Focus on Flexibility

Posted on October 5, 2010. Filed under: get in shape, getting in shape, gyms in peabody, losing weight, personal trainer in medford, personal trainer in peabody, The Get In Shape Girl |

What exactly is flexibility?  According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), it is the “normal extensibility of all soft tissues that allow the full range of motion in a joint.”  In real people terms in means that you need to be able to fully stretch your muscles so you can fully flex or extend a joint.  For example, many folks have a very tight chest, making it difficult to clasp their hands behind their back or even hold their shoulders back in good posture.

Even if holding your shoulders back isn’t a problem for you, there may be other muscles of your body that aren’t as flexible as others.  When the more flexible muscle groups work with less flexible muscle groups it can cause imbalances, thus leading to injury.  Let’s say for example you have really tight hamstrings.  These tight muscles are going to pull the pelvis out of it’s normal positioning (as you can imagine, so will tight quads or hip flexors) and cause some serious back pain.  Stretching, over time, will help these muscles to relax so none are pulling any more than others, so in coordinance with strengthening the under active muscles will help everything work the most efficiently.

Aside from correcting imbalances, flexibility also aids in increasing range of motion in joints.  Being able to have full range of motion in each exercise will make them more effective.  I mean, imagine if you were doing a chest press.  Don’t you think that chest press is going to work more for you if you are able to let your arms fall back further before pressing up?  It’s just common sense.  Flexibility will also decrease excessive muscle tension that you have every day, so be ready to say goodbye to that uncomfortable tightness!

Increased flexibility will also help with coordination.  Imagine if you were to do lunges and your back knee doesn’t want to come anywhere near the ground, as a matter of fact, that back knee wants to stay kind of straight.   Now, your regular lunges aren’t going to look too pretty (and we’ve also discussed, they aren’t going to be as effective) and just imagine if you were to do walking lunges… or jumping lunges!  Once you get that flexibility down so that you can do the basic lunge, it will help with your coordination to be able to do the more difficult moves.

So far we have the following reasons to stretch..

1.  Improves posture

2. Reduce pain (low back, legs, etc)

3. Most efficient movement/ better range of motion

4. Corrects imbalances

5. Improves coordination

6. Decreases risk of injury

Not to mention all of the following reasons:

7. Relieves muscle soreness

8. Increases blood & nutrient supply to tissues

9. Reduction of toxins within the body

10. Rejuvenates/ gives energy

11. IT JUST FEELS GOOD!!

Working on flexibility is for everyone!  Runners, body builders, hockey players, swimmers, pilates instructors.. EVERYONE!  The best time to stretch is when the tissues of the body are already warm, so right after a warm up is a good time for some dynamic stretching (stretching while moving.. think of cross body arm swings as opposed to crossing the body & holding) and post-workout or even between sets of heavy lifting, is the best time for static stretching (stretches you hold for up to 20 seconds.)  These are also the optimal times for foam rolling.    And there are some classes based solely on stretching!  I have heard of gyms having stretching classes, but there are many yoga classes that will get into deep stretches that you hold.  If you are a member of a gym or yoga studio ask which ones specialize moreso in the stretch.. most likely it will be a gentle yoga class or a Hatha style class.  One of the primary benefits of yoga is he increased flexibility.  And now’s the time and excuse to go get yourself a sports massage!  These on a regular basis can help with loosening tissue as well.

So don’t run into the gym & bang out your workout & go about your day.  You are forgetting your muscles’ favorite part of the workout… the stretch!

Kyra Williams,

The Get In Shape Girl

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