May 23, 2016
Flexibility is defined as the range of motion of a joint and the mobility of the muscles around it. It is one of the main fitness components of an exercise regime and should NOT be forgotten.
The benefits of stretching:
- increased range of motion
- better postural stability
- improved balance
- reduce risk of injury
- prevention of lower back pain (especially if you have a desk job or drive a lot)
- reduce stress and tension headaches
- increased circulation (and energy)
- relieve injuries related to overuse and muscle tightness
Most Common Types of Stretches
Ballistic stretching: uses a bouncing force to increase the range of motion
Dynamic stretching: continuous active movements that progressively increase the range of motion
Static stretching: slow stretching that is held at the end of range of motion for a period of time
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) stretching: follows a contract-relax mechanisms to gradually increase range of motion
What stretches to perform and when
Recent studies within the last 10 years have released evidence to support the effectiveness of performing stretches AFTER your workout, rather than before. This is most beneficial as studies have linked stretching before a workout to reduced muscle strength, power and sports performance.
TIP: you should still conduct a good sweat breaking 10-20 minute (depending on your activity) warm up prior to engaging in exercise but keep it dynamic. Replicate the movements you are about to perform in your exercise. For example, before a weights session go for a 10 minute moderately paced jog followed by one set of full range body weight exercises to get the joints moving through that range of motion.
The best stretches to perform after a workout are PNF (best to do with a trainer/partner) or static. To reap long term benefits, studies have shown that you should spend at least 10 minutes at the end of a session at least 3-4 times a week (daily is optimal). Pick four main target areas to focus on and hold the stretch for 20 seconds at the point of tightness, using your breath to go deeper and repeat three times.
When to avoid stretching
- if you have torn or strained a muscle
- if you are hypermobile
How to improve flexibility
Flexibility is one of the easiest fitness components to train but quite often one of the most forgotten!
If you are after a more generalised approach to improving your flexibility, yoga is a really good starting point. I have hand-picked the following websites which offer progressive yoga programs for beginners to advanced and can be done in the comfort of your own home:
For a more specific and personalised approach, getting a proper flexibility assessment from an experienced and qualified trainer is the best way to gauge where your flexibility lies. As part of my coaching, I am trained to conduct comprehensive testing on clients for flexibility and mobility imbalances which could be causing pain, may hinder performance or could be putting them at risk of injury. From these results, clients are given a personalised flexibility program, specific to their target areas and goals. For more information on testing, feel free to email me at email@example.com or contact me via my Facebook page (see link below).
IG: @lizziebaxterpt< /br>
- Senior Trainer at Anytime Fitness Frenchs Forest
- Bachelor of Health Science
- Anytime Fitness National Ambassador