Stretch Your Way to Ultimate Muscle Fitness with These Easy Exercises

Due to sitting still a lot during the day and having a 9-5 job, people tend to suffer from stiffness because they don’t move and stretch enough. This can make your muscles shrink and become weak. When that happens, other muscles take over, possibly leading to back pain or other injuries. These exercises from our expert Chris can help you avoid this.


The importance of flexibility

Flexibility is a joint’s ability to move in a full range of motion and involves the extension of the soft tissue surrounding the joint. Most men focus on strength training but forget to stretch while they’re at it. That is why I picked a few yoga exercises that focus on your breathing and soothe your mind.

 

Focus on your breathing

Breathing is important with yoga, as it reflects how we feel. When we are in pain, it shows in how we breathe. The same goes for when we’re distracted; your breathing quality changes.  With these exercises, it’s important that you connect to the way you breathe. If you forget to do so, you’ll only make things more difficult and you just might sabotage yourself.

The yoga poses below involve 5 second breathing, meaning you should be inhaling and exhaling for a full 5 seconds. Take your time and – most importantly – listen to your body and how it feels.

 

Foot & big toe pose (Padangusthasana)

  1. Stand up straight with the insides of your feet parallel to each other, a few centimeters apart from each other.
  2. Tense your thigh muscles to be able to lift your knee caps.
  3. Keep your legs completely straight, breathe out and bend forward with your hips, moving your torso and head as one.
  4. Place your forefinger and middle finger (of both hands) between your big toes.
  5. Breathe in deeply and pull yourself further into the stretch. If you’ve got sensitive hamstrings, bend your knees slightly.

 

Extended triangle pose (Utthita Trikonasana)

  1. Stand with your feet leg-width apart.
  2. Turn your right foot 90 degrees and your left foot 45 degrees to the right. Divide your weight evenly over all four corners of both feet.
  3. Stretch on both sides, starting at the waist.
  4. Lower your right arm and stretch your left arm in the air, so you can feel your hamstring and the side of your body stretching.
  5. Place your chin on your shoulders and stretch.


Wide leg forward bent (Prasarita padottanasana C)

I picked this pose because it is a nice stretch for your hamstrings and opens up your shoulders at the same time.

  1. Stand with your feet parallel with one another and leg-width apart. Your heels might even extend a bit, towards your toes.
  2. Lift the inside of your ankles, pressing the outlines of your feet and your big toes ‘into’ the floor. If you’re able to, put the palms of your hands behind your back and lock your fingers. If that’s too hard, just grab the other elbow of your opposite arm with your hand.
  3. Breathe in using the entire front side of your body, breathe out from your hips and keep your back straight, your chest open and your hips above your heels.
  4. Lower the crown of your head toward the ground and lower your arms completely to the ground and fold your hands. You should feel your shoulder blades stretching.


Upward plank pose (purvattanasana)

This is not the first time we’ve discussed the plank, which is why it is even more fun to see it return in the form of a yoga pose. However, this time, we’re adapting the plank as follows:

  1. Begin the exercise sitting on the ground with your legs stretched in front of you, your hands a few centimeters behind your hips and your fingers forward.
  2. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor, with your big toes to the inside and your heels at least feet-wide distance from your buttocks.
  3. Breathe out, press the insides of your feet and hands to the ground, lift your hips until you’re in a reverse plank, with your torso and thighs parallel to the floor.
  4. Lift your hips even higher without straining your backside. Press your shoulder blades to the back of your upper body to support the lift of your chest.


Boat pose (Navasana)

The last post I’ve picked is good for training your abs and hip flexors.

  1. Sit on the ground with your legs in front of you.
  2. Press your hands on the floor, a bit behind your hips, with your fingers pointing towards your feet, strengthening your arms.
  3. Lift through the upper side of your breast bone and lean backwards a bit. While doing so, make sure your back is straight.
  4. Breathe out, bend your knees and lift your feet from the floor, putting your thighs in a 45- degree angle towards the floor.
  5. Stretch your arms along your legs, parallel to each other and the floor. If you’re having trouble doing this, just keep your hands on the ground next to your hips or grab your thighs.


If you’re working in an office job or just looking for new ways to work out, add these exercises to your daily routine – or at least some of them – and you’ll notice that you’re feeling fitter in no time.

Do you know yoga can also work miracles for your abs? In this article our expert Chris Hettinga explains how.