Flexibility is related to the range of motion of a joint. It is influenced by the surrounding muscles, ligaments and tendons. Greater flexibility helps prevent injuries and loss of mobility, improves posture, and relieves back pain. Many people focus only on strength training and muscle size, not realizing that flexibility allows exercises to be performed with a full range of motion. This works best, especially for squats or deadlifts. By regularly performing static and dynamic stretching, being active, and making some lifestyle changes, you will quickly become more flexible.
Method 1 of 3: Stretching techniques
Step 1. Do the movements correctly
When doing your stretches, always make sure you stick to recommendations from studies on the subject, such as those from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). You also have the choice of consulting a qualified professional, such as a sports doctor, certified trainer or physiotherapist, to establish a stretching program that is right for you. This person should be able to show you how to do the stretches correctly and they can check that you are doing the right movements to gain flexibility in a short time.
Step 2. Listen to your body
Pay attention to the signals your body is sending to you, such as pain and stiffness. The level of flexibility that is best for you is very specific to yourself. If you have tight muscles and a limited range of motion, that means you need to incorporate stretching exercises. If you have weak muscles, with joint instability and dislocation, it means that you need to focus more on strengthening the muscles and strengthening the joints.
- The movements that you need to perform regularly in your daily life or in your sport will help you determine your optimum level of flexibility. Baseball pitchers need to be softer at the shoulder, while athletes who practice martial arts need to be softer in the legs. Even everyday tasks like carrying groceries or pushing the lawn mower require flexibility.
- Although you may need to stretch a muscle beyond its normal length in order to increase its flexibility, the stretch should not cause pain. Pain tells you that you are stretching too much or going beyond what is safe for you. You shouldn't tear a muscle, twist a ligament, or strain a joint, which is why you should be careful what your body is telling you and stop as soon as you feel pain. Injuries take time to heal and are therefore likely to slow your progress.
Step 3. Create a routine
ACSM recommends stretching at least 2-3 times per week after properly warming up through physical activity such as walking. You should do multiple stretches per major muscle group, such as shoulders, chest, arms, abs, glutes, thighs, and calves. Remember that people have different abilities and goals for flexibility. So, you shouldn't try to compare yourself to others.
- To become flexible more quickly, incorporate dynamic activities and static and isometric stretching into your exercise routine.
- You could adapt your stretches to your needs by performing more or less joint exercises, adding or avoiding stretches that appeal to the sense of balance, or increasing or decreasing the duration of each stretch.
Step 4. Warm up
The best way to warm up your muscles is to perform low-intensity dynamic movements, similar to those you will perform in your sport. This activity gradually increases your heart rate, muscle blood flow, and body temperature, so that you get the most benefit from your stretching. You should sweat lightly in order to optimize your workout and become flexible more quickly.
- Before you do your weight training, cardio workout, or stretching session, do weight lifting movements based solely on your body weight. For example, you could do squats, lunges, push-ups, lateral lunges or jumping jacks. Do three sets of each movement, with between 20 and 30 repetitions per set.
- During the bench press, you should lift weights that are between 50 and 70% lighter than what you will be lifting during your weight training session. Do two or three sets of 10-15 reps with these light weights.
- If you are about to go for a run, you should warm up by walking slowly for 5 minutes and then gradually increasing your walking speed during that time.
Step 5. Practice dynamic stretches
Dynamic stretching uses movement to stretch the muscles without maintaining the stretched position for a long time. This type of movement increases power, flexibility and range of motion. In addition, performing dynamic stretching before a workout optimizes the results of static stretching, which means that you will see results more quickly.
- For leg stretches, you should perform knee lifts or lunges forward to warm up the muscles you plan to stretch. To do the little soldier exercise, lift your left arm and throw your right leg towards your left arm. Let the leg drop to the floor and repeat this time using the right arm and left leg. Perform 10 leg throws on each side.
- To stretch your calves, do toe lifts while standing with your feet away from your fists. Lift your heels off the ground, as high as you can. Then slowly lower your heels to the floor.
- To stretch your hamstrings and back, do the crawler movement. Bend over until your hands touch the floor. Walk on your hands until you are back in a plank position with your body weight resting horizontally on your feet and hands. Now move your feet forward so that they meet your hands. Get up slowly and repeat the stretch 5 times.
- To stretch your arms, swing your arms alternately overhead, back, down, and front. Do this 6 to 10 times. Then swing both arms out to the sides, crossing them in front of your chest. Repeat 6 to 10 times.
Method 2 of 3: Stretch
Step 1. Incorporate static stretches
Once you have completed your warm-up and training, do some static stretches. These consist of stretching a muscle in its extreme position for 10 to 30 seconds. This type of stretching helps lengthen contracted muscles, increases flexibility and circulation, heals tears, and reduces muscle stiffness. As you perform the stretches, you should feel a slight burning sensation in the area you are working on.
- Spend at least 10-20 minutes stretching and do 4 repetitions per muscle group, each repetition lasting 10 to 30 seconds. Stretch every day to see results faster.
- Remember to breathe deeply during each stretch. Exhale as you stretch the muscle, to relax and achieve the best stretch possible.
- Hip flexor stretching is a common static exercise, consisting of kneeling in a lunge position. Relax your glutes, lean forward so that your hips form a square. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat with the opposite leg.
Step 2. Do isometric stretches
This type of static stretching uses muscle resistance and isometric contractions (tensions) of the stretched muscles to further stretch the muscle fibers. It is for this reason that isometric stretches allow you to become more flexible more quickly, but also to build muscle and reduce discomfort during the stretches. You have the choice of applying resistance yourself, asking a partner, or using the wall or the floor.
- To perform an isometric stretch, you must do a traditional static stretch, then tense the stretched muscle for 7 to 15 seconds while using a resistance that does not move. Release for 20 seconds.
- To apply resistance to a calf stretch yourself, you could stand on the balls of your feet, while trying to point your toes. Your partner may offer resistance by holding your raised leg as you try to push it toward the floor. You could use the wall for resistance by pushing your feet against the wall.
- Do not perform an isometric stretch more than once per day on the same muscle group.
Step 3. Enroll in yoga classes or practice yoga alone
Yoga uses a combination of static and dynamic postures to improve flexibility, balance, power, and promote relaxation. Yoga is especially useful if you don't have time for a full workout that includes static and dynamic stretching movements, as this activity burns calories and increases flexibility at the same time. Try to take 2 or 3 classes per week to quickly see results in terms of flexibility.
Step 4. Take dance lessons
Dancing involves performing regular movements that require both static and dynamic stretching. You could choose to stretch on the barre in a ballet, move around in a salsa session, activate yourself with zumba, or perform any other form of dance that allows you to repeatedly move your major muscle groups through large amplitudes of movement. The practice of dancing is not only fun, but it will also allow you to gain flexibility in a short time.
Step 5. Use a foam roller
You can usually find foam rollers for 20-40 € in sports stores. Choose one with a PVC core for best results. This type of roller helps relax tight muscles, reduce inflammation, and improve blood circulation and flexibility. As with anything stretching, focus on the major muscle groups and those that you feel particularly tight.
- You can select a muscle group to work on, then slowly roll back and forth across the length of the muscle for 20 to 30 seconds. Remember to breathe deeply and avoid passing the roller over your joints.
- For example, you could sit on the roller and stretch out your arms. Gently roll the roller back and forth, starting at the gluteal (gluteal) muscle, until you reach the end of the muscle.
- If you feel a sore spot, stop riding and press for 30 seconds or until the pain subsides.
- To start incorporating exercises with the foam roller, start by using it every other time for 2-3 weeks, before using it once or twice a day after your warm-ups or workouts.
Method 3 of 3: Become more flexible
Step 1. Get a deep massage
Stiff, curved muscles limit your range of motion. You may regain flexibility immediately after an effective massage. This is especially true if your masseur or masseuse is able to release tension points and relax your muscle knots. You could get a massage several times a month.
Step 2. Relax
Stress is really likely to cause muscle contractions and stiffness. Strength training, heavy lifting, and other physical activities can also put some strain on your body. This is why it is important that you take the time to do relaxing activities. You will become more flexible and prevent stress from limiting your range of motion. Examples of relaxing activities are walking, meditation, swimming or any other activity that allows you to decompress.
Step 3. Learn to breathe properly
Most people breathe shallowly through the chest instead of breathing deeply from the stomach. During this exercise, it is especially important to engage the diaphragm in order to have optimal breathing. Spend 5 minutes a day focusing on slow, deep breaths, so that you can see your belly button move in and out with each breath. This will help you relax and improve your posture and thus regain a good range of motion more quickly.
Step 4. Drink plenty of fluids
Muscles are mostly made up of water and in order for them to function properly you need to be well hydrated. Reduced flexibility could be caused by dehydration. This is because dehydrated muscles cannot be stretched to the maximum. Drink more water to improve your flexibility, especially during and after your workouts.
- The recommendation to drink 2 liters of water per day is a good place to start, but your body may need more or less fluids. For example, you should change your intake if you are more active, if you live in a dry climate or if you are sick.
- To find out if you are drinking enough fluids, check your urine. It should be pale yellow or colorless. You should also rarely feel thirsty.
- Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing and good footwear.
- Choose a space large enough to move around. It is easier to keep your balance on a hard surface than on a yoga mat.
- Children and adolescents who are still growing should not do certain stretches, such as isometric stretches, because the risk of damaging tendons and connective tissue is greater.
- Do not perform ballistic stretches, as they involve making sharp movements from a static stretch position.