Flexibility is not just a quality that gymnasts or dancers require, it is a key component to any healthy body. The more flexible we are, the better our posture, coordination and balance are, and we are able to reach a greater range of motion.
Many people do not realize that most of our movements in our daily lives follow the same patterns. This is dangerous to our bodies because when we perform a movement that is unusual, we are at greater risk for injury.
Having a flexible nature is what prevents us from stressing our joints, muscles and ligaments, and it gives us a more maneuverable body. You will need this flexibility when trying Zumba. Zumba can provide exceptional strength training, and since it so simple and inexpensive almost anyone can do it. All you need is a great pair of Zumba shoes.
As your flexibility increases, so do the benefits from your workout. When trying to improve your flexibility try the following stretches:
Seated Trapezius Stretch
This stretch is ideal for loosening the tension that builds up in our shoulders and neck. It can be done while sitting on the floor or on a sturdy chair. Either way, your legs should be directly in front of you, ideally in an elongated position. Sitting straight, with your right hand, reach over your head to your left ear, and gently pull the head towards the right shoulder.
Hold this position for thirty seconds, and then switch sides, so that your left arm is pulling your head to the left shoulder. If done correctly this stretch should reduce neck pain, and loosen the muscles of the shoulders.
The shoulder stretch is an ideal exercise for improving the range of motion in your arms, and preventing a shoulder injury. Simply stand with both feet shoulder length apart on the floor, in an upright stance, with the upper body squarely front.
Extend your right arm outwards, and bring it across your chest. Use your left arm to reach under your right elbow and gently pull the right arm closer to your chest. You should feel a stretch in both the arm and back of the shoulder. Hold this position for thirty seconds, and then switch sides.
Toe Reach Stretch
This important stretch has two variations. The first requires you to stand with your feet side by side, in an upward stance. Slowly bend at the hips and lower the head until it is as close as possible to the knees. Reach your hands downward towards your feet, trying to touch your toes. For those who find this stretch easy, wrapping the hands around the back of the ankles or calves, and pulling the upper body closer to the legs, can provide a deeper stretch. Try to avoid bouncing. The particular stretch is ideal in helping out in Yoga. You will need a very flexible pair of Yoga pants when doing these stretches.
This stretch can also be performed sitting. Simply sit on the ground with your legs directly in front of you. Sit tall and straight and reach your hands above your head. Bend at the waist and lower your upper body so that your hands reach the toes, and the nose is parallel to your knees.
This stretch, although more difficult, works out your thighs, hips and glutes. Begin standing and step forward with your right foot. Continue moving your right leg forward while bending the knee until it reaches a 90-degree angle with the floor. With the left leg, ensure the knee is not bent, and the leg is extended directly behind you. Be sure not to let the knee lean over the toe.
Slowly sit into the stretch, and keep your hands on your hips. The further you allow yourself to sit in the stretch the deeper it will feel. Hold the position 30 seconds, and then switch so that the left foot is in front.
For a more intense variation allow the knee of your back leg to drop to the floor, while still maintaining a 90-degree angle with your front leg. Slowly push the hips towards the front leg for an intense hip flexor stretch.
Lay with your back on the floor and your knees bent. Slowly extend your right leg so that it is reaching towards the sky. Use your hands to grab behind the right knee and slowly stretch the knee towards your face. Hold for thirty seconds. Slowly release the leg, back to the bent neutral position, and repeat with the left leg.
These simple stretches can be done in just a few minutes per day, or even twice per day for maximum results. Stretching is also a great activity to do on rest days to compliment your workout routine.