Can’t touch your toes? 10 Ways To Improve Your Flexibility
Many of us underestimate the importance of flexibility training in the gym. The average lifter spends the majority of their day outside hunched over a computer, deteriorating their chances of developing a proper posture. Apart from preventing injury, having better flexibility and posture helps to show off the muscular build you’ve gained. In addition, it goes hand in hand with a full range of motion exercises such as squats and deadlifts, both of which are major muscle builders.
So instead of taking a lackadaisical approach to improving your flexibility, follow the rules below to gain more ranges of motion and prevent poor posture:
Research over the last couple of years has continually proven that static stretching is nowhere near as effective as dynamic stretching. Before starting your cardio session or weights routine, go through some whole body movements like push-ups, side lunges and jumping jacks. Do three sets of each for 20-30 reps to warm-up your entire body.
Throw in some traditional static holds in post-exercise to help lengthen muscles that were tightened up during the workout. Along with any muscles which were hit particularly hard, focus on the chest, lats and hip flexors as they can become tight on most people due to daily posture.
Although some partial ranges of motion can be used in workouts to build strength, try to perform each exercise through a full range to fully reap flexibility benefits. For example, going to full-depths on squats helps build hip flexibility. When learning new full range motions, work at a lighter weight before loading up the bar to prevent injury.
Stretching and training are both great for improving flexibility, but massage has the extra benefit of helping break up knots in muscles and tissues that restrict movement. Using a foam roller pre-workout can help prepare the body, whilst a post-workout roll flushes away the waste products gained from exercise. If possible, work with a qualified massage therapist a few times a month to compliment your flexibility routine.
Trying to combine the pressures of work and home life with a heavy workout routine is a recipe for disaster. Find one or two times a week to chill out and unwind – this could be going for a short walk, doing some light yoga or even going for a massage. This will help to relax the body and prevent muscles from tensing up and restricting movement.
Focus on belly breaths where the belly button moves in and out with each breath. Many of us use our rib cages far too much to breathe, preventing us from getting the optimal results out of our diaphragms. Try and spend five minutes a day working on improving breathing for a more stress-free posture.
A basic rule for anybody who is physically active, getting the right amount of fluids on board is vital for optimal muscle performance. Many of us are walking around constantly in a dehydrated state. Focus on drinking water throughout the day to avoid potential performance declines due to dehydration.
Once you’ve figured out your personal goals and restrictions, all that’s left to do is follow your plan as regularly as possible. Gradually you’ll feel yourself build up your flexibility each week, which only comes from consistency. Failing to do this won’t give your body a chance to adapt to the changes and will likely result in injury.
If you are a complete novice to stretching, then make sure you have a partner to supervise. They can give you feedback on whether you’re stretching correctly and stop you from possibly injuring yourself. There are also yoga or gymnastic classes which you could attend that have extensive programs with qualified teachers.
This includes eating well, getting the right nutrition and staying hydrated, the latter being something we mentioned earlier. Make sure you’re getting plenty of green leafy vegetables and increase your protein and calcium levels to help strengthen muscles during stretching. Remember, the most important thing is getting a balance of everything.
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About Matt Lawson Matt Lawson is a UK based sports journalist who covers all the latest football (soccer) news and matches for the Press Association. A keen Newcastle United fan, Matt is usually found either watching or playing the beautiful game.