Here’s How to Actually Become More Flexible

Here’s How to Actually Become More Flexible

Flexibility brings to mind images of yoga poses like pigeon or lizard, ballerinas stretching their legs to unfathomable heights, or even memories of reaching forward in the V-sit in elementary school, hoping to get the Presidential Fitness Award. Often, people either think they’re flexible — or they believe they’re not. 

But flexibility is something that impacts everyone throughout their lives, and prioritizing flexibility is an integral part of maintaining overall fitness and setting yourself up for wellness, particularly as you age. It’s also something you can work on and change, and it’s possible to become more flexible, regardless of where you start. 

What is Flexibility?

Flexibility refers to your muscles, joints, and connective tissue’s ability to stretch, move, and work through a range of motion without pain. It’s your ability to comfortably sit cross legged on the floor, touch your arms behind your back, or do a quad stretch. While everyone’s range of motion and level of flexibility is varied, flexibility is key to maintaining the health of your soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other critical connective components. 

It’s also important to note that mobility is different from flexibility. With mobility, you’re specifically referring to the ability of a joint to actively move through a motion. Mobility is your ability to run towards and hit a ball or quickly move through footwork on a court. Mobility is action-based. Flexibility is the ability of a muscle to lengthen, and it is passive rather than active.

Why is Flexibility Important?

You rely on flexibility in everything you do from athletic pursuits to household tasks to simply moving through the world with ease and without pain. When you work on flexibility, you give your body the room it needs to stretch and move without injuring yourself, while also increasing blood supply to joints and promoting circulation. You’ll suffer from fewer daily aches, you’ll improve your posture and feel more confident when picking up sports or participating in a fitness class, and little things, like getting up from the sofa or reaching a high shelf, won’t feel taxing on your body.

However, if you choose to give up on improving your flexibility, you could suffer consequences such as issues with tendons and weight bearing joints like hips and knees, as well as muscular tears and injuries. Luckily, the barrier to entry is low when incorporating flexibility training into your fitness routine

How to Increase Your Flexibility 

The idea of touching your toes might seem like an unattainable goal, but everyone starts somewhere when it comes to flexibility. You can build up gradually and work within the abilities of your own body. Here’s how:

Be Consistent

The best way to see improvement in flexibility is to work on it every day, just a little bit at a time. Incorporate a short five-to-ten minute stretching routine into your workout schedule or stretch in the morning or before bed. It’s those little movements that will add up to results and inches reached over time.

Try Pilates

The combination of strengthening, focus on form, and intentional breath work makes Pilates one of the most effective fitness routines to target flexibility. When you work out on the Reformer, you can utilize the carriage, straps, and springs to push your muscles deeper into stretches. With at-home classes like FRAME, you can incorporate short flexibility-focused workouts into your everyday routine, allowing yourself to reach more consistency, which is key when building flexibility. 

Stretch After You Workout

You’ll find the most effective stretches after your muscles are warm, so the ideal time to work on your flexibility is after you workout (though it’s not necessary — you can stretch anytime!). This is when you’ll find a deeper range of movement and make strides in how far you can stretch.

Foam Roll

Using a foam roller on muscles can help improve circulation, warm up muscle groups, and help you improve flexibility over time. Roll three or four times along major muscles, like your quads, hip flexors, hamstrings, shoulders, and calves to help release tension and work on your muscle’s ability to stretch. 

Target Areas that Feel Tight

Shoulders feel tight? Stretch them! Quads sore? Try a few runner’s stretches. The best part about working on your flexibility is that the best area to stretch is the one that’s feeling like it needs a stretch. You’ll gradually work on the muscle groups that you use most frequently and need the most attention.

Don’t Push Yourself

It’s possible to push yourself too far and tear your muscles when working on flexibility, but it’s avoidable if you know when to stop. Building flexibility is a gradual process — it takes time! While it’s best to stretch when you’re warmed up, be aware that warmed up muscles can also stretch too far. Only do what feels comfortable, feeling just light resistance as you stretch, rather than venturing into what feels painful.

How are you currently working on your flexibility? Have you found best practices for incorporating flexibility training into your everyday routine? Share in the comments below!

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