Part II: 4 More Weeks of Flexibility Exercises From a 5-Star Maple Grove Chiropractor
Strength for flexibility. Want to know one of the most essential aspects of flexibility and mobility that most people overlook? Strength. We see it with our Maple Grove patients all the time. They say things like, “I don’t need to lift anything heavy. I just want to tie my shoes and reach the top shelf without experiencing pain.” But if you’re not getting stronger in certain areas, your flexibility improvements will hit a ceiling.
Strength vs. Flexibility: How Are They Related?
Working solely on improving flexibility can lead to muscle imbalances. Some muscle groups become overstretched, and others remain tight and weak. If you want to eliminate chronic back pain and prevent injuries, you need to enhance your range of motion and the amount of force you can exert.
Adding small amounts of strength training to your exercise regimen can improve flexibility by breaking down muscle-related scar tissue and adhesions. Movements and exercises that help you become stronger involve breaking down muscle fibers. As your body repairs those muscles, they become bigger, more powerful, and, if you’re smart about it – more flexible.
Finding the right balance of flexibility and strength exercises can be difficult. There are thousands of ways to approach the issue. But as long as you stay focused on the goal of daily activities becoming less strenuous, you’re on the right track.
We created Part I of this program for Maple Grove residents with limited range of motion and overall fitness. If you’re more advanced than that, or you completed Part I and want to see further improvements, this post will introduce 15 slightly harder movements to build strength for flexibility improvements.
Week 5: Raising The Bar
Minor changes to so-called “easy” movements can have significant impacts. This week, we focus on getting into positions we introduced in Part I and then extending an arm or leg. It’s usually much more challenging than people expect! And if it’s not, keep holding the position until you begin to feel it.
- Plank with leg raise: Start in a push-up position, pulling your stomach in and clenching your core. Then, raise one leg off the ground, keeping it and your body in a straight line. Hold for 5 seconds and then switch legs. Repeat 10 times.
- Seated spinal twist with arm extension: Sit on the floor with your legs crossed. Slowly twist your torso to one side while placing your opposite hand on the floor behind you for support. Extend your free arm towards the ceiling and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- Shoulder blade squeeze with arm raise: Sit or stand up straight. From there, stick your chest out and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Then, raise one arm out to the side, parallel with the floor, hold for 5 seconds, and switch arms. Repeat 10 times.
Suggested outdoor activity: Go for a short hike on an unpaved trail with some elevation change, like the Northern Lights Loop at the north end of Maple Grove. It’s a step up from a walk in the park and will strengthen small muscles responsible for balance.
Week 6: Getting Down To Business
If you’re struggling with a spine-related issue or injury, you probably shouldn’t experiment with certain movements without supervision. The first two movements this week may be painful or problematic, depending on your current level of flexibility. Consider visiting Total Spine Health & Injury in Maple Grove for chiropractic therapy to help you achieve them:
- Wall squat: Stand with your back flat against a wall and your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and keep your back flat against the wall, as if sitting in a chair. Hold for 10 seconds, then straighten your legs to return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
- Cobra pose: Lie on the floor, face down with your hands beneath your shoulders. Push up slowly, lifting your chest and head off the floor (but not your hips) while keeping your elbows close to your body. Hold for 10 seconds, and then relax. Repeat 10 times.
- Seated forward bend + spinal rotation: Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Slowly bend forward, reach towards your toes, rotate your torso to one side, and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- Seated push-up: Sit on the edge of a chair or a sofa. With your arms at your sides, place your hands palms down and push, trying to lift your body one or two inches off the seat. Slowly and carefully lower yourself back to the starting position and repeat 10 times.
Pushing yourself to the edge of, but never past, your limits is important for improving both strength and flexibility. Always err on the side of caution. And when you’re feeling sore and worried that you overdid it? A beneficial workout will never result in joint pain, sharp pain, or uneven soreness (i.e., one side of your body is noticeably more sore than the other).
Week 7: Hitting Your Stride
With just two weeks left, start making mental notes of which movements hit that sweet spot between too hard and too easy. Your list of favorite stretches and exercises will probably be very different from your sibling’s or spouse’s go-to movements. And that’s a good thing! The more personalized your flexibility routine is, the more you’ll enjoy it.
- Overhead squat: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and raise both arms above your head. Keeping your back straight and stomach clenched, lower your body until your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, hold the position for 3 seconds, and then stand back up. Repeat 10 times.
- Mountain climbers: Get into the push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart. Then, slowly bring one knee towards your chest and clench your stomach before straightening your leg back to its original position. Repeat 10 times on each side.
- Bent-knee side plank: Prop yourself up on the floor with your right elbow, so it is directly under your shoulder, with your left shoulder pointing toward the ceiling. Lower your right knee to the floor and rest your left knee on top of it. Keep your hips up off the floor, and your stomach clenched. Your back should be in a straight line. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.
Suggested outdoor activity: Grab a friend and head to the Weaver Lake Community Park tennis courts in Maple Grove. As long as you avoid getting too competitive, tennis is an excellent way for people of all ages and ability levels to work on strength for flexibility.
Week 8: Finishing Strong
You’re almost done. We saved the hardest movements for the final week of our flexibility challenge. But as long as you’ve completed every activity from the previous seven weeks, you shouldn’t have any problems with these:
- Superman with arm reach: Lie face down on the floor with your arms stretched in front of you and your legs straight. Without clenching your neck, lift your hands and feet off the floor, about six inches off the ground. Hold the superman position for 5 seconds and relax. Repeat 10 times.
- Bridge: Lie down on your back with knees bent and feet hip-width apart, flat on the floor. With your arms resting on the ground at your sides and your shoulders on the ground, carefully lift your hips towards the ceiling. Hold your hips off the floor for 10 seconds, then lower them back down. Repeat 10 times.
- Downward-facing dog: Start on your hands and knees, then raise your knees off the ground and straighten your legs as much as possible without rounding your back. Push your butt and lower back upward towards the ceiling. Hold for 30 seconds. If this is too hard, stand near a wall and place your palms against it at chest height. Look at the floor and lower your chest while keeping your knees locked and legs straight.
Assuming you started with Part I of this series and finished here, that’s sixty days of dedication to flexibility! According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, that should be plenty of time for exercise to become ingrained in your daily routine.
Most people don’t think of chiropractic as a healthy habit. But you should. It’s not something to seek out reactively (e.g., only after you’re injured or in pain). Chiropractic care is most successful when it’s a regular part of a healthy lifestyle. If you have questions about our eight-week flexibility program or a spine-related injury, send us a message today.