If you're here, it means you have been trying to get flexible without seeing enough results. Whether you are a dancer, yogi, martial artist, gymnast, cheerleader, an athlete or just an ordinary person trying to get stretchy - these tips based on kinesiology and effective stretching techniques will be essential to improve your flexibility.
Firstly let's start by establishing that ANYONE can become flexible, as long as you train safely and use correct techniques. It's not just genetics and young age that makes you flexible, it's also your lifestyle, training habits and your training methods. As a child and teenager, I was never flexible. I was the one struggling at the back of dance and gymnastics classes. I only became flexible as an adult, after I had studied, experimented and combined several different techniques from gymnastics, ballet, barre, pilates, callisthenics, yoga, martial arts, movement science, sports performance, cheerleading.
When I combined everything I learned, I started to see some patterns and common errors that are not always taught by teachers and instructors in your average training session. Flexibility can be a little finicky: it's probably one of the most complex physical abilities to master because it involves many different physiological systems.
HERE ARE THE 8 COMMON MISTAKES THAT REDUCE YOUR FLEXIBILITY - why they are holding you back, and how you can fix them to make you stretching more effective.
1. YOUR'E SCRUNCHING INSTEAD OF STRETCHING
You think you're stretching - but actually, you're "scrunching". When stretching, you're curling like a snail instead of lengthening your hamstring muscles.
INSTEAD: Lengthen your stretch: it doesn't matter where your head is. What matters is the angle of your stretch, and if you're feeling in the back of your legs.
2. YOU'RE HOLDING YOUR BREATH
Shortness of breath is doing two things: A) You're not bringing enough oxygen to your muscles and B) It's triggering your nervous system into thinking your body is under stress, making it more difficult to deepen your stretch.
INSTEAD: Breathe slowly and deeply to relax your body, inhaling when you rest and exhale as you ease more into your range.
3. YOU'RE ALL SKEWED
Great, you look like a boomerang! Yes, it's frustrating that your stretching is not yet on point - but stretching at wonky angles is just slowing down your progress. Don't focus on how impressive your stretch looks: focus on alignment to develop flexibility in the right muscles.
INSTEAD: Be patient, stretch straight. It looks like you're not as flexible but trust me when we say: you're ten steps ahead of a wonky stretcher!
5. YOU'RE STRETCHING COLD
You think you're too tough to warm up before you stretch for flexibility. The joke's on you because it's like trying stretch a dry sponge. A dynamic and mobilising stretch is perfectly fine - but to work on flexibility development our body needs to be warm to reach its full stretch potential. INSTEAD: Make sure you've been warming up for at least 5 minutes before stretching - that means getting a little out of breath before you stretch out.
4. YOU'RE COLLAPSING INSTEAD OF LIFTING
When you're holding a stretch skill, you're collapsing to the ground instead of lifting. Your muscles are relaxing and falling to the ground instead of extending.
INSTEAD: Lift your body up and make yourself long and strong! Think of growing as tall and long as possible: you will be more stable when holding your stretch.
6. YOU'RE STRETCHING AT THE WRONG TIME
Working on flexibility as part of your warm-up or before a training session is a terrible idea...
1) it's dangerous to overstretch before training strength, plyometrics or cardiovascular fitness
2) it reduces your muscle explosiveness
3) chances are you won't stretch at the end when it really matters for flexibility.
INSTEAD: Keep your warm-up stretch short and focused on dynamic movement and mobility. Leave enough time at the end of your training session for flexibility training and instead of treating it as a "cool-down" make stretching a crucial part of your training session!
7. YOU'RE ONLY PRACTICING SKILLS
You're so focused on "showcasing" your skills that you forget to develop your flexibility. Many poses or skills you find in gymnastics, martial arts, dance or yoga are not a tool to build your flexibility. They are a DEMONSTRATION of the flexibility you currently have.
INSTEAD: To get flexible, you need to train your body before you can achieve the skill. Your entire body needs to be mobilised and stretched before you work on applying flexibility to a skill or pose: especially the ones that feel sore and tight!
8. YOU'RE NOT STRETCHING ENOUGH
You've been stretching every week for the last 15 years and getting no-where. Yeah, that's not how flexibility work. First, you need a development phase and then you can keep it up with weekly stretching. During this phase you can learn how to hold stretches long enough for the stretch to be effective, and the correct techniques to avoid injury.
Remember that flexibility requires consistent , targeted and regular training to see improvement. A 30-day tailored "stretch bootcamp" will give you more results than fifteen years of stretching weekly. Once you've completed your development phase, you can move onto a more maintainable once or twice weekly maintenance phase. But first, you need to overcome your physical barriers.
Remember that you're not only changing the elasticity of your body, but you're also convincing your muscles and joints that it's ok to go a little further! You will find more results in 6 months of stretching every day than stretching for 15 years once a week.
DAMN, STRETCHING IS MORE COMPLICATED THAN I THOUGHT.
I don't blame you. Stretching is not easy: if you're not one of those rare people who were born with "rubber bones" (so to speak, you just have more collagen in your body) then understanding how flexibility works with your body (rather than against it!) is the real key to success.
In my twelve years of coaching cheerleading I have learned that you can get more progress in ten minutes of stretching than you can in ten years if you're making the mistakes above.
ARE YOU READY FOR A 30 DAY TRANSFORMATION?
Prove to yourself that you CAN make stretching easier!
Get the 30-DAY BBS Flexibility Optimisation program, which includes:
BBS LONG & STRONG Training Guide
30 Day Flexibility Optimisation Program using the BODY BEFORE SKILL TRAINING Method
30 Day access to the BBS Online Studio to access the training videos and tutorials - Includes 4 hours or training videos, tutorials and follow-along classes to help you develop flexibility at home.