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What Is The Best Workout For Increasing Flexibility?

What is the best workout for increasing flexibility? Our forum members give detailed explanations of flexibility workouts, importance of stretching, types of stretching, benefits and much more. Get flexible right here!

By: Workout Of The Week


TOPIC: What Is The Best Workout For Increasing Flexibility?

The Question:

Flexibility can help in sports, training, and in everyday life. However, the training for increasing flexibility could be tricky and is not quite the same as just training for looks or strength.

What is the best workout for increasing flexibility? Be specific.

What are some advantages of increased flexibility?

Do you work on increasing your flexibility? Why or why not?

Show off your knowledge to the world!

The Winners:

  1. BurningHeart View Profile
  2. Mtguy8787 View Profile
  3. LJ57 View Profile
  4. redhawk76 View Profile

    Prizes:
      1st place - 75 in store credit.
      2nd place - 50 in store credit.

To use your credit, e-mail Will @ will@bodybuilding.com for more info.


1st Place - BurningHeart
View This Author's BodySpace Here.


Introduction

"Why stretch? It's just another addition to my already lengthy routine. I never stretch and I do just fine."

In some form or another, that phrase is stuck into many weightlifters' heads. They believe stretching is for gymnastics and yoga freaks looking to contort their bodies in weird shapes.

Stretching is overlooked by weightlifters because it seems to decrease muscular size. You've just finished an arm workout, your biceps and triceps are pumped and are an inch bigger, you look like a pit bull. The last thing you want to do is rid yourself of that feeling by stretching, right?

As we all know that pumped feeling doesn't last, the blood and lactic acid leaves your arms. Because of the intense workout with no stretching your arms stay in a semi-contracted state for hours. This in turn, very slightly decreases the range of motion in your biceps and triceps. Multiply this by 500 arm workouts and imagine how much range of motion you lose.

Five years ago you were able to scratch your middle back; nowadays you rub yourself against a corner. It isn't because you've gained muscle, it's because you lost flexibility.

So you start stretching right? Nah, I bet half of you are thinking "So what, five years of stretching is big price to pay compared to $3 for a back-scratcher." Well what if I told you stretching would increase muscle growth, would you do it?

It does, stretching actually increases muscle growth. How in the world does stretching play a part in growth?

Every muscle in your body is enclosed in connective tissue known as fascia. Fascia is what keeps your muscles in place. Over time you workout and your muscles grow, but nothing happens to your fascia. There is no type of protein powder that targets fascia growth.

Thus your muscles grow until they become too compressed along the fascia. At this point your muscles are limited in growth by the rate of expansion of the fascia, which is very slow compared to what it could be.

Now do you want to stretch? Probably so... but first let me throw this little gem of information out to you. It is possible that muscle memory is actually the fascia's rate of expansion.

Beginners gain muscle quickly because their fascia is not 'filled'. Experienced lifters who took off a while and are getting back into it gain fast because their fascia has already been stretched out to a great amount, allowing their muscles to freely grow.

While it's not 100% known, there is a great chance the fascia is the deciding factor, or at least a part of the phenomena we call 'muscle memory'. So let's start making our muscles 'remember' what they never knew in the first place!


Part 1
What Is The Best Workout for Increasing Flexibility? Be Specific.

To increase flexibility you must stretch periodically during the day and especially after a workout. Unlike muscle growth, your body will not become 'overtrained' from properly done stretching.

There are seven categories which stretching is classified:

  1. Ballistic stretching
  2. Dynamic stretching
  3. Active stretching
  4. Passive (relaxed) stretching
  5. Static stretching
  6. Isometric stretching
  7. PNF stretching

For our goals we will focus on passive stretching and static stretching. Passive stretching is assuming a position and holding it there with another body part or other means. It is a relaxed stretching technique. An example would be propping your leg on a chair and moving your body to stretch the hamstring.

Static stretching is more intense and it involves stretching a muscle to its furthest point and maintaining that position. An example would be propping your leg straight on a chair while touching your toes and maintaining that position for a duration.

For the following stretching exercises it's important to remember 'more is not better'. You don't want to stretch yourself to absolute pain or further than your body is ready for.

A good stretch is a constant hold in position for 30 seconds with no bouncing. You should only feel a slight pull in your muscles, not a feeling of being set on fire.

Let's get on with the stretches...

Chest:

    Take a pair of dumbbells with the amount of weight you would use for about 12 reps of flies. Lie flat on a bench and lift them in a contracted position. Then slowly lower them where your pecs will be stretched to the maximum possible. Hold this position.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Chest Stretch.

Abdominals:

    Sit upright on the ground. Flex your knees and bring your heels together. Gently pull your feet towards your bottom. Place your elbows on the inside of your knees. Gently push your legs to the floor. Hold this position.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Seated Butterfly Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

Shoulders (Anterior Delt):

    Find a stationary bar; a smith machine works just fine. Turn facing away from it and grasp it with your palms down. Walk forward slowly until your delts are maximally stretched. Hold this position.

Stretch
Click Image To Enlarge.
Shoulders (Anterior Delt).
Video: WMV - MPEG - iPod Video

Shoulders (Lateral Delt):

    Load a moderate amount of weight on a low pulley. Grab the low cable pulley, stand up and allow the pull from the weight stack to stretch your side delt. If you don't have a low pulley handy, you are also able to use a wall by simply leaning into the wall for resistance in the stretched position.

Stretch
Click Image To Enlarge.
Shoulders (Lateral Delt).
Video: WMV - MPEG - iPod Video

Shoulders (Posterior Delt):

    Grab the elbow of one arm with the hand of the other arm; pull your elbow across your chest. Hold this position and repeat for the other side.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Shoulder Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

Traps:

    Load up the smith machine with a moderate amount of weight. Shrug the weight up and lower it down as much as possible to get the maximal stretch in your traps. Hold this position.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Trap Shrug.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

Back (Lower):

    Lie on your back with knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on the back of your thighs and pull your legs toward your chest. Pull until a gentle stretch is felt. Hold this position.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Back Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

Back (Middle):

    Kneel down on the floor in an all four position on your hands and knees. Curl your back up toward the ceiling. Hold this position. Return to starting position. Pull your stomach down to the floor hollowing out your back. Hold this position.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Back Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

Back (Lats):

    Hang from a bar with your palms facing away from you in a pullup position. Lift your body up then back down. Once in the down position, hang from the bar for 30 seconds. Note if you don't have access to a pullup bar or unable to perform this exercise, simply stretching and holding your arms as high as possible is also a great lat stretching exercise.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Back Stretch (Shown One Handed).
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

Biceps:

    Position a bench with a 60 degree incline like you did for triceps. Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit on the bench. Curl the dumbbells up and lower slowly until a maximum stretch has been reached in the biceps. Hold this position.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Bicep Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - Real Player

Triceps:

    Position a bench with about a 60 degree incline. Grasp a pair of dumbbells, sit and lean back on the bench. Extend both arms straight upward and then lower the dumbbells slowly to either side of your head. Hold until stretch is complete.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Triceps Stretch. (Shown Lying Flat)
Video: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

Forearms:

    Set up a flat bench, grasp a barbell with an underhand grip for the forearm flexors and an overhand for the extensors. Rest your arms the bench so your wrists can hang off the edge. Slowly lower the weight until a maximum stretch has been achieved. Hold this position.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Forarm Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - Real Player

Quadriceps:

    An easy one for you. Kneel down and separate your feet enough so that you can sit between them. Put your hands on the floor behind you and lean back as far as possible, feeling the stretch in the quadriceps. Hold this position.

Stretch
Click Image To Enlarge.
Quadriceps Stretch.
Video: WMV - MPEG - iPod Video

Glutes:

    Lie on the ground with your body extended. Bend one leg and slide your heel towards your bottom. Grasp your ankle with one hand and your knee with the other hand. Gently pull your foot to the opposite shoulder. Hold this position.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Glutes Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

Hamstrings:

    Prop your leg on any raised surface, a chair or bench works fine. Keeping your leg straight in front of you, bend your torso without curling your back forward and try to touch your toes. Hold this position.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Hamstring Stretch.
Video: MPEG (659 KB) - Windows Media (479 KB)

Calves:

    Another easy one for you. Simply stand under a smith machine and hold on to the bar. Get a peak contraction and then lower the bar until a maximum stretch has been reached. Hold this position.

Routine:

    Creating a routine from these exercises is simple. You do not need to worry about recovering enough between stretches as you do muscles. The only thing you need to consider when planning a stretching routine is the placement of the stretches in relations to your workouts. You want to stretch after or hours before a workout, but never immediately before.

    Someone on a four-day a week workout routine could plan a stretching workout similar to this:

    Day 1:

    • 6:00 p.m. - Lower body workout
    • 7:00 p.m. - Lower body stretch

    Day 2:

    • 6:00 p.m. - Upper body workout
    • 7:00 p.m. - Upper body stretch

    Day 3:

    • 5:00 p.m. - Stretch

    Day 4:

    • 6:00 p.m. - Lower body workout
    • 7:00 p.m. - Lower body stretch

    Day 5:

    • 6:00 p.m. - Upper body workout
    • 7:00 p.m. - Upper body stretch


Part 2
What Are Some Advantages Of Increased Flexibility?

The biggest advantage of increased flexibility for us weightlifters was what I touched on earlier, increased muscular gains. When you train your body's flexibility, your fascia is expanded and your muscles have more room to grow. What is even more of a benefit is the possibility of stretching being the 'mystery' of muscle memory.

Another advantage of increased flexibility is just that, increased flexibility. Have you ever noticed muscle-bound bodybuilders who walk like robots with their arms seemingly stuck out to their sides? These are the ones who do not stretch. Not only do you look ridiculous walking like this but working out in a muscle-bound state is almost asking to be injured.

Your body is not meant to be constricted in such a manner, and lifting heavy weights while constricted can result in muscle cramps, pulls, or tears.

There's more too. Another advantage is better posture. As bodybuilders we strive to make our bodies look as good as possible. The last thing we want is for poor posture to hinder our physique.

You can spend ten years building muscle and cutting fat, but when you walk with your shoulders and back slumped forward it looks as if you've trained for two years. A large aspect of bodybuilding is great posture, in and out of the gym. Increased flexibility gives you a natural, straight posture.

Stretching after a workout will help remove lactic acid from your muscles, decreasing soreness and in turn increasing your posture once more. This means no more walking around like a mummy after an intense week of workouts.

RELATED ARTICLE
Why There Is No Such Thing As A Good Or Bad Stretch. Why There Is No Such Thing As A Good Or Bad Stretch.
So, are there only good stretches and bad stretches? Is there no middle ground? Let's put an end to the confusion... Here are some requirements, steps and examples for safe stretching!
[ Click here to learn more. ]


Part 3
Do You Work On Increasing Your Flexibility? Why Or Why Not?

I work on increasing my flexibility periodically. My hamstrings are and have always been my least flexible muscle. I've never been able to touch my toes while standing straight. In fact I could only go down about midway through my shin.

What actually made me start stretching was my slipped disc injury which was caused by squatting too much weight with improper form. My left hamstring got very tight over a period of time because of my slipped disc pressing into the nerve running down my leg.

It got so tight where I could barely stretch past my knee. Not knowing what was causing this, I was sent to a physical therapist. There she told me I needed to stretch twice a day, everyday.

As I stretched over a period of time my flexibility increased in both legs and it felt good, mentally and physically, to be able to touch my ankle on my right foot. My left leg wasn't doing so well because of the slipped disc. Even though I gained some flexibility in it, it was still very tight.

After I finally had a MRI and surgery done on my back I regained flexibility in my left leg. I didn't stop stretching either. To this day I still stretch every so often, after workouts and sometimes just during the day.

I don't have a sole flexibility routine however. The reason being is probably because like so many others, I never saw a need for increased flexibility. It's easy to say "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." This is usually the case, however how do you know it isn't broke if it's all you have used?

How do you know to take whey protein after a workout if all you've done was drink Gatorade after working out? There are techniques you must try in order to see if there's a better way to do something, in our case it's building muscle. Stretching is one of these techniques.

While I don't have a routine planned out to stretch, I will most likely begin one after learning of the fascia and its possible role in what we refer to as 'muscle memory'. The benefits far outweigh the little time it takes to stretch. You don't actually have to be 100% focused when stretching as you do weightlifting, so stretching can be done while watching TV. You can't ask for anything more convenient.

"Why stretch? It's just another addition to my already lengthy routine." ... Because it's greatly more beneficial to our bodies than what we know or give it credit for.


2nd Place - Mtguy8787
View This Author's BodySpace Here.

Flexibility can help in sports, training, and in everyday life. However, the training for increasing flexibility could be tricky and is not quite the same as just training for looks or strength.

Having a decent amount of flexibility is important for everyday life, as well as performance in sports, the gym, or elsewhere. Stretching is one tool that can be used to increase flexibility. However, while there are benefits to a stretching, there are many drawbacks if used improperly. Many people also use stretching at times when it should not be used.


Workout
What Is The Best Workout For Increasing Flexibility? Be Specific.

Ask anyone for suggestions on how to increase flexibility, and you will receive 'go stretch' as an answer 9 out of 10 times. Stretching can be helpful tool, but it is important to realize when it is useful, and when it is not. Stretching is almost always the sole form of exercise associated with flexibility. However, this is far from the truth. Before getting to the actual program, there are a few things that need to be covered first.

Stretching Myths:

    1. Stretching Makes For A Good Warm-Up:

      Many people stretch in order to warm up for a weight training session. While the intention to actually warm up is a step ahead of many, the method used in these cases does little/no good as a warm-up. Overstretching before a workout can even have negative effects, in addition to doing a very poor job as a warm-up.

      The purpose of a warm-up is to increase blood flow to the muscles. Movement increases blood flow to the muscles being used, and generates heat, hence the name 'warming up'. This increased blood flow is what will help to improve performance and decrease the risk of injury. To get sufficient increased blood flow to the muscle tissue, a certain level of work needs to be done for a prolonged period of time.

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      Static stretching, which is the most common form, and does virtually nothing to increase blood flow to the muscles. Stretching before a workout will not do anything to decrease injury, and will not do anything to improve strength performance while lifting weights.

      If the tendons and/or ligaments are overstretched, it can temporarily weaken them. This can actually INCREASE the risk of injury when a heavy load is placed on them.

    2. Lifting Weights Reduces Flexibility:

      Flexibility training and weight training are usually placed into 2 separate categories by most people. Weight training is what makes you 'big and strong', and stretching is what makes you 'flexible'. This however, is far from the truth. In most cases, lifting weights is not what causes a reduction of flexibility. It has much more to do with the increase in size of the muscles and connective tissues.

      People who gain a large amount of mass, and do nothing to maintain flexibility are the ones who lose it. In fact, strength training certain muscles can actually be an important part of increasing flexibility. The actual lifting of the weights does little to impede flexibility.

    3. Stretching Increases Performance In The Gym:

      Most people believe that regular stretching will help their performance during weight training. Stretching a muscle does nothing to effect any factor that could improve performance. It does not effect neural adaptations, the chemical makeup of the muscle, or anything else that relates to performance.

      If a muscle is tight, performing an exercise that stretches that muscle increases the chance of injury. In this case, stretches may provide a temporary solution to a tight muscle, but it is only temporary. To permanently fix this sort of common problem, other methods need to be employed.

    4. Stretching Can Improve Bad Posture:

      Rounded shoulders are typical of bad posture. These, and the other signs of bad posture are caused by a muscular imbalance. Stretching may temporarily help with this, but unless the muscular imbalance is corrected, the bad posture problem will remain.

Constant Muscle Tightness:

    Many people have muscles that always seem to be tight/shortened. Tight hamstrings and lower backs are 2 very common problems. For most people, the answer they get seems to be to just stretch more often, and 'sorry, out of luck. You have a tight lower back'.

Muscle Tightnes
Click Image To Enlarge.
Muscle Tightness.

    But this only provides a temporary answer. In most cases, a constantly tight muscle is not caused by a lack of stretching, but by an imbalance in muscular strength.

    When one muscle is constantly tight, it usually means that the opposing muscle/s are proportionally weak. Imagine a strong muscle contracting. If this muscle never stopped contracting, it would make sense that it is always tight. In order to prevent shortening of one muscle, the opposing muscle must be sufficiently strong to counteract it.

    In the case of a tight lower back, this probably indicated weak abdominal muscles, as well as the hip flexors. For the hamstrings, this could be weak abdominals & hip flexors and/or weak quads.

    If this is the case, stretching will do nothing to fix the problem, since it does not strengthen any muscles at all. Constant stretching only offers a temporary fix. In this case, the best approach is a combination of targeted strength training, as well as stretching to provide temporary relief. In my opinion, the vast majority of muscle tightness is caused my muscular strength imbalances.

    Now, I am sure some of you are thinking, "Nah, that isn't the case with me. I do all muscles evenly. One back day for every chest day -- I work my abs, so no problem there. Well take a closer look, because you may be surprised at what you find.

Common Muscle Group Pairs:

    If you have a constantly tight muscle/s, look at this list to find the opposing muscle/s. One or more of the opposing muscles probably needs to be strengthened.

    • Chest - General Back, Teres Minor & Infraspinatus (external rotators), Posterior Deltoids
    • Upper Back - Pectoralis Major & Minor, Subscapularis & Supraspinatus (internal rotators)
    • Lower Back - Abdominals, Hip Flexors
    • Hamstrings - Abdominals, Hip Flexors, Quadriceps
    • Quads - Hamstrings, possibly erector spinae
    • Abdominals - Erector Spinae, Hamstrings
    • Inner Thighs/Groin - Leg Adductors (Outer Thighs)
    • Outer Thighs - Leg Abductors (Inner Thighs)
    • Calves - Tibialis Anterior
    • Biceps - Triceps
    • Triceps - Biceps

Promoting Blood Flow:

    Promoting blood circulation to muscle tissue can help to improve flexibility. The main way to do this is to increase capillary density in the muscle tissue. Promotign blood flow can help to make the muscle tissue more 'pliable', and thus flexible.

    To increase capillary density in the slow twitch, or type 1 fibers, look to endurance type training. For the lower body, this could be running, biking, or using one of many cardio machines. For the large muscles of the back, a rowing machine works well.

    Muscle Fibers:

    To increase capillary density in the type II fibers, or the ones that are most used while lifting weights, anaerobic type training is needed. This type of training requires intense sets lasting 30 seconds to more than 1 minute. Typical routines which focus on muscular endurance do well for improving this.

When To Stretch & Stretching Guidelines:

    As mentioned before, stretching is often not the solution to a tight muscle. Some people have limited flexibility, simply due to increased muscle and connective tissue mass, all gained with no flexibility training along the way. In this case, a stretching routine is a good option to increase flexibility.

    If you lack overall flexibility, then a stretching routine will probably be very helpful. However, if you have limited flexibility in only a select few muscles, a strength imbalance is probably a factor.

    1. Always Stretch Warm Muscles:

      It is very important to stretch muscles when they are 'warm'. Stretching should not be done on cold muscles. Not only does stretching cold muscles greatly reduce the effectiveness, it increase the chance of injury as well. For this reason, stretches are best done immediately after a workout.

    2. Don't Overstretch:

      Just like strength or size, flexibility must be built gradually. As with any other form of training, if you try and do more than you can handle, the results are often diminished, and the negative effects increased.

      Overstretching will not help you to gain flexibility faster. Stretching the ligaments and tendons too much may even cause injury. Even if no injury occurs, overstretching will probably cause some amount of damage, thus temporarily weakening them.

      Overstretching could be a result of several things, including stretching to often, stretching too long at one time, or stretching too far. When stretching, stretch slightly past the normal, comfortable point. Do not stretch as far as possible, or into the 'pain-zone'. Remember that stretching is a gradual process, and that stretching as far as possible will not speed it up.

    3. Avoid PNF Stretch Techniques:

      PNF techniques make use of the neural responses to stretching in order to allow the muscles to be stretched even further. This may seem like a good thing at first, but keep in mind that stretching is a gradual thing, just like anything else. Using PNF techniques in order to 'stretch to the max' could easily fall into the over stretching.

      In addition, PNF techniques are more complicated, and often require practice. Performing them incorrectly could cause further, possible problems.

      What Is PNF Stretching?
      Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation. In essence what you are doing with PNF is overriding certain muscle signals that usually cause a muscle to contract, in order to allow a certain muscle to stretch further than usual.

    4. Avoid Hard Ballistic Stretching:

      Dynamic, or ballistic stretching involves constant movement of the body. The momentum of the movement is used to stretch the muscles. This is not as effective as a prolonged stretch. It is also easy to overstretch the connective tissues in this manner.

    5. Static Stretches:

      When stretching, stretch slightly past the normal, comfortable range of motion (ROM). Do not stretch as far as possible, or if there is pain. In general, start out with an initial stretch of 10-15 seconds. Relax for 5-15 seconds after this, then perform 1-3 more stretches lasting 20-45 seconds.

    6. Frequency:

      Stretching each muscle 2 times per week is plenty for most to build overall flexibility. Again, if you find yourself having to stretch a certain muscle very often to keep it loose, it probably had a lot to do with a strength imbalance.

Targeted Flexibility Workout:

    This workout is to be used if you have a couple of specific, tight muscle groups, e.g. tight lower back, hamstrings, quads, chest, etc. If you lack overall flexibility, and there are no specific problem areas, then use the next workout below. If you lack overall flexibility, and also have a few problem muscles, both workouts may be used.

    1. Choose Appropriate Exercises:

      For this, we will want to choose exercises that work the opposing muscle. If I have a tight lower back and chest, I will want to choose exercises that primarily target my abdominals, hip flexors, and general back.

    2. Warm Up:

      It is very important to warm up before any workout, and especially this one. Warm-up with at least several minutes of cardio. One warm-up set per muscle group is also listed, but it does not hurt to do a couple extra warm-up sets.

    3. Strengthening Phase 1:

      The first part of the workout will use heavy weight, low reps, and a reduced range of motion. Do not fret about the reduced range of motion; it will not tighten the muscle. The purpose of this is to allow the use of more weight safely, which will help with strengthening the muscle more quickly. It can also help to reduce the possible risk of injury.

      For this phase, limit the range of motion to 1/2 - 3/4 of the normal range of motion. Avoid working in the tight range of motion; only use the ROM that is comfortable and pain free. Use the ROM in which you can lift more weight, rather than less weight.

    4. Strengthening Phase 2:

      For this phase, use lighter weights, higher repetitions, and the full, pain-free range of motion. This will help to further strengthen the connective tissues. It will also complement the effects of Phase 1.

    5. Light Stretching Phase:

      Some stretching for the tight muscles can be done after the workout to help with temporary relief. However, this stretching should be light. Do not attempt to stretch the muscle beyond a small amount. This part is optional. If you choose to do this part, use the stretches & stretch times from the 'Overall Flexibility Workout.

Sample Workout:

Overall Flexibility Workout:

    As mentioned before, stretch warm muscles only. These routines are best done after a workout. They can be alternated (4 sessions per week), or both performed together (2 sessions per week). Each muscle should be stretched twice per week.

    Stretching Routine A:

      Standing Hamstring Stretch

      • Perform 1 static stretch for 10-15 seconds. Relax For 5-15 seconds.
      • Perform 1-3 static stretches for 20-45 seconds each.
      • Relax for 5-15 seconds in between each stretch.


      Click Image To Enlarge.
      Standing Hamstring Stretch.
      Video: Windows Media - MPEG

      Lying Quad Stretch

      • Perform 1 static stretch for 10-15 seconds. Relax For 5-15 seconds.
      • Perform 1-3 static stretches for 20-45 seconds each.
      • Relax for 5-15 seconds in between each stretch.


      Click Image To Enlarge.
      Lying Quad Stretch. Video: Windows Media - MPEG

      Wall Calf Stretch

      • Perform 1 static stretch for 10-15 seconds. Relax For 5-15 seconds.
      • Perform 1-3 static stretches for 20-45 seconds each.
      • Relax for 5-15 seconds in between each stretch.


      Click Image To Enlarge.
      Wall Calf Stretch.
      Video: Windows Media - MPEG

      Seated Floor Twist

      • Perform 1 static stretch for 10-15 seconds. Relax For 5-15 seconds.
      • Perform 1-3 static stretches for 20-45 seconds each.
      • Relax for 5-15 seconds in between each stretch.


      Click Image To Enlarge.
      Seated Floor Twist.
      Video: Windows Media - MPEG

      Knee To Chest

      • Perform 1 static stretch for 10-15 seconds. Relax For 5-15 seconds.
      • Perform 1-3 static stretches for 20-45 seconds each.
      • Relax for 5-15 seconds in between each stretch.


      Click Image To Enlarge.
      Knee To Chest.
      Video: Windows Media - MPEG

      Erector Spinae Stretch

      • Perform 1 static stretch for 10-15 seconds. Relax For 5-15 seconds.
      • Perform 1-3 static stretches for 20-45 seconds each.
      • Relax for 5-15 seconds in between each stretch.


      Click Image To Enlarge.
      Erector Spinae Stretch.
      Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    Stretching Routine B:

      Shoulder Stretch 1

      • Perform 1 static stretch for 10-15 seconds. Relax For 5-15 seconds.
      • Perform 1-3 static stretches for 20-45 seconds each.
      • Relax for 5-15 seconds in between each stretch.


      Click Image To Enlarge.
      Shoulder Stretch 1.
      Video: Windows Media - MPEG

      Shoulder Stretch 2

      • Perform 1 static stretch for 10-15 seconds. Relax For 5-15 seconds.
      • Perform 1-3 static stretches for 20-45 seconds each.
      • Relax for 5-15 seconds in between each stretch.


      Click Image To Enlarge.
      Shoulder Stretch 2.
      Video: Windows Media - MPEG

      Shoulder/Upper Back Stretch

      • Perform 1 static stretch for 10-15 seconds. Relax For 5-15 seconds.
      • Perform 1-3 static stretches for 20-45 seconds each.
      • Relax for 5-15 seconds in between each stretch.


      Click Image To Enlarge.
      Shoulder/Upper Back Stretch.
      Video: Windows Media - MPEG

      Triceps/Shoulder Stretch

      • Perform 1 static stretch for 10-15 seconds. Relax For 5-15 seconds.
      • Perform 1-3 static stretches for 20-45 seconds each.
      • Relax for 5-15 seconds in between each stretch.


      Click Image To Enlarge.
      Triceps/Shoulder Stretch.
      Video: Windows Media - MPEG

      Biceps/Shoulder Stretch

      • Perform 1 static stretch for 10-15 seconds. Relax For 5-15 seconds.
      • Perform 1-3 static stretches for 20-45 seconds each.
      • Relax for 5-15 seconds in between each stretch.


      Click Image To Enlarge.
      Biceps/Shoulder Stretch.
      Video: Windows Media - MPEG

      Chair Stretch For The Chest

      • Perform 1 static stretch for 10-15 seconds. Relax For 5-15 seconds.
      • Perform 1-3 static stretches for 20-45 seconds each.
      • Relax for 5-15 seconds in between each stretch.


      Click Image To Enlarge.
      Chair Stretch For The Chest.
      Video: Windows Media - MPEG


Advantages
What Are Some Advantages Of Increased Flexibility?

  • Increased functional ability in everyday life
  • Increased performance in sports & activities which require flexibility
  • Decreased risk of injury due to pulling a tight muscle
  • Decreased risk of injury in the shoulder complex
  • Impress your inflexible friends


Personal Experience
Do You Work On Increasing Your Flexibility? Why Or Why Not?

I do not currently work on maintaining a super high level of flexibility, but I do work to maintain a sufficient level. The main reason for this is simply functional ability in everyday activities. I also strive to maintain decent shoulder flexibility, which helps me to be able to perform a wide variety of shoulder exercises with a reduced risk of injury. As of now, I stretch 1 or 2 times per week, for 15-20 minutes.

People who I have met at the gym are commonly surprised with my moderate level of flexibility, when they find out that I stretch very little. I stretch probably once per week, for 20-30 minutes. The rest of the time, I maintain flexibility by keeping a close watch for any muscular imbalances, and correcting them before they cause problems.

About a month ago, I noticed that my lower back muscles, as well as my hamstring muscles were beginning to feel tight much of the time. I was no longer able to touch my toes, which had been very easy in the past. Instead of stretching, like most people would do, I looked at my routine.

Sure enough, I had been doing A LOT more lower back/hamstring exercises, and much less work for my abdominals. I focused on strengthening my abdominals, hip flexors, and quads. In a couple of weeks, I was easily able to touch my toes again - with no stretching at all. The tightness in my lower back was gone.


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Workout
What Is The Best Workout For Increasing Flexibility? Be Specific.

The best workout for increasing flexibility is one that will focus on stretching all of the important muscle groups that will be used in training and daily life in general. Improvement in flexibility can be made by just devoting about ten minutes per day to stretching.

All stretching exercises in this workout are static, which means no bouncing movements will be used. This will help increase flexibility without the risk of injury. Though the stretches may not feel completely comfortable to your body initially, they should never cause sharp pain.

It's important to realize that flexibility is something you consistently improve over time and that you should never force yourself beyond your current flexibility limitations.

Although the debate rages on about this, the scientific consensus and anecdotal feedback seem to indicate that flexibility training should not be done prior to or after intense weight training. Not only can this reduce strength and power, but it can also increase the chances of injury. You should, therefore, perform your flexibility training at other times.

There are a few important guidelines that will apply to all of the stretching exercises outlined below.

Hold Position:

    First, you should hold each position for 20-30 seconds. There is no need to attempt to set personal records for how long you can hold a stretch. This will only increase the chances that you will sustain an injury.

Avoid Pain:

    Second, you should stop any stretch if it begins to cause pain or intensifies the tightness in the muscle. Tightness should decrease as you hold the stretch. Remember that stretching should actually feel good when it is done correctly and with safety in mind. If you are stretching to the extent that pain sets in, you are putting yourself at greater risk of injury.

Mo More Than Four Reps:

    Third, perform each stretch no more than four times during a flexibility workout. It is tempting to try to do more in order to increase flexibility in a shorter period of time. You should, however, start off slowly and allow yourself plenty of time for gradual improvement.

    You wouldn't expect to put on pounds of muscle overnight by lifting weights for an excessive amount of time, or using too many sets and reps. The same goes for flexibility as it takes time to reap the benefits of stretching exercises.

Relax:

    Finally, it is important to relax when performing any kind of stretching. Try breathing deeply prior to starting your flexibility training. Inhale with your nose and try filling your lungs to full capacity. Exhale slowly and feel your muscles getting more and more relaxed.

    It is also important to breathe fully when performing the stretches. Many people hold their breath while they hold a stretch. This should be avoided as it will only increase tension which is exactly what you are trying to get rid of.


Stretches

Hamstring Stretch:

    Sit on the floor with one leg extended and the other one bent. Pull yourself forward very slowly and make sure that you do not experience any pain in the process. Some discomfort is normal when you first start stretching but pain is not.

    Once you have reached a position where you feel you are getting the maximum stretch (for your current conditioning) hold it there for 20-30 seconds. Switch legs and do the other just as you did the first.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Hamstring Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

Forward Bend Stretch (hamstrings and lower back):

    In a standing position with your feet together, slowly bend over forward and reach your hands as far down toward your feet as possible. The goal is to get your head as close to your legs as possible. Again, however, do not try to do too much too soon. Stretching leads to progressive improvement and you should not attempt to rush things along.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Forward Bend Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

Calf Stretch:

    Lean against a wall with one leg straight and behind you. The other leg should be bent forward in front of you. Starting with most of your weight on the leg that is in front of you, push the heel of your foot on the other leg while slowly shifting your weight back.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Calf Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

Butterfly Stretch (inner thighs & groin):

    Seated on the floor with heels facing each other, clasp your hands around your feet while keeping your spine straight. Drop your knees to the floor as you pull against your feet. Hold for 10-15 seconds once you feel a good stretch in your inner thighs.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Butterfly Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

Standing Quadriceps Stretch:

    Place one of your hands on a chair, against the wall, or some other secure object that will allow you to stay balanced on one leg. Stand on one leg and grab the bottom of the ankle on the other leg. Slowly pull the heel into your buttocks and straighten the hip as you move your knee backward.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Standing Quadriceps Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

Cobra Stretch (back):

    This stretch is one that comes to us from the ancient practice of yoga. It is extremely effective for increasing flexibility in the spine and lumbar area of the back. As a result of this, it can be especially beneficial for improving poor posture.

    Begin by lying face down on the floor with palms down on the floor just under the shoulders. Push off the ground while slowly arching your back. Lift your head up as you arch your back until you are looking toward the ceiling.

Cobra Stretch
Click Image To Enlarge.
Cobra Stretch.
Video: WMV - MPEG - iPod Video

Shoulder/Arm Stretch:

    Cross one of your arms across your chest while keeping your elbow straight. With your free arm slowly push the arm you are stretching toward your body. You should feel a good stretch in your shoulder and upper arm. Switch arms and work the other one in the same way.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Shoulder/Arm Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

Chest Stretch:

    Stand in the middle of a doorway and place your hands on each side of the door at about shoulder level. Lean forward until you feel a good stretch in the pectoral muscles. Keep your spine straight during this stretch.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Doorway Stretch.
Video Guide: Windows Media (225 KB) - MPEG (1.7 MB) - Video iPod (228 KB)

Circular Neck Stretch:

    Lower your head and bring your chin down to your chest. Very slowly roll your chin across your collarbone and over to the shoulder. Now slowly roll your heads back and around to the other shoulder before rolling back to the starting position. It is important to do this stretch in very slow motion.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Circular Neck Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG


Advantages
What Are Some Advantages Of Increased Flexibility?

There are a wide range of benefits to increasing flexibility. First, and foremost, increasing flexibility decreases your chances of sustaining a serious injury from strenuous training. Stretching can help loosen tight muscles and prepare them for any intense training and stress. However, stretching should be avoided immediately before any intense training.

It also promotes circulation and gets blood flowing to the muscle which can enhance recovery and minimize the chance of injury. Yet another way increased flexibility reduces injuries is by improving the range of motion in your joints. You can safely and effectively move through a full range of motion when your flexibility is enhanced.

Increasing flexibility stabilizes stress which is one of the reasons so many people in recent years have started practicing yoga. Stress causes muscles to become tense; often those in the neck, shoulders, and back being affected the worse.

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The benefits of increased flexibility for stabilizing stress are essentially two-fold. First, the muscles are relaxed and tension gets released. Second, the relaxation of the muscles makes it much easier to breathe deeply which in itself stabilizes stress.

An improvement in flexibility can improve posture which is a very common problem among people today. Poor posture can lead to back, shoulder and neck pain. Stretches that emphasize arching the back and lengthening the spine can help correct poor posture over time and promote greater spinal flexibility.


Personal Experience
Do You Work On Increasing Your Flexibility? Why Or Why Not?

I am a firm believer in increasing flexibility for so many reasons. I used to watch my dogs, both of whom sleep in the bed with me, as they woke up in the morning and prepared to jump off the bed and head for the kitchen. Upon waking up they would always get a good stretch in before leaping to the floor and running through the house.

I later learned that all animals stretch out of instinct and without putting any thought into the process. It made sense to me so I figured, as a fellow member of the animal kingdom; I would make stretching a normal part of my daily life.

These animals must be on to something if they're doing it unconsciously and without having to put a minute's thought into. They instinctively know that flexibility is important.

I also work on increasing flexibility because it has greatly reduced my stress and tension levels. At one time I was getting a lot of "knots" in the muscles of my back which I attributed to excess and prolonged stress in my life.

In addition to stress stabilizing techniques like deep breathing, I started flexibility training which I did 4-5 times per week. Within just a few weeks I noticed that these knots had been greatly reduced and the tension in my upper back was drastically reduced.

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When stretching comes to mind most people will think of it as an injury prevention protocol. While it is extremely important to stretch in order to prevent injury, there are other benefits that stretching provides, mainly flexibility.

You may be thinking that flexibility isn't too important when training for bodybuilding, but that is incorrect. There is a wide array of benefits that increased flexibility provides for the aspiring bodybuilder.

In order to reap these benefits and take your flexibility to the next level, you must attack this like your weight training. The following workout will show you exactly how.


Workout
What Is The Best Workout For Increasing Flexibility? Be Specific.

The best workout for increasing flexibility begins with dynamic stretching. However, before you begin your stretch, it is important to warm up properly. Dynamic stretching is best for pre-workout because it is the best at preventing injury. It will also help reduce possible stiffness in the muscle, which can lead to injuries.

What you choose to warm-up is up to you, but 5-7 minutes of plyometrics is my recommendation. However, the same time period of low intensity cardio would suffice.

Plyometrics:

    Your plyos can consist of a variation of exercises. Some to choose from include:

    • High Knees: Slow jogging motion while bringing your knees as high as possible.
    • Butt Kicks: Jogging while putting your heel to your butt on every kick.
    • Line Jumps: With both feet together, hop back and forth across a given line.
    • Jump Rope: Self-Explanatory.
    • Heel-To-Toe Walk: While walking land each foot on your heel, and rotate all the way through until you are on your toes.

    You can add any of your personal favorite plyometric exercises as well. Once you are warmed up, you can begin the actual stretching.

Dynamic Stretching:

    Shoulder Rolls:

      Keeping your arms at your side, roll your shoulders forward.
      Complete 10 rotations forward, followed by 10 backward.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Shoulder Rolls.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    Arm Circles:

      With arms extended, swing both forward simultaneously.
      Complete 10 rotations forward, followed by 10 backward.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Arm Circles.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    Trunk Rotations:

      Standing with your hands on your hips, rotate your upper body only.
      Rotate 20 times, each direction.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Trunk Rotations.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    Swinging Leg Stretch:

      Standing straight up, swing one leg as far back and as far forward as possible.
      Complete 15 reps for each leg. 1 rep equaling the motion forward and backward.

Stretch Stretch
Click Image To Enlarge.
Swinging Leg Stretch.
Video: WMV - MPEG - iPod Video

    Lunges W/ Upper Body Trunk Rotation:

      Perform walking lunges. When your knee is just above the ground, rotate your upper body toward your opposite knee.
      Perform 1 set of 12 reps for each leg.

Stretch
Click Image To Enlarge.
Lunges W/ Upper Body Trunk Rotation.
Video: WMV - MPEG - iPod Video

    Hamstring Band Stretch:

      Holding a band in both hands, place it on the bottom of your foot. While lying on your back, pull on the band and lift your leg simultaneously.
      Perform 12 reps on each leg.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Hamstring Band Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    This will end your dynamic stretching warm up, and you will now be prepared to weight train.

Static Stretching:

    Once your resistance training is completed, it is time for static stretching. This is the most important for a bodybuilder to enhance flexibility, and promote growth.

    For static training, perform the stretches that correlate with your resistance training. If you have just completed a chest workout, stretch your chest. If you completed a full body routine, complete all of the following stretches.

    Always warm down for 5-10 minutes following training, and before your stretching.

    Hamstrings:

      Bend at the waist keeping your legs as straight as possible, and attempt to touch your toes. Hold this position for a 10 count.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Hamstring Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    Quadriceps:

      Standing straight upward, placing your hand on the wall for balance if necessary, pull your foot up toward your butt. Hold this position for a 10 count.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Quad Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    Calves:

      Holding both hands against a wall, place one foot near the wall, and the other back as far as you can, while still allowing your heel to touch the ground. You should feel a good tension by holding your heel down. Hold this position for a 10 count, and then repeat on the opposite leg.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Calf Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    Groins:

      Seated on the floor with your back straight, bring the soles of both feet together pointing your knees outward. Bring the feet toward your body, and hold this position for a 10 count.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Groin Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    Chest:

      Standing with your arm straight out, place your palm flat against the wall. Rotate your body so that your arm is stretched back behind you. You should feel this stretch throughout your chest, and somewhat through your biceps. Hold this position for a 10 count on each arm.

    Biceps:

      This stretch should be performed exactly like the chest stretch. You should try to emphasize the lengthening of your arm so it hits your biceps slightly more. Hold this position for a 10 count on each arm.

Stretch
Click Image To Enlarge.
Chest/Bicep Stretch.
Video: WMV - MPEG - iPod Video

    Triceps:

      Start with your hands over your head. Take one arm and reach down the middle of you back. Place pressure on this arms elbow. Hold this position for a 10 count on each arm.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Triceps Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    Shoulders:

      Standing upright, cross one arm across your body. Using the other arm, place pressure on your elbow, pushing it toward your body. Hold this position for a 10 count on each arm.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Shoulder Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    Upper Back:

      Place your hands together, and interlock your fingers. Press both hands as far away from your chest as possible, while keeping your back upright. Hold this position for a 10 count.


Click Image To Enlarge.
Upper Back Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    Lower Back:

      Place your hands together behind your back. Bend forward and extend your arms back until you feel it in your back. Hold this position for a 10 count.

Stretch
Click Image To Enlarge.
Lower Back Stretch.
Video: WMV - MPEG - iPod Video


Advantages
What Are Some Advantages Of Increased Flexibility?

There are many great benefits of increased flexibility, especially for a bodybuilder. The first benefit is obvious, but extremely important. That benefit is injury prevention. By loosening up your muscles prior to a workout, you help to reduce the muscle stiffness that can occasionally lead to injury.

The added flexibility will also allow you to go deeper in your contractions during your workout. This will increase your overall range of motion, which will lead to a more effective workout.

By increasing your range of motion, you'll be able to take your muscles close to their maximal length. It is very important to not go past this point, however, as it may be detrimental to your workout. This is why dynamic stretching is done before, and not static.

I cannot stress enough the importance of a proper warm up, as I have suffered from injury due to lack of a warm up in my younger days. Not only will you prevent injury, but you will improve your potential performance at the same time.

As crucial as stretching is before a workout, the static stretching following a workout will have the most benefit for a bodybuilder. When stretching your fatigued muscles following a workout, you increase your flexibility as well as promote muscle growth 1.

Another great benefit this provides is reduced soreness in the muscle, leading to greater recovery. When you weight train, you usually end up with the ever popular "pump." This is from lactic acid and blood, among other by-products, filling up in the muscle.

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Your muscles are also, in a sense, shortened. This is due to training that consists of anything less than full range of motion. Because of this, it is essential that you stretch the muscle in order to increase the ROM (range of motion) back to normal. This will also reduce lactic acid build up, which will then lead to a reduced muscle soreness, and better recovery 1.

So as you can see, it is very beneficial for the bodybuilder to stretch before and after a workout. Do not underestimate the risk of injury you put yourself through, nor the impact that static stretching can have on your physique.


Personal Experience
Do You Work On Increasing Your Flexibility? Why Or Why Not?

I have always been an avid believer in pre-workout stretching in order to prevent injury. I have had a history of various injuries, so I am always extremely careful, and take warming up very seriously. I have only recently begun concentrating on static stretching following a workout, and it has worked wonders. The benefits that post workout stretching has on flexibility and muscle growth should simply not be ignored.

By working on my flexibility more often, I feel much less likely to sustain an injury, which is very important to me. When I stretch immediately following a workout, my body is enabled to recover faster, and I come back stronger. I recommend EVERYONE incorporate flexibility training into their workout routine, you will not be disappointed.

Before adding stretching into my routine, I suffered from a much reduced rate of recovery. My muscles would hurt for days, and effected my other workouts. When I began stretching intensively my workouts were better across the board. I also feel much safer in the gym. If you are looking to add anything into your training, I urge you to add in a stretching routine, you won't regret it.

Good Luck,

If you have any additional questions feel free to e-mail me at Piscitbj@muohio.edu

References:

  1. www.bradapp.net
  2. www.acc.co.nz


What Is The Best Workout For Increasing Flexibility?

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