Flexibility may not be as glamorous as lifting big loads or getting a really good cardio session done, but working on your joints’ flexibility and range of movement is an important part of a balanced exercise regime.
In this article, we’ll take you through the benefits of including flexibility training within your workout routine, tell you which fitness classes are good for working on your range of movement and give you some examples of great stretches for you to try yourself. All this will show how important it to include flexibility training in your regular workouts.
Benefits of Flexibility Training
Improving your flexibility is a vital part of any exercise regimen and there are loads of benefits to doing so. Not only will it help you move your joints further, but you’ll be able to move them more accurately and with more control.
This has a fantastic knock-on effect on the rest of your workout, helping you exercise better and help prevent injuries, you’ll get more benefit from any exercise you’re doing and so you’ll reach your fitness goals more quickly. You’ll also likely improve your posture and reduce any aches and pains you may suffer from too.
Much-Improved Range of Motion
By improving your flexibility, your joints have a far greater range of motion. This will help you do more exercises and do them properly, meaning you’ll get more and more out of each exercise you do. For example, by improving the range of motion in your hips and your knees will allow you to sink deeper into a squat, thereby gaining more from each squat you do.
It’ll help you Avoid Imbalances in your Body
Both aerobic and strength training tends to contract and shorten the main muscles you’re working while exercising. Therefore, if you do nothing but contract muscles and never try and lengthen them again, you’ll end up with imbalances in your body, which can lead to pain and discomfort. This will also help you avoid injury, allowing you to reach your training goals more quickly.
Flexibility is Important for Everyday Life
Another benefit of getting more flexible is that it’ll help you perform those simple, everyday tasks just that little bit more easily. Bending down to tie your shoelaces? Easier when you’re more flexible. Walking upstairs, picking things up from the ground, standing up from the sofa – all easier the more flexible you are.
It’s great for your Mental Health
It’s been proven that regularly stretching and opening up your body can help you to relax, both physically and mentally, making it easier for you to unwind and giving you a greater sense of wellbeing.
How does Stretching Improve Flexibility?
As we’ve mentioned, improving flexibility is all about lengthening muscles that are overly-contracted through over use during strength or cardio training and this is where stretching comes in. By stretching muscles, you are counteracting the contracting forces of exercise on them, meaning you’ll have a greater range of movement, as well as greater control over that movement.
Which Fitness Classes are good for Flexibility?
There are a number of fitness classes offered by Everyone Active you can try that will help improve your flexibility. These include Yoga, Pilates and Les Mills Bodybalance classes.
Pilates is fantastic for making you more flexible. Involving mostly mat-based stretches, practicing Pilates regularly will improve your core strength, improve your stress levels and, crucially, have a significant impact on your range of movement and flexibility.
Les Mills Bodybalance
This is one of our most popular fitness classes. Bodybalance comprises scientifically-developed combination of some Tai Chi and Pilates elements, combined with Yoga moves. All set to calming music, you’re setting both your body and your mind a series of challenges that have been specifically developed to make you both more flexible and stronger.
Yoga relies on improving your strength, flexibility and breathing through a series of increasingly difficult stretches. It’s designed to help you think more clearly and improve your mental wellness, as well as helping with your overall health and fitness.
Examples of Flexibility-Improving Exercises
To help you understand more about improving your flexibility, we’ve put together a fabulous selection of exercises and stretches that will help you increase your range of motion, joint strength and overall mobility.
One of the more famous Yoga poses, this is fantastic for working your upper legs and shoulder muscles. Specifically, it targets the hamstrings, glutes, deltoids, triceps and quadriceps, with repeated performing of this pose helping your range of movement in your shoulders and allow you to move your legs more freely.
- Put yourself on all fours with your hands under your wrists and your knees under your hips
- Press into your hands as you tuck your toes under and lift your knees, keeping your heels lifted
- Extend through your spine and lift your sitting bones up toward the ceiling
- Bend your knees slightly and press into all of the parts of your hands
- Bring your head in line with your upper arms or relax your neck and tuck your chin into your chest
- Focus on stretching and strengthening your body
- Hold this pose for up to a minute at a time
- Repeat the pose three to five times after a short rest or in between other poses
Figure Four Stretch
This passive stretching exercise works the hip rotator and flexor muscles, making it superb for helping relieve sciatica symptoms and those of knee pain as well.
- With your feet flat on the floor, lie on your back
- Cross your left foot over your right quad
- Lift your right leg off the floor. Grab onto the back of your right leg and gently pull it toward your chest.
- When you feel a comfortable stretch, hold there
- Hold for between 30 seconds and two minutes
- Switch sides and repeat
This exercise will help with the flexibility and range of movement of muscles like your lats, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and your internal obliques. This means you’ll be feeling more limber in and around your upper legs and on the sides of your torso.
- Bring your feet apart so they’re wider than your hips with your right toes turned to the right and your left toes slightly turned to the right
- Lift your arms so they’re parallel to the floor with your palms facing down
- Reach down and touch your right leg with your right hand, hinging at your hip as you do so
- Extend your left arm up toward the ceiling with your palm facing away from your body
- Hold this pose for 30 seconds
- Repeat this on the opposite side
Two-Knee Spinal Twist
This exercise is great for giving you more mobility through your core and your trunk, improving flexibility and range of movement in your pecs, abs, back muscles and your trapezius muscles.
- Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest
- Extend your arms to the side with your palms facing down
- Slowly drop your legs down to the left side, keeping your knees together
- Feel free to use a cushion either between or under your knees
- Breathe deeply and relax
- Hold the pose for three to five minutes
- Repeat on the opposite side
This seated stretch focus on your hip, glutes, back and thigh muscles, increasing your range of movement and flexibility in these areas if performed frequently.
- Sit tall on the floor with the soles of your feet together, with your knees pointing out to the sides
- Hold onto your ankles or feet, engage your abs and slowly lower your body toward your feet as far as you can while pressing your knees toward the floor
- If you’re struggling to bend over, just press your knees down
- Hold this stretch for 30 seconds to two minutes
Another firm favourite (largely due to the adorable name), the extended puppy focuses on the glutes, back muscles and shoulders, allowing freer movement in these areas if performed on a regular basis.
- Begin on all fours
- Walk your arms forward a few inches and curl your toes underneath yourself
- Push your hips up and back halfway toward your heels
- Reach forward, making sure your arms are straight and engaged
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds to two minutes