FLEXIBILITY – HOW TO?

One of the most common road blocks for individuals looking to improve flexibility begins with a mind set. I regularly see people jam themselves into a stretch while holding their breath due to the immense discomfort it has provided.  Their perception of this training modality is to literally STRETCH the muscle – a small shift in your thought process may be the difference between remaining the same and improving functional range.

What are you really trying to do?

To stretch effectively you need to first understand the position you are trying to achieve and the joint actions that need to take place to achieve freedom.  Once you understand the position you are trying to achieve creating a strong connection between mind and muscle is key – learn to relax the muscles that are limiting the joints range of motion.  Often times the reason a muscle is ‘tight’ is because your central nervous system is sending messages to the muscle indicating ‘hold tension’ if tension is lost there is a risk something bad will happening.  Makes sense, you’ve never experienced these ranges and your body is trying to protect you.  When you stretch the goal is to convince the muscle that everything is OK.

OK, now that you understand stretching is all about relaxing a quick note about the autonomic nervous system and its’ two halves the sympathetic (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest).  To simplify things bit we can chalk the systems up to one system is associated with stress and the other is associated with relaxation.  Much of the training you do is associated with more stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system – crushing weight, sprints etc etc.  Stretching is one of many training modalities that is built to help relax and recovery (parasympathetic response).  If you take one thing away from this article understand that your recovery modalities are equally as important as your ‘hard’ training.   When you stretch you are looking for a parasympathetic response which requires relaxation – mentally and physically.  This brings me to my next point BREATH!

Breathing

When you breath focus on controlled diaphragm breaths (belly breaths) – on every exhale strive to relax the body and specifically the muscles carrying excessive tension.  As the muscles relax you will naturally fall further into the stretch without any force.  Lastly, rather than putting a time limit on stretching – focus on breath cycles. When you begin a stretching routine the breathing may be the most difficult part, learning to relax.  It may take you several breath cycles – upwards of 2 minutes in a stretch to really feel the tissue relax.  As you become more accustom to these breathing techniques and stretching you may be able to achieve significant improvements in as little as 30 seconds.

 Maintain appropriate posture

One of the very first points I made in this article was to understand the positions you are looking to achieve.  Should your hips be square or open, should they be neutral or in anterior/posterior tilt – you may find yourself slightly out of position and this is ok.  This is where making strong connections between your mind, muscle and movement is critical.  Strive to make small ‘micro movement’ with intension to achieve appropriate posture.  The videos provided to members will outline the key postural points for each stretch allowing you to focus on the finer details of movement and stretching.

Now that you have developed a better sense of the flexibility mindset take the next step and register today.

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