Maintaining your flexibility is important no matter what age you are. Whether you are an athlete or not, improving your flexibility can help reduce the risk of injury. Athletes need to be flexible to stay physically fit and non-athletes need to remain flexible so that they don't overstretch muscles that they don't use regularly. Then how to improve flexibility? Read on to learn how you can achieve that. However, keep in mind that flexibility won't improve overnight.
Stretches to Improve Flexibility
Stretching is the best way to increase your range of motion and flexibility. The most common types of stretches for improving flexibility are often static stretches. While this is one type of stretch, it isn't the only one. You can try one of three stretching methods, which can affect your flexibility in various ways.
Static Stretches - As mentioned, static stretches are the most common types of stretches. These stretches allow the muscles to adopt a greater range of motion at a slow pace. During this stretch, the muscle remains relaxed and can be done on just about any joint in the body. For example, one can bend forward to stretch the hamstrings and hold for about 30 seconds for improving flexibility.
Dynamic Stretches - These stretches utilize bodyweight movements to improve flexibility. Some of the most common types of dynamic stretches include lunges or squats. Stretches that move the body up or down through different planes are considered dynamic stretch and are ideal to perform just before a rigorous training session. These active stretches both contract and relax the muscles throughout the stretches.
Ballistic Stretches - Ballistic stretches are not the most recommended type of stretch to perform to increase flexibility because they can often lead to a greater chance of injury. These stretches are usually done by forcing your body to stretch further than it would by performing powerful movements that are quick. For instance, when you are trying to stretch to touch your toes and you try to bob your body downward to reach. If you wonder about how to improve flexibility by yourself, these can result in the muscles tightening up and can hinder your flexibility.
Additionally, there are more advanced forms of stretches that can improve your flexibility. These stretches are often done with the assistance of a therapist and can be both passive and active types of stretches.
After knowing the basics of types of stretches, here are some stretches for you to begin with.
Trunk Twist (seated)
The seated trunk twist helps stretch the abs, obliques and back muscles. Begin this stretch by sitting on the floor with the legs extended in front of you and the abs engaged. Rotate your rib cage to the right side, being sure to keep the nose aligned with the breastbone; the abs should remain engaged. Then lift the ribcage off the hips and further rotate to the right. You should feel yourself growing taller as you twist further. Return to your start position and repeat on the left side. You should repeat this process ten times and hold the final twist for a count of 30.
This stretch helps increase flexibility in the calves, hamstrings, glute, back and neck muscles. Begin at a standing position with the feet about hip-width apart and the arms down at your sides. Bend forward on your next exhale to lower your head towards the ground. Keep the head, neck, and shoulders relaxed as you wrap your arms around your legs. Try to hold this bend for at least 45 seconds or more, up to two minutes. Roll your head slowly back up, bending the knees slightly as you do.
This simple stretch can improve flexibility in the shoulders, triceps, and back. You can either sit or stand while doing the stretch, but you want to keep the abs engaged. Cross the legs and keep the shoulders down as you extend the arms out in front of you so they are level with your shoulders. Bring the right arm over the left to lock your elbows. The hands should be facing up. Begin to twist the hands so that the palms face one another and hold this position for about 45 seconds. Repeat this process with the left arm.
How to improve flexibility in your back, chest, shoulders, hip flexors, abs and obliques? Try this simple stretch. Begin lying down on the floor with your face towards the ground. Place your hands on the shoulders, keeping the fingers stretched out in front of you and the legs extend out behind you but together. Lift the belly up off the ground by pressing the hands firmly to the ground. The abs should be engaged with the shoulders down while keeping the pelvis grounded. Reach the crown of the head upwards to lengthen the upper body and bringing the shoulder blades together to open the chest. Hold this position for about 45 seconds before slowly lowering back down to the floor. Repeat this process five times.
To stretch the triceps, shoulders, neck, back, and abs, perform this standing tricep stretch. At a standing position, extend the arms over your head, keep the feet about hip-width apart. Bring the right palm down to touch the upper back by bending the elbow. The left hand should reach over to grab just below the right elbow. Begin to pull the elbow towards the head and hold this position for about 45 seconds. Repeat on the left arm.
Stretch for the quads and hip flexor
Begin at a kneeling position with both shins on the floor. Bring the right leg forward to create a 90-degree angle at the knee. The right foot should be flat on the floor just under the knee with the left leg bent under your body. Bring your hands to the right knee as you press the left hip forward. Keep the torso upright as you lean into the stretch and hold this position for about 30 seconds. Repeat the process on the left leg and then repeat another three time.
An effective stretch for those asking how to improve flexibility in the hamstrings, thighs, glutes, and back is the butterfly stretch. Simply sit on the floor with the bottoms of the feet together. The knees would be bent outwards towards the sides and your hands should hold the feet. Begin to engage the abs as you lower your body towards your feet. Lower as far down that is comfortable for you and hold the position for about 45 seconds or up to two minutes.
More Ways to Improve Flexibility
While you can perform any of the mentioned stretches to increase your flexibility, there are additional methods you can utilize in addition to these simple stretches.
Yoga is a great form of exercise that can significantly increase your flexibility with consistency.
Pilates, which is similar to yoga, is also a great way to increase flexibility. This form of exercise often utilizes weights, resistance bands or exercise balls to also tone the muscles.
Deep muscles massages help improve circulation in the body and assist in repair damage to the muscles.
Sitting in a hot bath or sauna room will help relax the muscles. When used with other stretching techniques, you can increase your flexibility further.
Acupuncture can help reduce muscles pains while also improve blood flow to the muscles. This can help increase flexibility when combined with other types of exercise and stretching.