Flexibility is an important part of physical fitness, yet it is missing from many exercise routines. Without flexibility our bodies can become stiff; our posture can become less than ideal; our muscles become imbalanced, and our joints become prone to pain and injury.
Flexibility is the ability to extend our muscles, allowing for full range of motion around a joint. It can be achieved through proper stretching. Static stretching and dynamic stretching are two common types of stretching.
Static stretching involves no motion. A static stretch takes a muscle to a point and then holds it in the position for 15-30 seconds (sometimes longer). Static stretching is a great way to improve muscular imbalances and poor posture and increase range of motion.
Dynamic stretching involve motion. The purpose of dynamic stretching is to warm up the body. The movement should be fluid and involve large muscle groups. Dynamic stretching is often related to a sport activity such as swinging a bat or tennis racket before the game or match.
Flexibility Training: Basic Stretching Rules
- Stretch slowly and with control.
- No bouncing
- No pain
- Don’t compare your range with others
- The key is to relax
- Breathing should be slow and steady
- Don’t hold your breath
- Hold only the stretch tension that feels good.
I have to make a confession. It is 2013, and it has only been about three years since I have incorporated regular stretching into my fitness routine. For so many years, I was able to take for granted what flexibility capacity I had. With a background in dance, before bodybuilding, I’ve known what the benefits of stretching are. But I kept telling myself I would get around to doing it tomorrow.
Well, in stepped Jean Lave, a client I’ve worked with for over twenty years. She came to me originally with back problems. Jean has an extensive background in dance having studied with the great Katherine Dunham. And to this day, she dutifully stretches every day.
Over the years she has nudged and hinted that I should be stretching, reminding me that tomorrow had come and gone. When that didn’t work, she organized a weekly Pilates class. Now, she didn’t exactly organize it for me. There were 6 of us in the class, but it’s curious how she made sure it fit into my schedule so I had no excuse not to attend.
Vanessa was a terrific instructor, by the way. She was professional, knowledgeable and thorough. That really made me want to show up and do the work. The structure of that weekly class put me on track after a year of regular attendance. I began to feel the difference in my body. It was subtle, but it was there. I started doing a few of the exercises after my normal training routine, and I am happy to report the occasional hit-and-miss stretch session has turned into a focused, healthy habit for me.
Thank you, Jean, for your tenacity!