Do you stretch before and after exercising, and typically how long do you hold a stretch? My (male) kickboxing instructor who is 44 has us doing the splits. He can do them and I'm about 4 inches from floor until I get stuck. Do you have any ideas on how to stretch hip flexors? Thanks again for your updates and continued good luck to you.
Flexibility is hereditary. This means champions really are born. You are born with your tendons and ligaments at a set point. That being said, it is possible to improve your range of motion up to a point if you are consistent and train smart. I have seen athletes work on their splits with consistency for a year or so and get their splits when they started a foot above the ground! It can be done even if it doesn't come naturally. I am proof. My kicks went from waist level with bent knees one year to straight up over my head and straight knees with toes pointed the next year by working hard. And I was 41 years old at my last Fitness Show.
My splits come with much work and only when I am properly warmed up. I am not one of those fortunate few who can do splits on demand. My straddle splits are about one inch from being technically perfect, but I can fake them so only a pro could tell.
I used a method that is called in it's abbreviated form; PNF stretching. It is a method that fools the muscles into going farther than they really want to. You need a trainer who knows what they are doing to help you with this particular method. You end up pushing against your partner and holding for 30 seconds or so, releasing the hold and taking your stretch further and repeating this as many times as you can stand it. This will drastically improve your range of motion. Expect to be sore at first.
Another way to get more flexibility gains for your splits is to use the wall. Lay on your back with your butt against the wall and your legs up on the wall. For more intensity put light ankle weights on. You slowly open your legs in a "V" as far as they will go and just stay there for some minutes. Try to keep your knees straight and toes pointed. After the initial tightness goes away, open your legs more. Do this for 5 minutes. To get up, close legs while bending your knees rolling to one side and sit up. Try it. You will be amazed at the progress you will make.
While stretching it is recommended to hold your stretches for at least 20-30 seconds. No bouncing. Remember to breathe. It is also recommended to stretch opposing muscle groups during the same session. I highly recommend taking a specialty class at your gym geared towards stretching to learn different methods and proper technique.
During my fitness competition years, I worked hard to remain flexible so my range was very visible. When I am working on it specifically, it improves tremendously. Now as a fitness model and actress I still need to add flexibility training into my work out schedule. I stretch from head to toe at least twice a week. This is a far cry from when I was training for the routine rounds when I needed to stretch twice a day!
Popular Tools To Use For Stretching Include:
- Rubber tension bands - Learn More
- A ballet bar
- The floor or wall
- A towel
- A partner.
A light stretch should be done that include the muscles you will be using before a workout to warm and loosen joints, muscles and tendons. To work on flexibility gains wait until after your body temperature is completely warm and loosened up. A 10-15 minute cardio session will usually warm up cold muscles enough to get started, or just add your stretching routine after any physical activity.
The Benefits From Stretching!
Benefits from stretching include longer leaner lines, injury prevention, reaching flexibility goals and of course being flexible helps our joints and tendons remain pliable for everyday activities and sports. It is also key to physical therapy rehab. For me, when I tighten up I can expect my back to be stiff. If I do not have time to exercise I find that stretching helps with muscle memory. One of the surprise benefits I get is the relaxing calming effect stretching gives me.
As we age, flexibility deteriorates if we do not use it. Save yourself from needless aches and pains by making sure your body remains pliable and ready for the demands we put on ourselves daily by taking the time to stretch. You will be glad you did. It keeps us young, mobile and physically fit at any age.
Take care of yourself. It's worth it.