Between the inevitable decline in balance and mobility all men of a certain age face, and making noises like farm animal every time you try to sit cross-legged on the carpet, you’ll have to come around to improving your flexibility. If for no other reason than so you can get to your kid when they’re stuck in the Chuck E. Cheese maze.
Holly Perkins is a strength and conditioning trainer who’s worked with everyone from Howard Stern to presidential candidates. She understands you don’t have time for 90-minute yoga sessions, but you do have time for 9-minute, 6 exercise solutions. So, keep being that upright citizen that you are, while making sure you can also touch your toes.
Start With Some Light Cardio
Despite often being described as a “warmup,” this brief period of activity isn’t there to shake off the chills, but prep your body for additional movements. “We don’t need to ‘warm up,’” says Perkins. “We need to prep for optimal movement either for our everyday — walking, standing up, sitting down — or for a workout.” Begin your routine with 30-to-60 seconds of jumping jacks, followed by running in place, followed by mountain climbers. Repeat for a total of 5 minutes. Also, just to be explicit, breath continuously.
Roll Out Your Upper Back/Thoracic Spine
Foam noodles are good for more than making oversized lightsabers or making obscene gestures at the community pool. Spending some time on a foam roller helps with the mobility of your fascia — that layer of connective tissue that surrounds the muscles of your body. When that isn’t stretched, fibers of the fascia bind to muscles and nerves, causing pain and the mobility of a marionette. Rolling muscles out basically breaks up scar tissue and the binds between the skin, muscles, and bones.
- Position a foam roller horizontal and lie on top of it with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- With arms either crossed over your chest or open to a “V”, roll back and forth, starting from your armpits and ending down to the middle of your back.
- Perform for 45-to-60 seconds. “Find the areas that feel tight or feel good,” Perkins says. “There’s an intuitive aspect to this — you’re really not going to do it wrong.” (Unless your kid jumps on you in the middle of it.)
Don’t Forget Those Quads
“Most problems with hip flexors relate back to the quads and sitting too much,” says Perkins. That means poor quad flexor mobility is a problem all office-drones deal with. To get at your quads, move into a push-up position with a foam roller lengthways under your quads. Lower yourself down onto the roller and then roll up and back, rolling from your hips to your knees. Perform for 30-to-45 seconds per leg.
Do Some Squats With Arm Movements
“This is a critical exercise,” Perkins says. “It’s important for ankle mobility and stability, glute and hip flexibility, pelvis flexibility, and core control.”
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms to the sky, and, if needed, toes pointed outward.
- Sit into a squat — chest up, bottom down — as if you could put your butt in between your heels.
- Once in the position, lower your arms to the floor in front of you, in between your knees.
- Take one arm back up over your head, followed by the other arm.
- Stand up and lower your arms.
- Perform this 10 times.
Lunge For It
This simple variation on the classic lunge increases flexibility in trouble areas like hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Or, if you want to be anatomical — ass.
- Start on the floor in front. Move onto your hands and knees so your toes touch the couch.
- Push your right knee back so it’s at the bottom of your couch, your shin is on the cushion and your foot pointing up to the ceiling.
- Using your hands, step your left foot in front of you into a lunge.
- Hang out in that stretch, moving around as you wish for 30 seconds.
- Next, raise and lower your hips and bring your hands onto your left knee.
- If this feels comfortable, sit upright and use your left foot to push away so your hips move towards the couch.
- Switch legs and do the other side.
Single Deadlift Variation
“This is a fantastic active flexibility move for hamstrings, which don’t respond very well to static stretching,” says Perkins.
- Stand with your feet together.
- Shift your weight to your left foot, keeping the knee soft and slightly bent, arms hanging at your sides.
- Rotate from your hip, letting your right leg reach behind you, but stay in alignment.
- As you rotate, tilt forward by slightly deepening the bend in your standing leg. The point is to try to get as close to parallel to the floor with your upper body as you can, airplane-style — or until you feel a definitive stretch in your left leg.
- Power into your left heel to activate your glutes and return to stand.
- Do this 15-to-20 times on one leg and then switch.
Don’t have time to perform these 6 exercises as a series? Break them up into individual movements and bust ’em out whenever you can. However you use them, they’ll help loosen you up and offset the negative impact of sitting. And even if you’re as nimble as Spider-Man , these can still help you maintain that mobility. Because you’ve got years of shoelace-tying, tree-climbing, and pizza restaurant maze-extractions ahead of you.