It can be tempting to overlook the stretching aspect of training when you feel like it’s not bringing any real benefit. However, plenty of research shows that flexibility exercises and stretching actually have many benefits, including preventing injury, reducing pain, and improving posture, balance, mobility, and movement. performance.
What exactly is flexibility? Flexibility is defined as “the quality of bending easily without breaking”. It’s what keeps our muscles elastic, rather than letting them shorten and stiffen. It is important not only for sports performance, but also for daily activities that improve quality of life (especially in the elderly).
What are examples of flexibility activities?
These include stretching, yoga, pilates and tai chi. As explained below, the ideal is to integrate several different types into your routine. This way you target several parts of your body that can end up feeling tense and tight, such as your hamstrings and shoulders.
The benefits of flexibility
Flexible people have the ability to lengthen one or more joints and move through a greater range of motion without limitations or pain. According to flexibility experts, such as physical therapists, the importance of staying flexible should not be overlooked, as it is one of the keys to preventing injuries, aging gracefully and remaining independent in old age.
If you need a refresher on the many benefits of flexibility, here are the top reasons to include stretching and flexibility exercises, like yoga, in your workout regimen:
1. May Help Prevent Contracture Injuries
How can flexibility prevent injury? Flexibility reduces muscle imbalances and compensations that can contribute to strains, stretches, and tears. It can also decrease tension in muscles and help prevent tension from causing too much stress on nearby joints. Essentially, stretching is required to lengthen the muscles to reduce the risk of injury, because inflexible muscles and joints overcompensate for those that are too tight.
2. A better range of motion improves performance
A well-stretched muscle more easily achieves its full range of motion. It improves athletic performance, imagine an easier, less restricted golf swing or tennis serve, and functional abilities, such as reaching, bending, or stooping during daily tasks. A greater range of motion in certain parts of the body, such as the hips and knees, allows you to get the most out of your workouts because it helps you go deeper, deeper into exercises, and ultimately account, to train longer and at a higher intensity. Flexibility is also important for reducing tension and discomfort during training, allowing you to go further and recover more easily.
3. Increased mobility that makes daily activities easier
People who regularly practice stretching exercises tend to experience less pain and can more easily perform everyday tasks such as bending down to tie a shoe, climbing stairs, picking up objects from the floor, or getting up from a chair or a couch. This is why flexibility becomes even more important as people age, as it reduces the risk of poor balance, falls and accidents.
4. Helps Improve Posture
Sitting for long periods of time and not stretching after exercise can affect your posture and mobility. For example, sitting for too long often leads to tension in the muscles of the lower back, hips and calves. Stretching exercises can help improve posture and reduce slouching and pain in people who sit for long periods of time or who are mostly sedentary. For example, stretching your upper back and shoulders can reduce neck pain and headaches, while stretching your legs and hips can reduce sciatic pain and knee pain. Stretching is also helpful for people with arthritis and spinal problems (provided it’s done correctly).
How to become more flexible
When looking to improve your overall flexibility, be sure to focus on these areas of the body that tend to be the tightest:
Hips/hip flexors/piriformis muscle located on the outside of the buttocks
How do you incorporate stretching into your workout?
If possible, combine stretches and activities, such as yoga, static stretches, and foam roller exercises.
What are the benefits of yoga for flexibility?
Yoga is a form of dynamic stretching that involves many parts of your body. It combines movement with breathing and can also help you relax. Studies show that people who do yoga regularly tend to have better range of motion, better balance, and even better stress management.
What are the best stretches to become more flexible?
To improve flexibility in your hamstrings, hips, back, shoulders, etc., incorporate the stretches below into your routine. Hold each stretch for about 10 to 30 seconds, repeating two or three times if desired:
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Lean forward at the hips, lowering your head to the floor and extending your arm toward your toes.
Get into an inverted V position. Press your heels into the floor while pushing the floor back with your hands and keeping your shoulders low and rolled back. Lift your core to push your hips up and back.
Start on all fours, then extend your arms as far forward as possible. Push your hips up and back, toward your heels.
Lunge, then place your hand on the floor and rotate your upper body to the opposite side. Repeat the exercise on the other side.
Sit on the floor and bring your heels together with your knees bent, moving your knees outward and toward the floor.
Kneeling Lateral Bending
Begin by kneeling down, then extend one leg out to the side. Reach your opposite arm toward your outstretched leg to stretch the sides of your body.
Standing quadriceps stretch
Standing, feet together, bend one knee and bring your heel towards your buttocks by pulling on your foot to release the front of your leg.
Knee to chest
Lie on your back and pull one knee at a time toward your chest as you straighten the opposite leg.
Rotation of the torso while lying down
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet together, flat on the floor. Extend your arms to each side. Contract your core and raise both knees to your chest, then lower them together to the left side and repeat on the other side.
Other flexibility questions
What are the three types of relaxation techniques?
It is considered that there are three main types of stretching methods to improve muscle flexibility. Each has its own uses and benefits:
consist of holding the muscles in their position of maximum elongation (at the point of discomfort) for about 30 seconds. For example, you can bend over to touch your toes and maintain this position.
method of stretching muscle through movement of limbs/joints. For example, swing your leg back and forth in wide circles.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
the muscle is contracted into an already fully extended position and held briefly. This is usually done with the help of a training partner or therapist. For example, a person lifts one leg up to contract the hamstrings as much as possible while a therapist resists the movement and assists the stretch for about 10 seconds.
How often should you stretch?
Whenever possible, stretch every day, whether it’s yoga, tai chi exercises, or simple calisthenics you do at home. You don’t have to do a lot to get benefits. Ten minutes is enough to improve mobility, balance and comfort. Try to stretch at around the same time each day so that it becomes a habit. You can choose to stretch after a morning workout or mid-day walk, after a hot shower, or before bed.
Should you stretch before or after a workout?
Experts today believe that dynamic stretching should ideally be done briefly as part of a warm-up routine, and static stretching should be done as part of a post-workout warm-up routine.
While static stretches have their benefits after a workout (they can increase range of motion), dynamic stretches and PNF appear to be more effective as part of a warm-up, as they both increase blood flow and oxygen to the muscles and stimulate the nerves more than static stretching. You can also incorporate foam roller exercises before workouts to improve blood circulation and relax muscles and joints. Overall, static stretches should be used after workouts to improve flexibility and range of motion, while more dynamic stretches should be done before sports or strength training sessions.
How long should you stretch?
When warming up, aim for five to ten minutes of dynamic movement. After five to ten minutes, your muscles should feel a little more relaxed and warm. After a workout, do another five to ten minutes of static stretching or foam rolling as part of a cool-down routine.
Risks and side effects
When you stretch, try to push yourself to the point of “light tension,” but don’t go far enough to feel significant pain or burning. Remember to keep breathing as you stretch and slowly deepen flexibility exercises by watching your body.
Staying flexible by stretching, using a foam roller, and doing dynamic warm-ups can help prevent injury, improve post-exercise recovery, and improve physical performance, range of motion, and mobility. Examples include stretching, foam rolling, yoga, pilates, and tai chi. Focus on flexibility exercises that target tight areas like the hamstrings, hips, shoulders, lower back, and neck.
Before a training session or competition, try dynamic movements rather than static stretching to relax. After the workout, hold the stretches described above for about 30 seconds each.
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Flexibility: what are its benefits and how to become more so
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