Flexibility 101

Flexibility refers to the degree to which a joint moves throughout a normal, pain-free range of motion. Since most physical activities and sports consist of many multijoint movements, flexibility is essential to your weekly workout routine. Flexibility training includes stretching exercises that work to increase range of motion.

Stretching can be performed at the start, middle, or end of a workout. Studies have shown that an active warm-up reduces the resistance to stretch, by increasing the temperature of the muscle you are increasing the elastic properties or the ability to stretch. Some typical warm-ups include walking, jogging, stationary cycling, and/or elliptical and rowing machine work.

Proper breathing is important when performing all exercises there is no exception when it comes to flexibility training. Using correct breathing techniques can help reduce stress and allow you to move into a position that is more comfortable. As a general rule of thumb, you should exhale slowly as you move to the end point of the stretch and inhale as you return to the starting position.

Posture is crucial when it comes to performing a stretch to ensure that you are targeting the current muscle groups. So when stretching here are a few things to remember, maintain a neutral position of the spine, try to keep shoulders back and away from ears, and hips should stay in a neutral and level position.

Here are a few basic stretches that you can perform at home…

Standing hip flexor stretch: Stand up straight with a neutral spine and keep hands of hips. Step forward with left foot into a lung position; right heel maybe elevated to facilitate this movement. Then, shift hips forward and maintain this position, feeling tension not PAIN in hips, quadriceps, and buttocks. Repeat with the opposite side.

Seated hamstring stretch: Sit upright on the floor with both legs extended and hands resting on top of quadriceps. Slowly walk the hands forward toward the feet, keeping the chest lifted.

Triceps Stretch: Facing forward, bring right arm up, bend from the elbow, and drop the hand behind the head. Try to reach left shoulder with right hand. Bring right hand to left shoulder and gently pull left elbow rightward to increase tension on arm. Repeat on opposite arm.

Chest Stretch: Place extended arms against an open doorway and lean forward, feeling gentle tension develop across the chest. Repeat on opposite side.

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