Your workout routines can have a big impact on your flexibility and vice versa. It is important to remember that there is more to increasing your flexibility than just holding stretches of a few major muscle groups before and after each workout. In fact, that stretching approach is now outdated and has been proven to cause pain and injury when muscles are not properly warmed up. Below are some tips to help you increase flexibility and improve your workout routines in a safe and effective way:
Stretch after warming up
Stretching cold, tense muscles can result in both muscle injury and pain so it is important to warm up before your stretches. Consider stretching to be a part of your exercise routine, which should begin with a light aerobic exercise such as walking to warm up your muscles and get your heart rate up before stretching.
Do dynamic stretching before your workout
Dynamic stretching mimics the movements of everyday motions and various exercises in order to warm your body up for an intense workout. Examples of these stretches include walking lunges, leg swings, squats, push-ups and other bodyweight exercises. Dynamic stretching is actually safer to do before workouts than static stretching as static stretching can damage unprepared muscles.
Do static stretching after your workout
Most often the injuries caused by static stretching are due to cold, tense muscles that aren’t prepared for intense engagement. After a workout your muscles are properly warmed up and loosened enough to perform static stretching safely. This form of stretching is the form that most people are familiar with, in which you hold one pose, such as a standard shoulder stretch, for 30-60 seconds and move on to another one. Remember that stretching shouldn’t be painful or too uncomfortable. If a muscle is just too tight to stretch then don’t sweat it and if you are feeling discomfort feel free to move around slightly and lean into each stretch.
Focus on your breathing
It is easy to forget to breathe during workouts, particularly during weight-lifting routines that heavily engage the ribcage and chest. While stretching and performing your normal exercises, try to breathe from the bottom of your belly with each breath. This will allow your body to stretch properly by slowly increasing oxygen flow to your muscles.
Yoga is a great way to not only increase your flexibility but your balance as well. This age old Indian meditation technique combines various poses and exercises that slowly increase flexibility over time while leaving you feeling relaxed and ready for any physical challenge that life throws at you. Yoga is highly customizable so it is great for trainers of all experience levels and there are an endless amount of groups, videos and literature to help you get started.
Stress causes your muscles to tighten up, decreasing your flexibility. Partaking in a few relaxation activities throughout your week can drastically improve your flexibility and ability to stretch properly. You can get these effects from things like walking, yoga, acupuncture, hot tubs, saunas and meditation. When you are stretching, think of it as a relaxation technique; try stretching to soothing music or lighting some candles to ease into your workout.
Get a massage
Not everyone has the luxury of being able to get a massage as often as people should; however, if you are able to get one it can do wonders for your flexibility. Massages help to break up knots in muscles that prevent you from your flexibility potential. There are also alternatives to massages such as foam rollers that are great for breaking up muscle and improving the quality of your stretches.