Working on Your Flexibility
In my previous post, I explained how being flexible was beneficial for numerous reasons. It helps prevent injuries and lessen pain while boosting performance (whether it is athletic performance or simple everyday activities that can become challenging as we get older). Working on your flexibility also helps with correcting your posture, balance, and mobility, all leading to better performance.
In this post, I am going to describe the three main flexibility techniques that lessen tension in muscles. If you are feeling any pain when stretching or if you are unsure about where to start, double-check with your personal physician.
Static stretching is simply holding muscles in their maximal lengthened position for about 20 seconds or three deep breaths. You want to feel the stretch but no pain. An example would be a basic hamstring stretch.
Dynamic stretching is a way of stretching muscles with movements of the limbs and joints. An example would be performing walking lunges.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
PNF consists of contracting a given muscle for a few seconds in an already fully lengthened position. The aid of a training partner or therapist is generally needed for PNF. An example would be someone (lying on the back) raising a leg straight up to fully stretch the hamstrings (without any pain) and then contract them (by slightly lowering the leg) while the therapist resists the movement and assists the stretch. This contract-relax pattern helps prime the nervous system and allows muscles to contract at a longer range of motion.
On a Final Note
It is now usually recommended to do dynamic stretches as part of your warm-up routine and to save the static stretches for after the workout as the latter can temporarily weaken muscles. Foam rolling can be part of your recovery routine and also be used before workouts to enhance blood flow, loosen up muscles and joints, and up-regulate the nervous system.
Until next time!
Levy, Jillian. “The Surprising Benefits of Flexibility.” Dr. Axe, 27 Nov. 2021, draxe.com/fitness/benefits-of-flexibility/. Accessed 1 Jan. 2022.
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