Do you look at the TV screen and think by yourself, “How are the athletes so flexible?” Or, you look at the gymnasts performing flips and splits and wish to do it by yourself? Well, if being flexible was your goal and you were unable to do so yet; do not worry as we’ve got you all covered. This article specifically deals with the benefits of flexibility and exercises to gain flexibility.
Now, what exactly is flexibility? Many people think that the ability to touch your toe while standing or doing an effortless split means being flexible. Well, like that absolutely falls under the category of being flexible, there is also a proper definition of flexibility. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), flexibility is defined as the total range of motion of a joint or group of joints per skeletal muscle. There’s no doubt that flexibility to some extent is genetic. But even you can increase your flexibility through regular stretching and exercises. Your dream of being flexible is not far away.
Now, you might also think that is why you need to be flexible. Flexibility brings in lots of advantages and keeps your body in good shape.
Let us then now look at some major benefits that flexibility provides-
#1. Lesser Injuries
As you become more and more flexible, your body tends to withstand more physical stress. Minor wear and tear won’t affect you much anymore. Flexibility improves muscle balance and thus, no more injuries from muscle imbalance during workouts. Muscle imbalance improves through combined strengthening muscles which are a bit underactive and stretching the tight ones.
#2. Increased Mobility
Flexibility enhances and increases smooth mobility to a huge extent. More the flexibility, the more mobile you are. It is really difficult to be mobile while the muscles are not flexible. Flexible muscles make the joints move in proper sequence, thus easing mobility.
#3. Reduced Muscle Pain
Once your muscles start getting worked up and loose, it is most likely you will experience less muscle pain. As the muscles become loose and less tense, they won’t be strained easily and there will be lesser chances of muscle cramps and ache.
#4. Improved Posture
With increased flexibility and stretching, your posture gets improved. You tend to work out maintaining a proper balance and alignment. This greatly improves the posture, as is seen in many people practicing yoga.
#5. Lower Back Pain
Flexibility reduces overall body pain, focussing particularly on the lower back area. According to a report by Healthcare, it has been shown that stretching the hip flexor, erector spinae and latissimus dorsi muscles in the back effectively reduces lower back pain.
#6. Increased Strength
While you train for being flexible, your muscles get worked up with a lot of tension. They contain the perfect amount of tension to support your core strength which gradually increases over days thus making you more and more strong.
#7. Increased Athletics Performance
Once you start becoming more flexible, your movement becomes more agile and smooth. This greatly affects your athletic performance and you perform better as your muscles start working more effectively.
We had a long discussion about the benefits of flexibility. But flexibility doesn’t come in a single day or few days. It requires regular exercise over a course of time to feel the improvements. So now what are those exercises you need to follow to gain your flexibility? Let’s have a look.
Here are few top exercises that will effectively increase your flexibility-
#1. Cobra Stretch
Cobra stretch is the most popular and of the most effective exercises to start with. Lie down on your stomach with feet pressed strongly against the floor and bend your elbows with hands beneath the shoulders. Then inhale slowly as you pull your chest up off the ground as far as possible. You’ll realize your back and abdominal muscles are stretching. Repeat several times. This stretch loosens the pelvic muscles, straightens your spine, and increases abdominal flexibility.
#2. Split Squats
This exercise targets your thigh muscles and besides making them flexible, also tones them. Stand on your feet with a gap of hip width. Place the hands either at the or under the ribs. Bend the knees and come down slowly, count to three and then go up back again. Switch the legs and repeat. For beginners, try sets of 6 per leg.
This is the ultimate exercise that makes your entire pelvic region and thigh flexible. Stand in a resting position and try spreading the legs out exactly in the opposite direction until your upper body and both the legs form a straight line alignment. This form cannot be achieved in a single day and requires maximum patience. At first, you will feel your thigh muscles burning. Don’t give up and keep on doing it slowly but continually. Don’t ever put too much force or it might result in a tear of muscles.
#4. Lying Twist Stretch
Lie down straight with arms stretched at the sides. Lift your knees up slowly and gently twist the legs from the pelvic-thigh junction to the left. Hold this position for some time. Then come back to the starting position slowly and repeat the same while now twisting to the right.
#5. Reclined Oblique Twist
Lie on your back with the elbows under shoulders and legs extended front. Try lifting one leg at a 45-degree angle and hold for a few seconds. Try reaching your right arm to the toe tip of the left leg. Repeat several times in sets and then switch to the other leg.
This greatly enhances the flexibility of the abdominal muscles and back muscles. Gaining flexibility is not a single day’s job. It requires hard work and patience. Work out regularly and at equal intervals. Try doing the floor exercises on a yoga mat so that you don’t hurt your back lying on the floor. You can also use a Styrofoam roller and leg machines to enhance your performance. You can customize the exercise routine to keep it exciting. Being flexible is a boon. It not only increases your core strength or muscle coordination or balance, but it also improves blood flow. Overall, it keeps your body in great shape. And with this office-from-home situation amidst the pandemic, our health has taken a great toll. It’s the perfect time to shake it off and work on our body and health with these simple exercises and a healthy diet chart.