Many times when we train, we do not give enough importance to body flexibility, but this is the one that will help you to be able to increase the range of your movements in your sports practice and even keep your body younger. Therefore, it is important that you discover how to increase your flexibility and use it as a strength to improve your athletic performance.
The Basics of Flexibility
Flexibility is defined as the ability of a joint - or group of joints - to perform movements with the maximum possible amplitude without causing any damage and without any abruptness. This is an involutive capacity, that is to say, it is gradually lost and decreases little by little from childhood to senescence; this happens due to some of the transformations that the body undergoes: such as progressive dehydration of the organism, the increase of calcium deposits and adhesions in the bones, changes in the chemical structure of the tissues or the substitution of muscle fibres and collagen for fat.
In addition, flexibility has numerous benefits: it reduces injuries, once strength and flexibility are developed, there is a greater capacity to withstand more physical stress, and it also frees the body from muscular imbalance -which reduces the probability of injury during physical activity-. It also reduces soreness, because after lengthening and opening up your muscles, you're likely to feel better: less tight muscles mean less soreness - and less muscle cramps. Stretching your muscles also allows you to have a better alignment and correct any imbalances, thus improving your posture; and doing exercises that stretch and open your body can give you a feeling of relaxation, thus improving your state of mind. It is important that as you increase your flexibility, you also increase your strength, as this will ensure that you have the correct amount of tension so that you can support your body and become more fit, improving your physical performance.
Therefore, the ability to be flexible offers greater ease of exercise, as well as reducing the risk of injury, increasing your own joint range of motion and increasing agility, so it's important to build it up and work on it.
In order to increase your flexibility, you need to focus on your stretching. First of all, it is important to keep in mind that before doing flexibility exercises you need to warm up your body properly, as it will help you prepare your muscles for the effort they are going to make, and it will also reduce the risk of injury. On the other hand, you must control the time you take for each stretch, since, for each position to be effective, you must hold it for at least 15 to 30 seconds.
For your flexibility workouts to be effective, it's important that you don't just do one flexibility session a week, but that you increase the frequency of your workouts: ideally, you should stretch every day!
Exercises to increase flexibility
To improve your flexibility, you can do this series of stretches every day - as long as you feel good and don't overstretch your muscles, it's about stretching, not causing pain:
- Standing Hamstring Stretch: With your feet hip-width apart and your knees and arms relaxed, exhale as you bend over lowering your head to your feet while your neck and shoulders relax. Try to wrap your arms around your legs and hold this pose for at least 30 seconds. Then, bend your knees and slowly return to your starting position.
- World Greatest Stretch: This exercise is commonly known by this name by the fitness community, as it is an exercise indicated for postural pain. To perform it, you should start with your feet together, and then take a step forward -getting a staggered posture-. Bend your front leg to lower your body, while keeping your back leg straight. Place your hands on the floor and rotate your torso towards the front leg while raising your opposite arm. Hold this pose for 30 seconds and then perform the stretch on the other side.
- Gluteal Pyramid Stretch: Lie down with your feet flat on the floor and then cross one leg over your knee. Grasp your thigh and gently bring it towards your chest; when you feel the glute stretch, hold the position for at least 30 seconds and then switch to the other side.
- Butterfly: Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet together and your knees out to the sides. Grasp your ankles or feet while lengthening your spine and activating your abdomen, and lean your body toward your feet - pressing your knees into the floor if you can. Hold this pose for at least 30 seconds.
Yoga or Pilates are your best allies
In addition to weekly stretching routines, as we have seen in other posts, both yoga and pilates have numerous benefits, including gaining flexibility.
The practice of pilates helps to improve the elongation of the muscles, in addition to increasing breath control and body awareness, being ideal for increased flexibility. Meanwhile, in yoga many of the asanas -or postures- that are involved contribute to the improvement of the body's elasticity, thanks to the constant movements of each exercise, so it also favors the work of flexibility.
Now all you have to do is choose your most comfortable outfit and stretch your mat to work on your flexibility and improve it day by day!