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Stretching for Flexibility: The Top 8 Mistakes Holding You Back

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, athlete, or just an ordinary person trying to get stretchy - these tips based on kinesiology and holistic integrative anatomy for movement, to share the most effective stretching techniques that improve your flexibility. Brought to you by our faculty experts at BBS Training Academy.

Are you making these 8 common flexibility mistakes?
Are you making these 8 common flexibility mistakes?

First, let's establish that ANYONE can become flexible if you train safely and use the 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. Many of our coaches at BBS Training Academy weren't flexible as children or teenagers. The majority of our staff became more flexible as adults after learning more effective stretching methods and approaches we learned and combined from several techniques, including gymnastics, ballet, barre, pilates, callisthenics, yoga, martial arts, movement science, sports performance, and cheerleading.

Over the years and as we compared knowledge and experience across different sports, we started to see some patterns and common errors that most coaches and teachers don't address in training sessions. 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.

Stretching & Flexibility Mistakes
Stretching & Flexibility Mistakes

HERE ARE THE 8 MOST COMMON MISTAKES THAT ARE EFFECTING YOUR FLEXIBILITY TRAINING. Learn what's holding you back, and how you can fix them to make your stretching more effective.

1. You're Scrunching Instead of Stretching

You think you're stretching nice and long, but actually, you're "scrunching". When you're stretching, you're curling up like a snail instead of lengthening your muscles.

INSTEAD: Lengthen your stretch - it doesn't matter how far you can go! What matters is the angle of your stretch and if you're feeling it in the muscles you are trying to stretch.

2. 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 upwards and away from the ground.

INSTEAD: Lift your body up and make yourself long and strong! Think of growing as tall and long as possible towards the sky in your stretches : you will be more stable and extend your muscles properly if you expand your stretch.

Triangle Pose Stretch
Stretch UP towards the sky!

3. You're All Skew

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 us when we say that you're ten steps ahead of a wonky stretcher!

4. You're Holding Your Breath

Shortness of breath during stretching does 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 and ultimately become more flexible.

INSTEAD: Breathe slowly and deeply to relax your body, inhaling when you rest and exhaling as you ease more into the full range of your stretch.

Breathing when stretching for flexibility
Are you holding your breath when you stretch?

5. You're Only Stretching Passively

Passive stretching helps your muscles & connective tissues (including your fascia & tendons) to lengthen by applying tension using a belt, a wall, gravity, or a partner to help stay in position while you're stretching. Active stretching, however, puts your new flexibility to use and allows you to keep it!

INSTEAD: Use both passive AND active stretching. In a passive stretch, the muscles should RELAX and LENGTHEN. In active stretching, you need to hold the position on its own, adding movement and CONTRACTING to hold the lengthened muscles in place.

Passive vs Active Stretching
Passive vs Active Stretching

6. You're Too Focused on Skills & Poses

You're so focused on "showcasing" your stretchy skills that you forget to develop your overall flexibility. Before you can achieve a pose or stretch skill: the best strategy is to prepare your body and allow your muscles and joints to find the movement to get there first.

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 the most difficult!

7. You Stress When You Stretch

The way you stretch is painful, so your body tenses up until your tissues are as solid as a rock. No wonder you're not progressing! For your stretching to be effective, you need to learn to relax your body. Your tissues should work with the stretch, not against it!

INSTEAD: Stretch to music that you love, follow a trainer or a programme that you can trust, and go at your own pace. Learn to love the sensation of stretching, knowing that you are being safe and stretching effectively!

Have fun and enjoy stretching
Have fun and enjoy stretching!

8. You're Not Stretching Often Enough

You've been stretching every week for the last 15 years and getting nowhere. Yeah, that's not how flexibility works. First, you need a development phase, and then you can keep it up with weekly stretching. During this development 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 training programme will give you more results than fifteen years of stretching just once a week.

There are so many systems in our body involved in stretching and flexibility... and they all need time and consistency to develop!

Once you've completed your development phase, you can move on to a more sustainable 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!

Want to learn more? Check out our BBS LONG & STRONG Functional Flexibility eLearning courses - great for all levels of flexibility to improve your skills and training.

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Jessica Christensen - CEO & Academy Director

BBS Training Academy was founded by CEO of MAVERICKS Life Co. Jessica Christensen, with over 15 years specialising in holistic training education and leading our  education team to innovate the sports, fitness, and wellbeing sector. Her studies include Harvard Medical School HMX Physiology, National Academy of Sports Medicine, L4 Advanced Anatomy & Physiology, Evolutionary Biology, TQUK L3 Award in Education, with continuing studies in evolutionary biology, systems innovation and sports science physiology.

Jessica Z Christensen Author

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