You’ve no doubt seen the incredible flexibility of Olympic gymnasts, and you may think that only gymnasts, dancers or yoga practitioners are concerned with flexibility.
But flexibility is (or should be) an important part of everyday life.
Flexibility improves health, when you are more flexible, you’ll experience a greater range of motion, be able to perform tasks with greater ease, and you’ll avoid painful injuries.
When muscles and joints are not regularly used they can start to weaken or shorten over time causing a decreased range of motion. Regular functional flexibility exercises of your joints will result in a more flexible body and strengthen surrounding muscles to support each movement.
Flexibility training will also help balance your muscles during physical activity. Flexibility can also improve your success in sports whether you are are a golfer, swimmer, or ball player.
To improve your flexibility, start by adding static and dynamic flexibility exercises to your daily fitness routine.
1. Static flexibility exercises involve constant stretching held for 15-30 seconds. Examples of static flexibility exercises include calf and hamstring stretches.
2. Dynamic flexibility involves muscle movement to increase your range of motion. Examples include jumping jacks and arm swings, side bends, and toe touches performed at low to moderate speed and with a controlled motion. After practicing dynamic movements over time you will increase your range of movement.
3. Static and dynamic functional flexibility exercises lengthen the connective tissues that surround your muscles. This lengthening of the tissues allows you to increase your ability to extend your arms or legs referred to as range of motion. As you improve your flexibility, you’ll also find it easier to move your joints, your knees, shoulders, and elbows, etc.
4. While flexibility exercises involve “only” stretching, it is possible to overdo it by stretching too far and becomes important to learn how and when to perform your flexibility exercises properly. Flexibility exercises are best performed following your workouts to stretch the muscles you have just completed training. Hold each stretch for a minimum of 15 to 30 seconds to get the most benefit, and do them in a controlled fluid motion, without bouncing. Stretch just far enough that you feel a slight pull in the muscles. Add ten minutes to the end of your training for focused stretching and flexibility training.
5. Consider yoga or Pilates training for increased flexibility. Both include a series of stretches that provide flexibility through a series of poses and stretches and practiced by millions of people all over the world. Yoga will improve flexibility while relieving tension and stress.