Physical fitness can mean so many things to different people. Whether it’s simply moving your body, or strengthening muscles through weight training, improving yourself and reaching your potential are great reasons for getting fit. With all the fitness gadgets and high energy workout DVDs out there, it seems quite often that people forget to include some simple things like flexibility training to their workout plans.
This can help keep muscles healthy and functioning at their best, even though it only takes a few minutes.
There has been controversy over how stretching helps or hurts you when you add it in before or after your workouts, and evidence can be found for just about any viewpoint. We may not all want to do the splits anytime soon (or ever!), but just about everyone could use a little more flexbility.
Already able to reach 10 inches past your toes? Fill out a Fitness Report Card, and see how fit you really are! Otherwise read on, and consider how flexibility can help you reach new heights in your quest for fitness.
Movement and Flexibility
Movement is important in all areas of life, especially athletics, and so is flexibility. Starting with a flexibility training program that supports the muscles, tendons, and overall movement of the body can have many benefits.
Muscles can become tight and rigid if not properly stretched. Flexibility training stretches the muscles and encourages agility, essential for effective exercising and performance. Muscle coordination and posture can be enhanced because of a few simple stretches.
The stretching exercises do not have to be difficult, grueling, or take so long that you are exhausted after the stretch. One way to incorporate flexibility training in a fun manner is to make the exercise regimen unique to your likes and dislikes – make it fun!
How to Make it Fun
- Do exercises that you enjoy.
- Do exercises that are simple to integrate.
- Focus on the benefits of the exercise.
- Go at your own pace.
- Do not let the routine become boring.
If you follow these simple steps, then you will feel start to feel better while having fun. If the routine is becoming predictable or you just do not feel like you are achieving results like you were at first, then it is time to change the routine: add different exercises, or do something entirely different.
The main focus is to keep the routine going, but the exercises should vary and change often.
Let’s Get Started
So, let’s dust off the exercise gear, lace up the sneakers, and get ready to sweat (only a little – hopefully).
The first rule to remember is to never go from go from a sitting or stationary position straight into an intense workout without setting aside some time for a warmup and a good stretch of the muscles and joints.
For even the most active of people, every exercise session should begin with some form of warm up and flexibility training.
Preparing the body for activity can help deter injury and provide some benefits of its own.
Flexibility Training and Its Benefits
Flexibility training is a crucial component of the exercise routine, although all-too-often dismissed as unimportant. Many athletes feel that a stretch and flexibility routine will take away from the higher-intensity portion of the workout, but a proper warmup can actually increase the workout results.
The best way to describe flexibility training is that it can be any light range-of-motion exercises. Stretching muscles and joints will help the movement of these areas flow smoothly instead of causing muscle strain.
We do not want to make exercising more difficult than it should be; the exercise should be a challenging but not painful. Increase the chances for an effective workout with flexibility training. Muscles that are ready to workout will most likely perform better.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (Are you going to argue with them??) discussed flexibility training as part of both warming up and cooling down in detail. Here’s the breakdown:
- Stretch as often as you exercise; aim for 4-5 days a week.
- Stretch slowly and gently.
- Always do some form of warming up before higher intensity activities.
- Use various exercises often to increase flexibility.
- Hold the stretch for at least 10 – 30 seconds to achieve full benefits.
- Increase flexibility and mobility
- Decrease possibility of injury during activity
- Decreased muscle soreness after the activity
- Balance any muscle imbalances that may occur
- Improve performance and muscle coordination during activity
- Improved posture
- Increase of blood flow and nutrients to joints and soft tissue
- Bouncing as you stretch
- Forcing the muscles to extend beyond a slight discomfort
- Trying to match flexibility with others
- Skipping flexibility training before higher intensity activities
Risks if You Do It Wrong:
- Muscle strains from over-stretching
- Actually increasing your possibility for injury
Taking Steps to Training Properly
Some of you might be thinking this is way too complicated, but it does not have to be an exhausting process. Many times, it is all about finding the exercises that work best for you and your body while ensuring that the movement is easy to complete. For guidance, use our detailed directions and photos to demonstrate the exercise. We’ve got plenty of examples for you to follow in our list of exercises.
Here are a few to get you started:
Having a guide to follow will help ensure that the exercise is done properly and you are receiving the rewards of the activity. Many people find it difficult enough to exercise, and you want to be sure that you are using the motions and movement to your advantage at all times.
Training of any kind is useless unless the actions are done properly each time. Do it right to get the most out of it.
The Verdict on Flexibility Training
Flexibility is important in all activities and sports. The flexibility of the athlete is directly related to the mobility of the athlete.
This means that the more flexible athlete will move with agility and dexterity with a significantly reduced possibility of injury. This is a major advantage for any and all sports and activities.
Regardless of what sport or activity you are engaging in, flexibility can help you step up your game.
Flexibility training does not have to take hours, so a few minutes every day of focused stretching the muscles can result in greater performance on the field, court, or anywhere the activity of your choice takes place.
Plus, the ease of movement allows you to develop your game because you are now focused on the game instead of your sore or stiff muscles. You can move around without a second-thought of injury or strain.
The verdict here is that it’s probably not a bad idea to incorporate flexibility training into your exercise routine. In fact, we think it’s a pretty good one.The benefits are immense, the rewards go beyond the exercise routine itself, and your muscles will thank you.
Once again, we’re not telling you to go and try to do the splits every day before you lift. Building up flexibility takes time, but it can definitely be worthwhile when it’s done right.
What are you waiting for? Add flexibility to your own workout plan and see what kind of difference it can make for you! Once you’ve got your workout down, join a fitness group and compete against your friends! Are you addicted to flexibility training or do you have a hard time touching your toes? Let your voice be heard in the comments!