Flexibility

Flexibility training, stretching, is commonly overlooked by the majority of exercisers. Just read about some of the many great benefits of flexibility below:

You wouldn't want to miss out would you?

Short muscles and connective tissues do not make you tight. It is your nervous system that refuses to let your muscles slide out to their full length! Receptors in your muscles relay back to your brain length and tension in your muscles. Your brain comes to accept favorite resting lengths for your muscles based on how you habitually use them. When you try to move beyond what your brain thinks is "normal" range of motion for a particular muscle--you get that familiar tight feeling. If you have been sitting in an office chair for 10 hours a day, for the past 20 years it is no wonder your hamstrings and back are so tight! A proper, brief stretching program performed daily will reprogram your nervous system to accept your muscles new length. Incidentally, under anesthesia, you can bend and twist a person around anyway you like--and this is commonly used by physicians to break-up scar tissue in injured patients.

Think of flexibility like a skill. The more you practice and the smarter you practice, the quicker you improve. That is why frequent, brief bouts of stretching are more effective than yoga class once per week.

There are many different stretching techniques out there and they all work. The only problem is that some of them are not very practical (especially when they require a lot of time, technique, a partner, etc.).

Here are a few tips for stretching:

  • Try not to stretch when you’re in a rush --Ha ha!

  • Do not stretch cold muscles, a short warm-up or doing stretches after a workout or hot shower is recommended.

  • Be careful when stretching first thing in the morning or without a warm-up, give your nervous system a chance to wake up --there are better ways to warm-up.

  • Speaking of warming up--do not stretch (or to be more specific--statically stretch) as a warm-up. Stretching in the way we are discussing here (passive flexibility) actually relaxes your muscles. There are better ways to warm-up. After a workout is great for stretching though.

  • Don’t strain! You should feel tension in the muscles as you stretch them, not sharp pain.

  • You should be able to breath easy and normally while you stretch.

  • Keep face and hands relaxed while stretching

  • Hold your stretches long enough to let the tension release from the muscles (try not to be glued to a 30, 45, 60 second rule etc.)

  • Instead of sitting on the couch in front of the TV at night, get on the floor and use it as a time to stretch while you watch your favorite show!

  • Try to stretch daily or at least 4-5 times per week. You will not be sorry!

Here are some simple stretching techniques to try:

 

Good old static stretching

This is what you are familiar with. Moving into a stretch position, holding the stretch for a specific number of seconds (15, 30, 45, etc.). Going a little furtherinto

the stretch when possible. Repeat as many times as desired. Simple, safe, easy to apply.

 

Repeated Effort Stretch

Lean or reach into a stretch, immediately come back up. Exhale on the way down, breath in on the way up. Keep repeating trying to reach further into the stretch each time. When it seems you can't go any further, hold the stretch position for 30-60 seconds.

 

Contract and Relax

Move into a stretch. Inhale maximally and tighten up your entire body--especially the muscles you are trying to stretch (without decreasing the amount of stretch on the

muscle, so do not move). Making a fist with both hands helps. Hold this tension for a second or two. All at once exhale and relax your entire body--simultaneously

drop deeper into your stretch (there will be less tension). Do not drop more than an inch at a time to make your stretches safer. You may stay in the relaxed position

for a little while before your next contraction. Keep repeating the sequence until you can't sink any further into your stretch. Move on to the next stretch.

 

 

Wondering how tight you really are--check out this full body flexibility assessment. It will give you an idea of where you need the most work. If you have trouble doing

some of the tests, contact a BP Wellness Center staff person.

 

Here is a good, general flexibility routine to get you started.

 

 

Related Resources:

Flex1

Flex2

Flex3

Running Stretches

Cycling Stretches

Roll and Stretch

Lazy Man's Guide to Stretching