How To - Increase Your Flexibility

Alongside cardiovascular conditioning and strength training, flexibility is the third pillar of fitness, yet many people still neglect this aspect of training in their workouts. Flexibility is not just important to dancers and gymnasts, some of the most impressive displays of flexibility you will see are showcased by Mixed Martial Arts fighters who are arguably some of the most well-rounded athletes in the world.

2008 Mr Olympia (and this year’s winner of the Arnold Classic) and professional body builder Dexter Jackson swore by stretching between sets so you are in good company by including stretching in your workouts.

Flexibility is more than just increasing your range of motion, it is important for great number of fitness aspects including body control, coordination, balance, recovery, injury prevention and posture.

This video will take you through the different types of flexibility and demonstrate stretching exercises related to each. Before attempting any of the exercises in this video it is important to warm-up!

Flexibility Part 1: Static Passive Flexibility

This is the most common form of flexibility you will probably see. It is the ability to hold a stretch using bodyweight/gravity.

Stretches are slow and constant and should be held for 30 seconds. In these stretching positions, the external forces (bodyweight/gravity) hold you in place as opposed to activated muscle.

Passive flexibility can be improved with static and isometric stretching. If you are a beginner, static stretching is a good place to start. Isometric stretches are a good way to progress static stretches when they become easier.

Demonstrated exercises:

Quad stretch: From an upright standing position, lift one foot from the ground so that you are balanced on one leg. Bend your active leg at the knee and hold onto this foot with both hands, pulling it towards your glutes.

Clasp and Lean Stretch: Interlock your fingers behind your back with arms straight. Lift your hands away from your glutes and up towards the ceiling. Begin bending forwards at the hips so that your hands are as close to the ground in front of you as possible. You should feel a stretch in your chest, shoulders and hamstrings.

Flexibility Part 2: The Split Stretch

Lower yourself into the splits position or as close to the floor as you can get and hold. To increase the stretch in the hamstring of your front leg, lean your chest towards the shin of your front leg and hold onto your ankle. To increase the stretch in your rear quad and back, lean backwards and bend your rear leg at the knee. Hold onto your rear foot and pull towards your head.

Flexibility Part 3: Dynamic Flexibility

The need for dynamic flexibility is very sport specific. Football players, dancers, hockey players and pole vault athletes all display varying flexible dynamic movements.

Dynamic stretches use the speed and momentum of the movement along with active muscular effort to bring about the stretch. Dynamic stretches are not held in position.

Demonstrated exercises:

Scorpion stretch: Lay on your back with knees in the air and feet on the floor. Swing your leading leg across your body ensuring that you keep both shoulders firmly placed on the floor. The object is to get your leg as high as possible beside your body with your foot/knee in contact with the floor.

Flexibility Part 4: Leg Swings

Begin this exercise in a standing position. Place your leading leg behind you and swing through in front of you. Both your supporting and active leg should be kept straight. Use the momentum of the swing to increase the range of motion with each swing/kick.

Flexibility Part 5: Static Active Flexibility

This is the impressive flexibility that you will see particularly in martial arts and gymnastics. It is the ability to hold a stretch using the strength of the opposing muscle groups. Strength and flexibility combined are very impressive and well worth training! This is the type of flexibility you need to perform impressive bodyweight exercises such as the L-sit and planche.

Flexibility Part 6: PNF Stretching

Another great way to improve flexibility (and my personal favourite) is PNF stretching. This can be achieved through a contract-relax cycle or a hold-relax cycle. You would normally use a partner for this stretching, but you can perform them on your own as well.

To increase hamstring flexibility, lie on your back and lift your leg in front of you until you feel a slight stretch. Place your hands around your leg and depending on which cycle you choose, exert equal or less than equal effort towards your leg. Hold this contraction for 5-7 seconds and then release. Continue cycles at increasing heights.

Flexibility Part 7: Nutritional Requirements

To maximise flexibility training, ensure that your joints receive the nutritional support that they will need for these exercises. Optimum Health Ultimate Joint Support is a cost-effective way to ensure you are not deficient in calcium, vitamin C or glucosamine and that your joints are able to function optimally through a wide range of motion.

You can also opt for an essential fatty acid oil blend such as Udos Choice Ultimate Oil Blend. Essential fatty acids contribute to well-being by supporting cardiovascular function, immune function and joints.

To check out our full range of joint support supplements, type Discount Supplements into google.

About the Author

Job Role Sports Nutritionist and Social Media Coordinator Qualifications Bsc Sport and Exercise Science Steph has a competitive athletic background which spans 19 years. As a child she performed with the English Youth Ballet and had performed on the West End stage by the age of 10. Her enthusiasm for sport and fitness continued to grow as she did, encouraging her to learn more about nutrition and training. She began using her knowledge and personal experience to help others when she began coaching at the age of 16. From here, she went on to study Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Essex during which time she also received the Most Promising Newcomer Award from her University to mark her outstanding contribution to sport. During her first year of study she was introduced to partner stunt acrobatics and artistic gymnastics. After one year of dedicating herself to a lifestyle revolving around her sport, she was training with the best team in the UK who are currently ranked fifth in the world. Steph has worked in both the private and public sector coaching children and adults from grassroot to elite level as well as providing them with cutting edge advice on how to reach their goals. Steph has received awards for her choreography and has competed nationally and internationally meaning that she can back up her scientific knowledge with a wealth of experience. As our resident Sports Nutritionist, Steph is here to provide the most current and evidence based fitness, health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals.
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