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 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 lengthen.
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.
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.
Follow this tutorial to learn to stretch LONG & STRONG!
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!
4. 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.
5. YOU'RE ONLY PASSIVE STRETCHING
PASSIVE stretching helps your muscles & connective tissues (fascia & tendons) to lengthen by applying tension using a belt, wall, gravity, a partner or by helping the position to stay in place. However you're not using ACTIVE stretching to put your new flexibility IN USE.
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.
6. YOU'RE ONLY PRACTICING YOUR 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!
7. YOU STRESS WHEN YOU STRETCH
When you stretch, it's stressful and painful.. so your body starts seizing even more and you're solid as a rock. No wonder you're not progressing! For your stretching to be effective, you need to learn to relax your body.
INSTEAD: stretch to music that you love, follow a trainer that you can trust and go at your own pace. Learn to love the sensation of stretching, knowing that you are being safe and effective!
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.
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