Health and Fitness Benefits of Improved Flexibility (the more, the better tools for the job)
Flexibility Could Be The Key Ingredient To Achieving Your Fitness Goals
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When you think of flexibility, you can imagine gymnasts and yoga enthusiasts doing the splits and bending and twisting their bodies in breathtaking contortions. While it is not necessary to achieve these levels of flexibility, improving your flexibility can be incredibly beneficial to your health and fitness.
From improving your power to reducing the risk of injury, improving the elasticity of your muscles and joints, and improving your body’s agility will be of great benefit to you now, and sure to be. in the long term – because flexibility naturally decreases with age. The US Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans even includes flexibility as one of the key components of a healthy body – in addition to physical activity and a healthy diet.
RELATED: 5 great exercises for mobility and flexibility
While studies have shown that men, on average, are not so naturally flexible like women, that doesn’t mean guys can’t get better at it. So what are you waiting for?
To give you an overview of how your body can benefit from improved flexibility, how to improve it, and the tools you can use to ease the process, we caught up with the personal trainer and fitness enthusiast from Planet Fitness. Wild Teddy.
Benefits of improving flexibility
Flexibility may not be as flashy as other elements of fitness. He won’t pump up your biceps or tone your abs, and you can’t share a screenshot of breaking a record with him on social media. Nevertheless, it is still important and it will help you achieve those other flashier things.
“We all know how important it is to focus on our overall strength and cardiovascular endurance, but we often overlook one of the essentials in achieving both: flexibility“says Sauvage.” Improving our flexibility has many benefits, including, but not limited to, the following. “
- Injury prevention
- Increased range of motion through the joints
- Improved balance and stability
- Better agility and mobility
- Greater output of force through the muscles
- Improved posture and body mechanics
- More efficient blood flow throughout the body
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How to improve your flexibility
Stretching is not synonymous with flexibility, but it plays a big role in improving it. In order to reap the benefits mentioned above, Savage recommends adding the following rituals to your daily routine and workouts.
1. Dynamic stretching to start the day
Start each day with a good dynamic stretching routine, in which you move through the stretch to loosen up for the day’s activity. Here are some great examples of dynamic stretching:
- Hip openers, such as lunges, pigeon pose and butterfly seat, to activate the hip flexors.
- Toy Soldiers, where you stand and bring your toe up to your outstretched arm, to activate the hamstrings.
Doing each stretch for 30 seconds each during the entire dynamic routine is ideal.
2. Stay hydrated
Drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated and your joints lubricated.
3. Active stretching before training
Begin each workout with an active stretching routine to increase blood flow to joints, muscles, and ligaments. Here are some great examples of active stretching:
- Bend & Reaches, where you lean forward to reach your arms behind your legs, then raise your arms to the ceiling, to stretch the hamstrings and lower back.
- Trunk Twists, where you lie down and bring your legs (at a 90 degree angle) side to side then the other, keeping your back flat on the floor and arms outstretched, for core and flexors. hip.
- Jumping Jacks to stretch and warm the whole body.
All of these movements also increase blood flow by raising the heart rate closer to the target heart rate zone, which is optimal for burning calories throughout a workout routine. Again, repeating them for 30 seconds each throughout a warm-up is ideal.
4. Balance the work
Perform balance and stability exercises that focus on one-sided movements like the “one-leg hinge”.
- To complete this exercise, stand on one leg and extend your opposite hand towards your opposite foot. Your flexibility will determine your range of motion here. So you can either reach your toe, your mid-shin, or your knee.
5. Develop core strength
Improving overall core strength to maintain healthy form and technique throughout your activities or workouts will in turn advance your body’s flexibility.
- Plank variations are great for core strength as they really target the entire core.
- You can also improve the strength and stability of the spinning core with Focused Weighted Trunk Twists or Russian Twists, where you do seated oblique twists with or without weights in your hands.
- Superman or Bird Dog stretches are also great for strengthening the lower back. For the Superman stretch, you will lie on your stomach and lift your upper and lower body off the ground, lying down as if you were swimming, while the Bird Dog requires you to get on all fours and extend your arms and legs. opposite leg. at the same time, forming a straight line.
6. Post-workout static stretch
End each workout with a static stretching routine, in which you are in a more sedentary position while stretching these muscles. Great examples of static stretching include:
- Seated V-Stretch, where you sit with your legs in a V-shape and extend your arms to touch your toes or center in front of your body, stretching the hamstrings.
- Butterfly Stretch, which consists of sitting with the soles of the feet in contact and the knees at the side, this stretches the adductor.
- Cobra Stretch, where you lie on your stomach and push your upper body off the floor, it’s good for the abdominal chain / lower back.
- Kneeling hip flexor stretch, where you step into a lunge position with your back knee on the floor and bend over your front leg.
You can hold them for 30 to 60 seconds, each taking time to breathe during the stretch.
7. Deep breathing
End each day with a static whole body stretching routine that focuses on deep breathing through your muscles to help your body prepare for restful sleep.
8. Be patient
Remember to be patient. Improving flexibility takes time, and pushing yourself too far too soon will easily lead to injury. “Typically, it can take around four weeks to start seeing noticeable increases in flexibility and stability,” says Savage. “It absolutely varies from person to person and depends a lot on the commitment to add stretching to your daily routine.”
RELATED: Everything you need to start yoga
Best tools to improve flexibility
Manduka Align Yoga Strap
Even if you consider yourself to be a fairly flexible person, it never hurts to have a group nearby when you stretch. With a strap like this from Manduka, you can increase the tension to your desired level and gently pull on your leg, arm, foot, or whatever, to achieve the ultimate stretch in a comfortable range.
AmazonBasics High Density Foam Roller
Foam rollers are often used for myofascial self-release – a type of physical therapy that relieves tension and tension in the connective tissues of the fascia surrounding and supporting your muscles throughout the body. When combined with static stretching, they were shown to help improve the range of motion of the body and, in turn, flexibility. This roller is available in four different sizes: 12, 18, 24 and 36 inches.
Gaiam yoga blocks
Like the strap, these blocks – commonly used in yoga practices – can help get you into the right shape for a stretch, without pushing your body to do more than it’s capable of. And if you find yourself feeling very bent, they can also help you advance your stretch in certain positions.
Yogi bare legs yoga mat
You need a surface to do all of these basic stretches, stability, and movements, and we don’t recommend doing them on the floor or on hard ground. This yoga mat will not only provide the support and cushion you need for static floor stretches, but also some grip for the dynamic ones.
MobiPoint TriggerPoint Textured Massage Ball
Similar to the foam roller, but in a smaller form, these balls are great for relieving tension in muscles and joints in smaller areas of the body that are sometimes harder to reach, such as the feet, hands, neck and calves.
Sportneer percussion massage gun
This massage gun lets you experience full body deep tissue massage at home anytime, anytime. While this may not be as therapeutic as the experience you have in a spa, it will allow you to ease muscle tension and ultimately improve elasticity and range of motion. of your muscles. This model, from Sporteneer, includes six different massage heads and five different intensity levels, so you can apply the right shape and the right amount of pressure to different areas of your body.
Looking for inspiration for stretching exercises? StretchIt can help. This app is packed with trainer led exercises that let you stretch your whole body or specific parts of your body. In the app, you can also create a personalized training plan and track your progress.
“Fitness is a journey that is unique to each individual. However, a common element to every trip should always be a concerted effort to improve flexibility and improve functional movements, ”says Savage. “By focusing on improving flexibility, you will not only get better results from your workouts, but you will also enjoy a better quality of life from your daily activities.”
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