Natural Fitness Studio

Flex: Loosen Up!

Prime your body for strain-free workouts with these techniques to maximize your flexibility.
by Joseph A. de Silva

When you’re trying to get in shape, your first instinct may be just to go. You want to burn calories and build muscle tone as quickly as possible, and you may feel like stretching is holding up your workout. It isn’t. Increasing your flexibility will not only reduce the risk of injuries caused by straining tight muscles, it will have a direct impact on the quality of your exercise.

In order to become more flexible, you first need to find out what muscles are tight, lengthened or weak. This can be done with a technique called self-myofascial release. It’s not as scary as it sounds. Self-myofascial release, or foam rolling, is a form of self-massage in which a foam ball is used to help pinpoint and relieve tightness. Static stretching is also used to correct imbalances by stretching contracted muscles to their optimal length. Any stretch that is held in position for 15-20 seconds is known as a static stretch.

When imbalances have been corrected, you can move on to active stretching, which loosens muscles with motion. For example, arm circles, done by standing up straight with the arms at your sides and rotating your arms in 6 to 12 inch circles, are a type of active stretching. Active stretching is often a warm-up to activity-specific exercises such as tennis or basketball. Contact a fitness professional to learn more about static and active stretching.

Fully stretched? Time to work out!

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