Flexibility Training is a hot topic in the fitness community. I hear things like… Is it really necessary to stretch or put in the effort to have a routine for flexibility? I only have a short amount of time to put into my workout and don’t have time for flexibility training. I’m not flexible, why bother? Stretching does nothing for me. I don’t get the burn I’m looking for.
Well, I cannot disagree more with these statements. Flexibility Training is imperative to keeping your body strong and injury free. Even 5 minutes can support your workout to be injury free and effective. This is separate from your normal 5 minutes at the end of your workout – two very different things.
In this day and age, we live in a society where we are plagued by postural imbalances due to sedentary lifestyles technology and repetitive motions. Between sitting in classrooms for multiple hours on end or sitting in an office cube for long hours, we have seen an increase in things like lower back and neck pain, carpel tunnel and of course an increase rate in obesity. Flexibility Training is being recognized as an important way to aid in preventing of a number of injuries. Flexibility Training is being recognized as an important way to aid in preventing a number of injuries. I had to repeat this because sometimes we’re so focused on the end goal that we forget about a few steps we need to take to get there.
So what is Flexibility anyway? Flexibility is the normal extensibility of all soft tissue that allows the full range of motion of a joint. In other words, having the capability of elongating or stretching out a particular muscle. And why is flexibility so important? Because when you are unable to extend or elongate a particular muscle, you could injure that muscle or end up using a different muscle to compensate. Either way, it isn’t good and will end up with some type of issue long-term.
Have I sold you on Flexibility Training yet? Think about this, have you ever been working out and felt this knot in the center of your back? Hurts so badly that you have to cut your workout short? This isn’t a normal workout burn. This is a tightness (like a Charlie-horse) that feels like it’s going to rip out of your back. Sound familiar? Maybe not in your back, but in your arm or leg? This is due to not adding Flexibility Training into your routine. You see, if you spent a few minutes working out that tightness in your muscle BEFORE your workout, you might have avoided this.
Flexibility Training should be done prior to your regular workout. Sounds strange, I know. It’s different from stretching. Your stretching routine should be kept at the end of your workout. But for Flexibility Training, you need 5-10 minutes focusing on areas where you feel like you have muscle imbalance or where you already know you have some aches or pains!
The best way to understand where your aches, pains or muscle imbalances are is to use a foam roller. If you don’t have one, I suggest getting one. Typically gyms have them but I keep portable one in my gym bag. They come in all shapes and sizes, however, I suggest getting a regular foam roller to start out with (as in photo).
When thinking about your Flexibility Training routine and using a foam roller, you’ll want to consider a few muscle groups that they are particularly helpful for: Calves, Outer hips to knee (TFL), Inner and Outer Thighs (Abductor and Adductor Magnus) and Back/Lats. These are major muscle groups and will be helpful when starting out your Flexibility Training.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Complete BEFORE your workout.
- Find a level area at the gym or home where you have plenty or space.
- Use a foam roller that is stiff, not overused or flat.
- When rolling, roll slowly. Once you find an area that is tender or knotted, STOP and HOLD for at least 30 seconds to work out that muscle. This is one of the most important steps.
- Complete 3-5 times.
So, get up a few minutes early, starting today, to add in these simple foam roller exercises into your workout. Because of the Flexibility Training, you’ll have a great workout, injury free and more effective than your last!