In our everyday lives, many of the movements we perform involve the use of our joints and muscles. This is where our flexibility comes into play as it helps us to do the simplest things such as vacuuming the carpet or cooking a casserole. We become more at risk of an injury the less flexible we are which also affects our posture.
For athletic sports, a lack of flexibility in the body will hinder performance and inability to use the full range of motions that the body is capable of. This can lead to injuries such as a pulled muscle or a strain injury.
Stretching for a few minutes on a daily basis can help to keep our bodies flexible to ensure the full ranges of motions are used and to help strengthen our muscles as well.
There are different ways to stretch for flexibility.
- Static stretching involves holding a stretch position between 5 – 30 seconds which is ideal for yoga, as a cool down or just to improve flexibility.
- Dynamic stretching involves using a wider range of motions to move your arms and legs in order to prepare for your workout.
How Does Better Flexibility Give You an Advantage In Sports?
Many top athletes stretch their muscles out before they perform their sport. Stretching improves their performance because tension is released in their muscles which will allow their muscles to stretch further due to better mobility and posture. This also decreases the chances of an injury such pulling a muscle due to overstraining.
Each sport requires different uses of our muscles in our bodies so stretching programmes will differ. In boxing, the muscles to focus your stretches on should include the shoulders, arms, abdominals, legs and hip areas as this will allow for better mobility for boxers in the upper and lower body movements to evade/deliver punches.
Good flexibility will increase a boxer’s speed as stiffness in the muscles and joints are decreased which will help footwork to be more effective.
In sports such as badminton and tennis, flexibility will ensure the player to run around the court to reach and deliver a strong shot back over the net without risking injuries such as a sprained wrist.
Typical areas that a player should focus their flexibility on are the spine, shoulder and hip. Flexibility in these areas will widen and increase your reach and allow you to twist and turn to return those overhead shots.
With sports that involve a lot of lower body movements such as football and rugby, players should focus their stretches in the hip and leg areas ensuring that their hips, hamstrings, glutes and calves are stretched out correctly.
Flexibility in these areas will increase your agility to ensure that you are able to run and change directions quickly and suddenly. This involves the full range of motions in bending your knees and twisting your hips.
5 Tips On How to Become More Flexible
1. Follow a Programme
Follow a stretching programme that consists of static and dynamic stretches to ensure the full ranges of motions are covered to enable full use of your joints and to release tension. This programme should include exercises to stretch the muscles in your upper and lower body as well as your lower back.
2. Stretch Daily
Aim to stretch on a daily basis or every other day for at least 15 minutes – ideally in the morning. Skipping or missing out on stretching exercises will cause your body to lose its flexibility, range of motions, balance and makes you less agile. Your body does not ‘remember’ these things, that’s why it is important to stretch daily.
3. Take Up Yoga
Each pose in Yoga aims to stretch and strengthen different muscles in the body as staying in each pose for several minutes stretches out the tightness in your muscles.
A lot of the poses targets major muscle groups that are used on a daily basis and the more often you do this, the more flexible you will become. Start off with basic/beginner poses and move onto more complicated ones as you get more flexible.
4. Take Up Pilates
Exercises in Pilates aims to release tension and tightness in muscles which could be causing pain in movements. By practicing Pilates on a regular basis, this ensures your muscles do not become tight overtime.
Weak lower back muscles tend to be caused by inflexibility thus leading to common lower back injuries. Pilates can build stronger lower back muscles to help support your body.
5. Dance, Dance, Dance!
Taking up dance classes will ensure you get a full body stretch of all your muscles with the warm ups and cool downs. But that’s not the reason why you should take up dance.
This fun exercise requires you to move in different ways that you don’t normally in everyday activities so by pushing your body into various forms increases flexibility overall.
When Should You Work On Your Flexibility?
Flexibility is necessary for people of all ages and body types. It’s never too late to start working on your flexibility. Being inflexible can cause injury when you try to move one of your joints through a certain range of motion such as reaching up for something.
A lot of people tend to injure their lower backs when attempting to lift items so make sure stretches for your lower back is covered as well as following the correct procedure when lifting.
You should aim to work on your flexibility every morning and night. If you’re not planning to workout, then you can do a few static stretches. This is particularly important for office workers who tend to be seated and hunched over their computer throughout the day.
Just a few stretches will help to relieve those stiff joints and muscle cramps that tend to occur when they suddenly get up or rush for their bus/train.
Many people like to do some yoga just after they wake up in the mornings as it helps to relieve the stiffness of muscles brought on during sleep and it is relaxing too! For fitness people, on workout days or before you play sports, you should aim to warm your body up with dynamic stretches and then perform some static stretches after your workout.
Although being flexible is very beneficial, it is important to not overdo it as too much flexibility can cause the tissue around the joints to soften and that can also cause injury.
So it is best to just work on your flexibility for about 15 minutes each day or every other day. If you are stuck on which exercises are best for flexibility, then check out my article ‘Top 10 Best Flexibility Exercises’ and incorporate some of these into your stretching programme.
To get the most out of your training, I highly recommend the following articles:
► How to Increase Punching Power
► 10 Tips to Improve Boxing Footwork
► Boxing Basics
► Top 10 Best Heavy Punching Bags
► Top 10 Best Boxing Gloves