How can I get more flexible without worrying about injuring myself?
When we think of increasing flexibility, we tend to think of ‘stretching’ muscles.
But muscles don’t respond well to being forcefully stretched. Stretching can be time consuming, can weaken muscles, and can increase risk of injury.
Flexibility is a function of mobile joints, elastic tendons/ligaments, and relaxed, supple muscles. Lack of movement in modern lifestyles breeds inflexibility. For example, overuse of chairs, or wearing shoes that impede natural foot/ankle function instead of ones that let your feet function naturally, makes the average person unable to rest in a natural deep squat. Even of those who can squat, many are still not at ‘rest’ in the position, which is how it should feel. To function at our best, we need to be strong AND flexible.
So how do we become more flexible? It’s a big topic and the approach should be individualized. Instead of specific methods or exercises, here are three principles of safe and effective flexibility training.
First, focus on the joints, not muscles.
Move them in their full range of motion with control and refinement, letting the muscles contract and relax automatically. Our Joint Prep membership at The Strength Cave gives access to classes solely focussed on joint preparation and muscle health.
Secondly, don’t push through pain.
Remember this new saying: no pain, all gain. While discomfort is fine, you should never train through pain, especially with flexibility training – pain is likely causing damage. Thirdly, work at maximum range. Find ways to creatively challenge end ranges of motion. For instance, to improve leg flexibility, try tapping progressively higher points on a wall with your foot. Keep the focus on movement rather than stretching or pulling the muscle.
Remember that flexibility without strength is dangerous. Avoid developing lax ligaments and too much flexibility without enough strength to support your bodyweight and to control the range of motion. Strength and flexibility compliment each other when trained properly.
Only a body that is both strong and flexible will truly work at its best.
Lastly, smile! A grimace indicates you’re working against your body, not with it.
Working to enhance your physical capability should be a joyful process, not a miserable one!
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