Flexibility is one of the most important goals in fitness. It’s just as crucial as being strong and fit. The ability to easily move around is crucial for preventing injuries and back pain, increasing blood supply and nutrients to the muscles, decreasing soreness, and improving posture. The direct benefits of each of are endless.
When you hear “flexibility,” you think range of motion and mobility. Most of the time to achieve them you need to stretch, according to Tamera Clifton, a personal trainer and Pilates instructor in Portland, Oregon. “But you can also do dynamic exercises to increase joint mobility because they keep the heat in the joints.”
So, right now, sit down, extend your legs and push your chest forward while keeping the spine straight. Try to touch your shins. If you can’t or have a lot of difficulty doing it, you definitely need to incorporate some flexibility training into your routine, according to Clifton. The good news is that you don’t have to sacrifice strength or cardio exercises or even form a pretzel with your body to increase your bending ability. The latter is just a showoff. As it turns out, strength training is an effective way to enhance flexibility because weak muscles appear to be tight muscles.
Right flexibility is directly linked to full major range of motion exercises such as squats and deadlifts, which are among the most popular workouts to build muscle. Hip range-of-motion and flexibility are the basis for optimal body mechanics.
Unfortunately, a lot of gym-goers don’t have flexibility in mind or even as a set goal. “They think it’s boring and don’t like it because they don’t see as much visual result,” Clifton says. “Also, they just want to be done [with the workout].” But muscles tissues and ligaments becomes less elastic with time – just another reason to take time and stretch. It’s important that you stretch before (dynamic stretching) and after (static stretching) a workout. You don’t want to do the latter before training because you may hurt yourself if you stretch cold muscles.
Hold stretches up to a minute because it simply takes muscles a little while to expand. Don't hold any for more than 5 minutes. Breathe slowly while stretching so the muscles are not too tense. As with anything – don’t overdo it. Stretch twice a day with a few hours in between. And remember: Don’t bounce. You’re risking an injury this way. Stretch in a smooth movement.