Increasing flexibility and mobility involves stretching the muscles surrounding the various joints of the body and may be performed dynamically or statically.
The Benefits of Flexibility Training
The benefits of stretching include:
Allowing a greater freedom of movement
Increasing physical and mental relaxation
Releasing muscle tension and improved recovery after exercise
Reducing the likelihood of injuries such as muscle strains
Avoiding venous blood pooling after exercise
Some people are naturally more flexible than others. Flexibility is primarily due to one’s genetics, gender, age and level of activity. As we grow older, we tend to lose flexibility, usually as a result of inactivity rather than the aging process itself. The less active that we are, the less flexible we are likely to be. As with cardiovascular endurance and muscle strength, flexibility will improve with regular training.
Stretch for Success
Before stretching, take a few minutes to warm up your muscles as stretching is more effective when your muscles are warm. Begin with a low intensity activity such as walking, jogging or cycling to help you warm up.
When performing static stretches:
Start each stretch slowly, exhaling as you gently stretch the muscle.
Hold each stretch for at least 10 seconds, ideally 30 seconds.
When stretching dynamically:
Increase the range of motion gradually and without pain
Don’t ‘bounce’ or move ballistically into a stretch. The movement should be smooth.
Avoid these stretching mistakes:
Don’t bounce a stretch.
Don’t stretch a muscle that is not warmed up
Don’t strain or push a muscle too far. If a stretch hurts, ease up. Stretching should not be painful!
Don’t hold your breath
Make time to stretch
Time constraints keep many people from stretching. Ideally, 15 minutes a day should be spent on flexibility training but even 5 minutes at the end of an exercise session is better than nothing.