by Harold Irby | Personal Trainer
You eat the right foods, drink the right drinks, and exercise regularly. In other words, you’re strong and healthy. But there’s only one hole in your overall good health-- you’re as flexible as a piece of plywood. Thankfully, there’s good news! You don’t have to stay inflexible your entire life. With the right steps, you can definitely improve your flexibility, which will help make life that much better. Here’s how to get started building a more flexible you:
For many years, it was common practice to stretch before working out. In recent years, folks have ditched that advice for something better: lightly performing whatever you plan to do. Are you planning to run? So, walk and then jog before getting into a run. But as for those who want to take their routines to the stretchy limit, then it’s time to use a foam roller.
With a foam roller, you work to gently stretch your muscles before working them out, and better yet, you'll stretch them out safely. Foam rolling helps your muscles relax and stretch, essentially giving your muscles a massage as you stretch. This, in turn, allows your entire muscle to be worked out in the gym afterward and prevents an already tight muscle from growing tighter through your exercise routine. Once you knock out a little foam rolling, the time is right for a round of body-weight exercises or light activity before going full force.
Go All the Way
As you exercise, you can improve your flexibility by working throughout your entire range of motion. Initially, you may have a harder time squatting your full range of motion, but sticking with it will allow your muscles to work all the way and become more flexible.
To get to where you can squat or perform other exercises as deep as your body allows, you'll probably want to reduce the amount of weight you use. As your body grows accustomed to going through a fuller range of motion, you can increase the weight and enjoy improved flexibility.
Practicing yoga is also an effective way to increase body flexibility. According to the Yoga Health Foundation, the numerous benefits of yoga include increased flexibility, relaxation, and stronger muscles and connective tissue, in addition to helping you improve how you manage daily stress.
As your routine winds down, your muscles feel tight and want to stay that way. Folks who are new to working out often enjoy that feeling. It lets them know their body has worked hard, and so they allow the tightness to remain as they leave the gym and return to their daily routines.
However, this is when stretching become more important. By taking 10 minutes to slowly stretch, you can take a huge step toward your overall flexibility. A good post-workout stretch will focus on the areas worked during your routine, while providing a little stretching for the entire body. You can also finish your stretching with more foam rolling if you have time. This will help further your flexibility goals.
Take It Slow
When stretching for increased flexibility, you may be tempted to push it as far as you can, but don’t give in. Instead, you should relax and take the slow and easy-going path to flexibility. Going too far too fast will actually have the opposite result that you want, as your body will have to repair itself from small injuries that occur from stretching. Instead, take your time and allow your body to ease into stretches.
If you feel an uncomfortable burning sensation that actually hurts, that’s not your body’s way of thanking you. You should back off and stretch to the point of slight discomfort. You'll make more progress by accepting the fact that you can’t increase your flexibility overnight, rather than beating your muscles into flexible submission.
Harold Irby is a certified personal fitness trainer and Mr. Michigan body building champion with over 20 years of experience in weight training, body building, sport specific training and strength conditioning. Harold has worked with many professional, college and high school athletes as well as celebrities and business professionals seeking a healthy and fit lifestyle through his personal training and fitness center Xtreme Advantage.
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