Think flexibility is just for tree-hugging Pilates lovers? Think again – if you’re not flexible then you won’t be able to squat or deadlift properly, the two most important exercises for building muscle and strength.
Here are ten ways to get more flexible;
Warm Up: Don’t just go into stretching cold, you could hurt yourself and be out of
commission for a while. Start your workout with a light run, jog or walk; something that
will get your blood pumping and get oxygen moving into your muscles.
Bring on the Heat: Heat helps your body’s range of motion and allows it to stretch
easier. Think warm Silly Putty vs. cold Silly Putty. To get the heat, either use a heat
pack on your muscles or try sitting in a sauna or hot tub prior to exercising.
Ballistic Stretches: Ballistic stretches more or less shoot oxygen into your muscles by way
of movement and gravity. The more oxygen in your muscles, the more they’ll be able to
move. Start by swinging your legs and arms (independently of course) in small circles or
back and forth. DO NOT OVERDO IT; too much ballistic stretching can lead to injury
Passive Stretches: Passive stretches are your most common form or stretching. This
involves using one body part as leverage against another to facilitate the stretch.
Hamstring, quad and calf stretches are great and easy to maneuver; you can also
get some good glute and spine stretches though several seated exercises. Basically
any muscle group can be worked with these stretches and should be the bulk of your
Discomfort, Not Pain: Make sure when you’re engaging in your passive stretches
that you’re pushing yourself to the point of discomfort and not to the point of pain.
Slowly bring yourself to your limit and know when it is. You will find this limit getting
progressively further as you keep stretching in the coming weeks.
Holding: Make sure you’re holding your poses for the right amount of time. That’s about
15-30 seconds for passive stretching and about 8-10 seconds for active stretching.
Active Stretching: Active stretching requires that you use your muscle strength to perform
the stretch. This refers to stretching programs like yoga and some pilates. Active stretching
can be the most difficult form of stretching but it’s where you’ll likely see the best returns
Repetition: Don’t just stretch one time once a week. The more you stretch the more
flexible you’ll become. When stretching try to perform at least 2 sets each of your
stretches—this largely won’t apply to active stretching—and try to stretch at least 3 times a
Weight Lifting: Flexibility is about muscle endurance and the best way to increase
endurance is by overloading your muscles (Fitday.com). This doesn’t mean you have to max
out with large weights; in fact, smaller weights at higher repetitions will work much better
for developing flexibility.
Recovery: Muscles need to recover just like a boxer after a title match—which is what
your muscles have been doing, fighting. Give your muscles time and proper rest in between
exercising. It will mitigate damage and make your muscles more prepared and ready when
you next exercise.
With these 10 steps you should be well on your way to quickly, effectively and safely
increasing your flexibility.
About the Author: Steven Hamilton has been writing about a variety of health tips online
for over 10 years. When not writing, you can find him in the pool testing his favorite Kiefer
swim caps or other great products.