"Notice that the stiffest tree is easily cracked while the bamboo survives by bending with the wind" - Bruce Lee
Want to Improve Athletic Performance? Increase Your Flexibility.
There are a number of different ways to improve your physical performance over time, whether it’s drinking more water, getting more adequate sleep at night, avoiding alcohol, and giving yourself enough rest between sets during rigorous workouts. However, one of the most effective performance enhancers you can start incorporating into your training that is often overlooked (and frankly, undervalued) by athletes and fitness enthusiasts is a static, post-workout cool down to increase your flexibility.
Since finding a good starting point might be challenging and overwhelming, we’ve done the heavy lifting in terms of research to outline a few reasons why flexibility is such an integral part of any fitness routine as well as certain exercises you can start to implement into your workouts to take your mobility and athleticism to new heights.
Check it out.
So...What is Flexibility Exactly?
Simply put, flexibility is the ability to move your joints freely through a complete range of motion. It’s a skill that we’re inherently born with, but it’s also one that requires time and consistency to master. Though there are a variety of factors that come into play when discussing the art of flexibility, joint structure, gender, physical activity, diet, and hydration levels all play a part in how far you’re able to stretch. That said, whether you’re already Stretch Armstrong or someone just starting out that struggles to touch their toes, everyone has the ability to improve their flexibility.
Why is Flexibility Important?
Flexibility Reduces Injury
Studies have shown that flexibility dramatically reduces your risk of injury and improves the quality of life, due to a reduction in muscle imbalances and relief from muscle tightness. Think about it - if you can’t touch your toes, your hamstrings are probably very tight, which causes your knees to overcompensate, and results in postural issues over time. Adversely, when you stretch your muscles and consistently work to improve your flexibility, you experience less pain, fewer muscle cramps, and a dramatic increase in mobility.
Flexibility Improves Recovery
Science suggests that daily static stretching not only increases the blood flow to your muscles but also speeds up recovery times and reduces the severity of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). Want to walk normally after leg day? Start stretching.
Flexibility Heightens Athletic Performance
In a recent study published in the journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, researchers found that, after consistent flexibility training two times per week for eight weeks, every participant in the trial dramatically increased their one-rep max on the bench press in terms of load, force, and duration. The researchers concluded that this was likely due to a reduction in muscle stiffness, which helped to generate more force while under the bar. Say goodbye to plateaus and hello to new personal records.
The Ultimate Question: How Do You Become More Flexible?
In order to increase your flexibility in the shortest amount of time, you absolutely need to be doing dynamic stretches prior to working out followed by static holds before you head home. Dynamic stretches are those that involve movement to warm up and loosen the connective tissue and muscles, such as runner’s lunges, inchworms, and arm circles. Static stretches, on the other hand, are slower stationary holds, which help to stretch and relax the muscle while improving elasticity and flexibility over time.
Below are a few static stretches you can start incorporating into your daily routines:
Yoga-Specific Static Stretches
• Downward-Facing Dog
• Sun Salutations
• Triangle Pose
• Spine Rotations
• Butterfly Stretch
• Hamstring Stretch
• Figure 4 Leg Stretch
• Overhead Triceps Stretch
When using static stretches after your workouts, keep in mind that you should remain in each particular position for 30-60 seconds while performing each exercise 2-3 times for maximum
Take care, stay loose...and always stay suave.