Are You Flexible Enough?

Why and how you should work harder to boost your flexibility.

If flexibility is a secondary concern for you, it’s time to move it up on your priority list. Because while you may consider flexibility to be important only for gymnasts and wrestlers, flexibility offers great benefits for people of all ages, stages, and interests.

What should you know about flexibility? Good question.

Why It’s Important

Before you’ll spend time stretching your muscles, you need to be sold on the idea. So why is flexibility important? Because flexibility doesn’t mean being able to contort your body until you look like a human pretzel. Rather, flexibility is the ability to move your muscles and joints throughout their intended range of motion. Why should this matter to you? After all, you get along pretty well without being able to touch your toes, and you’ve never been hindered by an inability to do the splits, so stretching can’t be that big of a deal.

But did you know that you’ll never reach your maximum strength if you aren’t flexible? Stretching ensures you have full use of your muscles and ligaments. In the gym, this means you can perform each repetition properly and strengthen the entire muscle and ligament. Being flexible also increases your balance and coordination and helps you perform daily duties. Grabbing a lost house shoe under your bed, grabbing a book from the top shelf, and checking your car’s tire pressure are all made easier if you’re flexible.

How to Flexifize

Ready to grow your flexibility and improve your overall health and well-being in the process? Here are a few things to remember and do to help your body being its most flexible.

Stretch everything out. You may use your legs more than your arms or your calves more than your back, but you need to stretch them all out. When you stretch, make sure you focus on your back, thighs, calves, hips, and arms.

Take it easy. Yes, you want your body to become flexible so you can be stronger and be better able to grab the peanut butter on top of the refrigerator. However, it’s not going to happen over night. If you’re just starting a stretching routine, take it slow. Improper or excessive stretching carries many risks as excessive exercise.

Do it daily. While you may be accustomed to doing a quick stretch before hitting the treadmill, that isn’t enough to be truly flexible. To up your flexibility, you’ll need to spend at least 10 minutes stretching every day—even when you’re not going to the gym. An easy way to squeeze a little stretching in is by doing it during a coffee break or before the start of your day.

Find a stretchable class. Weight lifting, spin, and other exercise classes cause you to shorten your muscles. To counter this effect on your muscles and ligaments, join a yoga, tai chi, or dance class. With these classes, you’ll have a good time, get in some great exercise, and leave feeling more flexible than when you first entered.

Your First Stretches

If you’re flexibility challenged, use these stretches to get started on your way to a healthier, more flexible you!

Calves: Put both hands flat on a wall, fence, or tree, and stand with your right foot forward and the left extended backward. As you bend your right knee, lean toward the wall, careful to keep the heels of both feet on the ground. When you feel the stretch in your left calf, hold for 20 seconds. Relax and change legs.

Thighs: Sit on the floor with both legs facing forward. Lift your right knee and place your right foot flat on the floor over your left leg. Put your left elbow on your right knee and your right arm on the floor behind your right hip. Slowly twist your waist and shoulders to the right, as you push the stretch farther with the pressure of your left elbow on your right knee. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, return to the starting position, and repeat in the opposite direction.

Back: Lying flat on your back, pull your knees to your chest and hold them there with your arms for 20 seconds. Release, relax, and repeat for three to five repetitions.

Arms: Put your left hand behind your head as if trying to touch the middle of your back. Grab your left elbow with your right hand and push your left arm down until you feel the back of your arm stretching. Then hold for 20 seconds and repeat.

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