We are very unequal when it comes to flexibility. Fortunately, it is possible to work on it and become more flexible over the long term, provided you are regular and rigorous. On a day-to-day basis, this ability can be much more useful than you think.
Flexibility refers to the ability to perform more or less extensive joint and muscle movements. In this matter, we are far from equal at birth, but it is possible to work on this characteristic to take advantage of its benefits.
In this article, we will show you how to become more flexible. We will give you tips, stretches, exercises, and more.
What is flexibility?
As stated above, flexibility refers to our body’s ability to perform different movements with more or less joint and muscle range. This involves our bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Generally, our ligaments and tendons have a very little stretch, while our muscles and joint capsules do.
How do I know if I’m flexible? Why am I not?
Some people are more flexible than others at birth, due to hereditary faculties. But other elements also impact our degree of flexibility:
- age: as we age, we tend to lose flexibility;
- the size and structure of our bones: the larger the diameter of our bones, the more likely we are to lack flexibility;
- connective tissues: the degree of elasticity of our tendons and ligaments;
- the volume of the body: the larger our body, the more difficult it can be to adopt positions requiring certain flexibility.
There is also a tendency to present women as more flexible, thanks to their hormones which permeate and relax their tendons and muscles.
To test your flexibility, nothing could be simpler. Just stand with your feet together and your arms along your body. Gradually let yourself fall forward, without forcing. If your hands reach below your knees, that’s a pretty good sign. Otherwise, it might be a good idea to practice.
Why do you want to gain flexibility?
Flexibility is often sought by dancers, contortionists, martial artists, and other athletes to improve their performance. Being flexible, for example, allows runners to have a longer stride and swimmers to extend their arms even more during the crawl. Greater amplitude can have benefits in many sports.
But flexibility is also very useful in everyday life, in everyone’s life. It allows you to feel good about your body and avoid several disabling injuries:
- muscle tears,
Having good flexibility also helps to fight against the passage of time and stiffens the joints, sometimes causing pain and blockages, for example when tying shoelaces, vacuuming, carrying groceries, or picking up an object. fell to the ground.
How to become more flexible?
You don’t become flexible overnight. It’s a long-term job that requires regularity and practice.
Always bet on a good warm-up
We can never repeat it enough: warming up is essential before any stretching session. It allows you to gradually increase your heart rate, the blood circulation in your muscles and the temperature of your body, in order to benefit the most from your stretching. Without you realizing it, you will also get into your training more easily. Once the body is well warmed up, it works better:
- at the muscular level (increase in the speed of chemical reactions),
- at the joint level (better lubrication of the joints)
- and at the level of the nervous system (the speed of transmission of information increases, which implies faster muscle contractions, increased reaction speeds, greater concentration, etc.)
Wake up your joints by rotating the neck, neck, chest, shoulders, pelvis, wrists, and ankles.
What sports do you prefer?
There is no shortage of soft sports to gain flexibility:
- tai chi,
- or bar on the ground,
Their common point? They stretch the muscles one by one and repeat. Little by little, the body relaxes, the tendons and muscles lengthen and we gain in amplitude.
Which stretching exercises to choose?
Dynamic stretches. As their name suggests, they must be performed in motion, hot, to gain as much amplitude as possible. The principle? Give momentum to the movement to allow the muscle to reach its maximum elasticity (knee raises, forward lunges, etc.).
Static stretches. These longer movements require time and must be done after a good warm-up. We maintain a position for a while, the muscles are tensed and gradually relax to stretch as much as possible.
Several other ideas to improve your flexibility:
- Work on your breathing. Adapted and controlled breathing is essential to gain flexibility. Focusing on your breathing allows you to relax the muscles as well as possible and therefore allows them to stretch more easily.
- Hydrate yourself enough. Muscles are mostly made up of water and need to be well-hydrated to function properly. Even minimal dehydration can reduce flexibility. So be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially during and after your workouts.
- Enjoy a deep massage. Stiffness and aches limit the amplitude of our movements. An effective massage, which releases tension points and relaxes muscle knots, will help you immediately regain more flexibility.
- Fight stress. It’s no secret that stress can cause muscle contractions and stiffness. It is therefore important to take time for yourself and focus on relaxing activities (reading, music, painting, sewing, etc.).
To succeed in surpassing yourself without injuring yourself, it is essential to listen to your feelings. During stretching sessions, it is normal to feel slight feelings of tightness, but you should not be in pain.
Flexibility comes over training and is not acquired in two or three sessions. Do not compare yourself to others, by dint of patience, you will be rewarded. And too bad if you never reach the splits!