Flexibility is an important aspect of fitness. Being flexible allows us to move more easily and reduces the risk of injury from muscle tears and strains. It also helps us to get better results from sport and fitness programs. Despite this, flexibility training is often given low priority. Whether you are a regular exerciser or not, spending time improving your flexibility will help you to stay healthy and supple. Here are 10 tips to help you stay flexible.
10 tips for flexibility training
#1 Stay active – inactive joints become immobile joints. If your work involves a lot of sitting, try to take frequent breaks to stretch out your legs.
#2 Stretch when your muscles are warm – cold muscles are less pliable and more prone to tears and strains. Ideally, stretch after a workout. Failing that, stretch when your muscles are warm from walking or some other general activity, or do a quick warm up first.
#3 To stretch effectively, take the muscle to the point where you feel the stretch and hold it for at least 30 seconds.
#4 Try to stretch particularly tight muscles every day.
#5 Strengthen weak muscles – often weakness in one area leads to tightness in another.
#6 Never force stretching, flexibility has to develop gradually.
#7 Don’t use bouncing or jerking movements. You should ease gently into stretches.
#8 Muscles have a reflex that stops them from over-stretching. Often, when you’ve held the stretch for several seconds, the reflex will de-sensitise. When this happens, you can stretch a little further.
#9 Do more than one stretch for each muscle group to make sure you stretch your muscles as thoroughly as possible.
#10 Maintain spine flexibility. The discs in our spines rely on exercise to keep them soft and spongy. When these discs become hard and brittle, the spine becomes inflexible. Keep your spine mobile by keeping it moving. These are the main movements the spinal joints do:
- Upper body rotations (turning your head and shoulders from side to side)
- Bending to the side
- Torso flexion – you can do this for example by doing ab crunches or by bending forwards from standing. When bending forward, you should make sure you are supporting the weight of your upper body by sliding your hands down your legs – this avoids unnecessary strain on your low back.
- Movements of the head use the top of the spine. To keep these joints healthy do these 2 movements regularly: 1) rotate your head to look over your shoulders and 2) flex your neck sideways, bringing your ear towards your shoulder.