Ask LH: How Can I Improve My Body’s Flexibility?

Ask LH: How Can I Improve My Body’s Flexibility?
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Dear Lifehacker, I’ve never been very flexible. I can’t touch my toes and most yoga poses are a struggle. What are the least stretches needed, and most effective, to improve flexibility throughout my whole body? Thanks, Perpetually Hamstrung

Dear PH,

Most fitness specialists will tell you that regular stretching is just as important as regular exercise. It has the potential to increase flexibility and range of motion, correct posture by loosening tight muscles and decreases the chance of injury by preparing your body for impending workouts. In activities like yoga, it can also help you to release tension both physically and mentally.

In terms of the type and number of stretches needed, this obviously comes down to the needs of the individual. My advice is to get a physical assessment from your GP so you can pinpoint problem areas and the amount of attention they need. (Here’s a quick explainer that covers some of the basics.)

The first thing to do is make peace with the fact that you’ll likely never be super flexible. Those extreme yoga moves you see on the internet take years and years of practice — but they’re also carried out by people who were naturally flexible to begin with. Trying to emulate these poses will likely result in a serious injury.

As we’ve noted in the past, instead of trying to stretch your entire body before and after exercise, focus on a key area each time. As you get into a proper routine, gradually spend longer on individual stretches and include more stretches for each area. If you are aware of muscles that are tight, then focus on those ones. You can find some tried-and-proven stretches to get you started here.

While it’s possible to do all this at home, having the wherewithal to stick it out can be tough. Plus, there’s no guarantee you’ll be exhibiting correct posture or techniques, which could potentially make things worse. Instead, it might be worth joining a flexibility class, such as yoga or pilates. This will ensure you get proper training and should also increase the chances of actually sticking to it; especially if you can rope a friend into going with you.

How To Turn Yoga Into Badass Exercise With Advanced Poses

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Cheers Lifehacker

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  • Honestly i would probably not go to a GP for flexibility reasons, you’re better off seeing a movement specialist ranging from a Personal Trainer to a Exercise Physiologist, they will have a much better grasp of how movement is meant to be and a good PT and EP will know how to develop your flexibility in a manor that will not cause harm to your body.

    all a GP will do is refer you to someone they have ties with already.

  • gymnastics is another thing to try i you dont think yoga will fit the bill.
    i had a mate, he started when he was 32, not flexible at all, was kind of fit though. but after 2 years of dedicated hard work, can now do the splits. i did it for about a year an a half and can testify to its benefits. the thing about gymnastics if you have a decent coach is they will teach you proper technique, so not only does you flexibility increase, but you will strengthen those muscles too. also very good for strengthening your core which has all sorts of health benefits and relieves strains around lots of parts of your body.

  • What are the least stretches needed

    This is the real issue here. Wanting the “least stretches needed” indicates a lack of motivation to do the work necessary. There’s no real shortcut to health.

  • PNF stretching is the ticket (PNF -> Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation). It involves both the stretching and contraction of the muscle group being targeted, and the fastest way I’ve found to improve flexibility.

    It also has the added benefit of improving muscular strength and maximising the functional range of a muscle.

    One of the interesting things I’ve personally noted about PNF (so this is just anecdotal, now) is that most of the increases in muscle range seems to be almost permanent. I haven’t had any problem touching my toes since I used it 5 years ago.

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