and your feet together. Wrap the band around your feet and hold one end in each hand. Keep your back straight and pull your hands toward your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Lateral raises: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold one end of the band in each hand. Step on the middle of the band with one foot. Keep your arms straight and raise them to the sides until they are parallel to the floor.
Swimming is a low-impact and high-intensity exercise that works out your whole body. It involves moving your body through water using different strokes such as freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly. Swimming can help you improve your flexibility by stretching and relaxing your muscles and joints, especially in your upper body, hips, and legs. It can also improve your cardiovascular fitness, lung capacity, endurance, muscle tone, and metabolism.
Swimming can be done by anyone who knows how to swim and has access to a pool or a natural body of water. You can swim at your own pace and intensity, or follow a structured program that varies the distance, speed, and type of strokes. You can also use different equipment such as goggles, caps, fins, paddles, or buoys to enhance your performance and technique. Some of the benefits of swimming are:
- It can reduce stress and improve your mood by releasing endorphins (the feel-good hormones) in your brain.
- It can boost your immune system by increasing your white blood cell count and fighting off infections.
- It can prevent or manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, arthritis, and asthma by improving your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, inflammation, and breathing.
- It can protect your joints and bones by reducing the impact and pressure on them compared to other exercises.
Stretching is the simplest and most essential way to improve your flexibility. Stretching is the act of elongating or extending your muscles and joints to increase their range of motion and elasticity. Stretching can help you prevent and relieve stiffness, tightness, and pain in your muscles and joints. It can also improve your posture, alignment, circulation, recovery, and performance.
Stretching can be done by anyone at any time and place, as it does not require any equipment or special skills. You can stretch before or after your workout, or as a standalone session. You should stretch gently and gradually, holding each position for 15 to 30 seconds without bouncing or forcing. You should breathe deeply and relax as much as possible, and avoid stretching if you feel any sharp or severe pain. You should also stretch all the major muscle groups in your body, such as your neck, shoulders, chest, back, arms, hips, legs, and feet.
Some of the common stretching exercises are:
- Neck stretch: Tilt your head to one side and gently pull it down with your hand. Feel the stretch on the opposite side of your neck. Repeat on the other side.
- Shoulder stretch: Bring one arm across your chest and hold it with your other hand. Feel the stretch on the back of your shoulder. Repeat on the other side.
- Chest stretch: Clasp your hands behind your back and lift them up as high as you can. Feel the stretch on the front of your chest and shoulders.
- Back stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs crossed and place your hands on the floor behind you. Arch your back and lift your chest up. Feel the stretch on your lower back and abdomen.
- Arm stretch: Extend one arm over your head and bend it at the elbow. Use your other hand to gently pull it behind your head. Feel the stretch on the back of your upper arm. Repeat on the other side.
- Hip stretch: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Cross one ankle over the opposite knee and pull both legs toward your chest. Feel the stretch on the outer side of your hip. Repeat on the other side.
- Leg stretch: Sit on the floor with one leg extended and the other leg bent at the knee. Reach for your toes with both hands and lean forward as far as you can. Feel the stretch on the back of your leg. Repeat on the other side.
- Foot stretch: Stand with one foot in front of the other and place your hands on a wall or a chair for support. Bend both knees slightly and press your back heel down. Feel the stretch on the bottom of your foot. Repeat on the other side.
Flexibility is a vital component of fitness and wellness that can benefit women of all ages and fitness levels. By improving your flexibility, you can enhance your posture, prevent injuries, reduce stress, and perform better in daily activities and sports. Flexibility can also help you age gracefully and maintain your mobility and independence.
In this article, we have shared with you the top 10 exercises for women’s flexibility in 2023. These exercises are based on the latest trends and research in fitness and wellness, and they are suitable for beginners and advanced exercisers alike. They include dynamic warm-up, yoga, Pilates, foam rolling, tai chi, ballet, animal flow, resistance bands, swimming, and stretching. By incorporating these exercises into your routine at least two or three times a week, you can improve your flexibility and mobility in a fun and effective way.
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