I want to do cool Ninja moves. Unfortunately my legs don’t stretch like that…yet. That’s why I’m on a mission to increase my flexibility. Doing a little online research I discovered that stretching will not only allow me to do cool things like splits (a standard Ninja trick) but will also reduce my chances of injury and actually increase my muscle growth too. Bonus! Here’s what else I found out:
5 Tips to Increase Flexibility
- Consistency is key. This seems like a no-brainer, but is worth repeating. You only make improvements if you stick with the program. I’ve read that you will notice improvement in range of motion after two weeks of concerted effort. I want to see if this is true, so I took a picture of my current level of flexibility. I’ll check back at the end of the month to see if there is any difference.
- When is the best time to stretch? According to this article in the Mayo Clinic, “Don’t consider stretching a warm-up. You may hurt yourself if you stretch cold muscles. Stretch after you exercise when your muscles are warmed up.” Good to know! I used to make that mistake before I went running until the coach at Team In Training clued me in on the timing tip.
- If you are doing flexibility for muscle growth, the ideal time to do this is after after your strength training workout ,and you should only stretch the muscles you worked on. For example, if you did an upper body workout, do things like lat stretches pictured above. For a complete list of stretches with pictures, you can read the article here: Bodybuilding.com: Stretch Your Way to a More Muscular Body with This Routine.
- Try Pilates. Joseph Pilates was a German-born circus performer and boxer living in England in the 1920’s. During World War I he, along with other Germans, was put in an internment camp. With limited tools available, he developed exercises that made the basis of the Pilates mat exercises you see today. Pilates focuses on strengthening your core, which is comprised of the muscles of your abdomen and back. As your torso gains strength and flexibility so do your limbs supporting the spine. These poses require nothing more than a mat and can be done at home as well as the gym. Click here for some Pilates stretches: Got Knee Injuries? Back Pain? Try these 3 Pilates Stretches.
- Contract and Breath Deeply. According to FitDay, if you contract your muscles for 20-30 seconds and then breath deeply and relax into your muscles you will be able to stretch deeper. Why? “Deep breathing also oxygenates muscles to improve blood flow to the muscle tissues and remove lactic acid, both of which can encourage your muscle fibers to stretch more deeply than they would if you continued breathing shallowly.” You can read more here: How to Improve Flexibility Fast.
Hope you find these helpful. Do you have a favorite stretch?
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