What it is? Benefits, and how to improve Flexibility
What is Flexibility?
Flexibility is the ability of the joints or a group of joints, and muscles to move through a range of motion effectively unrestricted and pain free. There are so many benefits of flexibility, and finding increased flexibility will drastically improve your quality of life in the long run. Flexibility may seem elusive to most, reserved for those only in sports that require it. Maybe it seems like something that only a few people are born with, and you can’t achieve it. But that is a common misconception because anyone can become flexible through flexibility exercises!
Benefits of Flexibility
The need to be flexible is not reserved for athletes, but for every person, especially as they age. The biggest benefits are mobility as you age, muscle recovery, and reducing the risk of injury, but there are so many more.
- The largest cause of senior citizens needing assistance as they age, and losing their independence, is lack of mobility. What many don’t realize is that this stems from a lifetime of stiffness and tension.
- When your body can not move in its full range of motion as a young person, your range of motion will only continue to decrease as you age. Your connective and soft tissue grows tighter and tighter, which makes it progressively harder to move. If you don’t stretch out these muscle fibers, ligaments, and joints, eventually it will restrict your movement to the point that you can no longer move on your own.
Beginning your flexibility journey now, no matter what your age is, will give you an advantage later in life as you can continue to be entirely independent in your body. So, what is the impact of age of flexibility? The real answer is: there shouldn’t be any. As long as you maintain a consistent stretch routine, your flexibility should not change as you age, and you should maintain a good range of motion.
2. Muscles Flexibility and Recovery
Another benefit of flexibility is increased muscle recovery.
- Whether you work out frequently, do repetitive movements throughout your day, or find that your muscles are just stiff and sore in general, flexibility can help to speed up this recovery time. When your muscle groups are able to find release, you won’t feel as sore and will be able to continue to do whatever you do, pain-free, and with no muscle soreness.
- It can also help to greatly improve your athletic performance overall because of this.
3. Decreases Injury
Along with increasing mobility, flexibility decreases injury.
- In part this is due to the fact that if an accident were to happen, the more flexible you are, the less likely your body is to end up in a position past it’s range of motion, causing injury.
- It also helps that you are keeping your muscles and joints supple, which will stop overuse injuries. Overuse injuries are caused by physical activity, when the area is not flexible enough to be performing that movement in the correct way. Increasing flexibility will decrease the likelihood of these.
Types of Flexibility
Static Flexibility: What it is?
Static flexibility refers to a person’s full range of motion that can be achieved without movement. This means how far you are able to reach or bend in a stretch, and then hold it there without any excess movement. Your body is passively holding a position because it has the capacity to go to that range of motion comfortably. Static flexibility is found through static stretching (link to article).
Static flexibility training, like static stretching, should only be done after the body has been thoroughly warmed up, so that you can reach your full range of motion without risk of injury. Static flexibility training is great for everyone, especially for those looking to improve their flexibility significantly.
Dynamic Flexibility: What it is?
Dynamic flexibility refers to the body’s ability of the muscles and joints to move through a full range of motion during activities. This kind of flexibility helps your body to safely move through both every day activities and athletics. It increases performance while decreasing the risk of injury. Dynamic flexibility is found through dynamic stretching (link to article).
Dynamic flexibility training, similarly to dynamic stretching, should be done before a workout to warm up the body. It is not ideal for increasing flexibility, but it will give you the range of motion you need for a workout without sacrificing performance.
Active Flexibility: What it is?
Active flexibility is the ability you have to hold or pull your body into its maximum range of motion. It is active because your muscles are firing while you stretch, in order to hold the limb or position in place. Active flexibility builds strength while also increasing range of motion.
This could be considered a workout in itself, as it is activating muscles in a way that is similar to yoga. It can be done before or after physical activity, or on its own.
How to Measure Your Flexibility?
The best way to test your flexibility is by tracking your progress.
First see where you are starting out. For example, do a forward fold and try to touch your toes; however far down you can reach on your leg is where you’re starting out. Continue to measure your progress at least every two weeks, to see how far you are coming and how much you can afford to push yourself.
Everyone’s body is different and has differing flexibility capabilities. It may take you longer to reach your flexibility goals, but all that is important is that you’re consistent and focusing on your own health. The benefit of measuring your progress is that you can see how far you’ve come, in addition to how much better you feel.
A great way to find out your exact flexibility is by visiting your local Kika Stretch Studios to find out your Kika Stretch Age. Your Kika Stretch Age is measured by having you stretch along with one of our measuring mats, to see where you fall in stretch years. As you gain inches in flexibility, you become younger in stretch years.
How to Improve Your Flexibility?
The best way to rapidly improve your flexibility is by incorporating a stretching routine into your daily life. Muscles have their own memory and will remember the positions that you put them in repetitively. Eventually, that may mean that you can touch your toes without any warming up or stretching beforehand, for example. When you stretch every day and go a little bit farther in each stretch, your body will remember that.
- You can do dynamic stretching, which stretches your muscles through movement, increasing flexibility more gradually.
- You can do static stretching, where you hold the positions for longer periods of time, increasing flexibility more rapidly.
- You can create your own at-home stretching routine, to target the muscle groups that hold the most tension or chronic pain.
- You can go to a stretch studio on a weekly basis, to have them stretch your body for you, so you don’t have to worry about creating a routine. A great stretch studio for that is Kika Stretch Studios, where you will get personalized, one-on-one fully assisted stretch sessions.
However you approach your flexibility training through stretching, you will see benefits in how you feel and function. Stretching helps to increase blood flow, calm the nervous system, and reduce stress, which is just a great added bonus to the flexibility that comes with it.
What is a Flexibility Exercise
A flexibility exercise is a movement or position designed to stretch specific muscles, with the goal of increasing flexibility and range of motion in that specific area. A flexibility exercise can be any kind of stretch, as long as it increases your range of motion and lengthens your muscles and joints. Some stretches that will improve flexibility for those who are new to it, but want to improve are:
- Child’s Pose
- Lying Hamstring Stretch
- Spinal Twist
Exercises for Flexibility
This position is a great recovery pose, to relieve the stress and tension placed on your back. This stretch is perfect for any person, as long as you do not have any knee injuries. For this stretch you will just need a mat or towel to stretch on, to protect your knees and head. This stretch can be done at any time of day and is great to help you relax before bed.
Step 1. Begin by sitting on your knees, sitting straight up in the starting position.
Step 2. Slowly slide your hands forward along the floor, while keeping your hips as close to your feet as possible.
Step 3. Allow your muscles to relax, feeling your hip flexors release and creating space in the lower back.
Step 4. Remain in this position for the desired length of time.
Lying Hamstring Stretch
This stretch is ideal for those with very tight hamstrings, who cannot handle a forward fold or a single leg hamstring pull. This stretch will allow you to fully relax as your legs rest against the wall, gently stretching your hamstrings and making space in your lower back. This stretch can be done as many times a day as you see fit, for as long as your like.
Step 1. Begin by finding a wall that you can rest your legs against.
Step 2. Lay on the floor and place both feet on the wall above you.
Step 3. Move closer to the wall slowly, trying to get the back of your legs to rest fully against the wall.
Step 4. Stop when you feel a stretch, and slowly move closer to the wall as you feel ready.
Step 5. Hold this position for 30-second intervals, moving closer as you see fit.
Lying Spinal Twist
This stretch exercise is the best way to release, stretch, and relieve pain along the side of the back and spine. These muscles are most likely tight on everyone, as they are affected by everyday activities.
This is a more advanced stretch, as it can feel intense for those with tight back muscles or lack of mobility. If you deal with chronic back pain, you may need to work your way through some of the other back stretches before progressing to this one. For this stretch, you will need the space to lie down and extend your arms on a flat surface, once a day on each side.
Step 1. Begin by lying on your back, with both legs extended straight out, and your arms out in a T for the starting position.
Step 2. Pick your right leg up to a ninety degree angle, parallel to the ceiling and place your left hand on your right knee.
Step 3. Slowly twist your right leg to the left side of your body, while turning your head to the right.
Step 4. Make sure to stop when you feel a light stretch, and ease slowly into a deeper stretch.
Step 5. Allow gravity to pull your knee towards the floor, while keeping your right arm and both shoulders on the floor.
Step 6. Hold until the spine has released and repeat on the opposite side.