What is flexibility?
Flexibility is how much a joint can move through its full range of motion. This is especially important for exercise, fitness and playing sport. It varies between people and depends upon muscle strength. Flexibility can be improved through exercise and in particular stretching.
Why do you need flexibility?
Flexibility enhances your quality of life. The loss of flexibility can lead to physical issues such as pain in certain areas or balance problems. It is good to know it is never too late to do something about it.
What are the benefits of flexibility?
- Injury prevention even during simple tasks such as getting out of bed or moving objects
- Improved sporting performance
- Cardiovascular exercise becomes easier
- Lengthened muscles have the appearance of being leaner
- Improved posture
- Better overall health and vitality
Enhance your flexibility
Flexibility is not just for injury prevention. For example, if you are strength training, flexibility enhances your workout, improving posture and increasing performance. All types of workouts, classes and sports benefit from improved flexibility. Treat flexibility and stretching as part of your workout.
The correct stretches at the right time
There are three main stretching techniques. It is important to do the right type of stretch at the correct time. You are recommended to complete dynamic stretching pre-exercise and static stretching after exercise. Whilst ballistic stretching is now less recommended.
Dynamic Stretches – instead of holding (static stretches) before a weights or cardio workout, try some dynamic movements such as bodyweight squats or lunges. Complete for 20-30 reps to get the body warmed up with a slight sweat.
Static Stretching – the more familiar stretching performed after exercise. This consists of holding a muscle in a static position for 20-30 seconds allowing the muscle to adapt to a new range of motion.
Ballistic Stretching – not recommended. It consists of stretching through quick, bouncy movements, such as bobbing up and down to touch your toes. It does not aid flexibility and can have the opposite effect of tightening up muscles. The only potential benefit is to use it as part of a warm-up in preparation for sports involving similar movements.
Full range of motion when exercising
A partial range of motion may help increase strength when resistance training but the negative effect is tightening of muscles. Work through a full range of motion for exercises. For example, adopt full squats and focus on performing the movement correctly. If starting new exercises, perform with lighter weights to learn it, before progressing to heavier.
Have a massage or use a foam roller
Adding massage to your wellbeing regime will help break up knots in muscles and tissues, which restrict movement. For an in-gym solution, the foam roller before and after workouts allows you to flush away waste products. Focus on large muscles such as the quads, hamstrings, back and lats. Learn how to use a foam roller here.
Take time to relax
Stress tightens up the muscles, having a negative effect on flexibility. Find a few times a week to engage in a relaxing activity. Read a book, take time out to have a sauna or attend a relaxing Yoga class. For more advice on how to cope with stress, please see our tips here.