Have you found yourself gawping at another gym-goer in equal parts amazement and jealousy at the stretches they are capable of? Like it or not, it’s not through chance! Despite the notion that some people are just naturally more flexible than others, it takes practise and lots and lots of stretching to achieve peak flexibility.
Take, for example, gymnasts. To be successful in their field, they must be as flexible as possible, remaining supple to give them the best opportunity to perform to the best of their ability. The splits are, probably, the first thing that comes to mind as the clearest demonstration of one’s own flexibility, but how do you achieve such a feat?
To achieve the ability to perform an activity like the splits, you should be consistent in your warm-up routine, but it is important not to push yourself body beyond what it is capable of. Usually, you are encouraged to push your body to its limits, but when it comes to stretching you should make sure to stop before the hold becomes painful.
For those that work in an office, sitting behind a desk for the majority of the day, muscles will be naturally tighter. Including regular exercise in your weekly routine can make all the difference, even if just half an hour two or three times a week is all you have time for – it is what you do in that time that makes it effective.
There are a number of good stretches that aid the flexibility of your muscles, including:
Standing Hamstring Stretch – Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees ever so slightly bent with your arms by your side, slowly move your head closer to the floor whilst moving your hands down the back of your legs. Once you reach as far as you can go (without too much discomfort), hold for between 45 seconds and two minutes. This hold stretches your glutes, hamstring, calves, back, and neck.
Butterfly Stretch – Sit up straight on the floor with the soles of your feet touching one another and your knees bent out to the sides. Hold your ankles and slowly lower your body towards your feet while pressing your knees down. You will feel this hold stretching your abs, hips, back, glutes and thighs.
Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch – Kneel on one knee whilst placing your opposite foot flat on the floor. Lean forward slowly and stretch your buttocks. After holding for between 30 seconds and a couple of minutes, switch sides. This will stretch your hip muscles.
Knee to Chest Stretch – Lie flat on your back and extend both legs out completely. Pull one knee slowly towards your chest and hold for at least 30 seconds. You will feel this stretch along your hamstrings, hips and lower back. You can perform this stretch either with one knee at a time, alternating the hold, or both at the same time.
Child’s Pose – This stretch doubles up as a yoga pose that will work your upper and lower back, as well as your shoulders. Begin on all fours with your hands and knees shoulder-width apart and push your hips into your knees while extending your arms out (with hands still firmly on the ground) and resting your forehead on the floor.
If you consider yourself to be something of a couch potato or are coming back from injury, you cannot expect to have the flexibility of a rubber doll in just a couple of weeks. It takes time to build muscle strength and flexibility, it isn’t an overnight process. Everyone is different, but by following a regular program, and with plenty of practise, you could feasibly reach a split in a month or two.
However, this is dependent on, not just your age and fitness level, but also genetics. Some people naturally possess more flexible muscles and ligaments, while others simply do not. If you try to force your body into doing the splits, or pushing any muscles or ligaments past the point it becomes painful you will only cause potentially serious injury to yourself.
Sport That Aids Flexibility
If solely stretching for half an hour each day doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time, or if you simply want to train your body into becoming more flexible, then there are a range of sporting activities that can help. Gymnastics, of course, is the first that springs to mind, while football, tennis and basketball all call on a certain amount of flexibility, too.
Boxing is another sport that requires a nimble body, with the demand for quick and instinctive movements. Anyone who has ever taken part in our B-Boxing will be the first to say how fit you have to be in order to keep up. While our classes do not incorporate any actual sparring, the circuits that make up part of the sessions will work every muscle in your body.
At Bodyjunkies, we offer a range of classes that can help you to work on your body’s flexibility, as well as a fantastic team of personal trainers who will be more than happy to push you to the limit.
For more information, please get in touch with a member of our team today via the contact page.