Build Flexibility to Improve Performance and Eliminate Injuries

The term flexibility refers to the range of motion around a joint. Flexibility is an essential component of overall fitness – just as important as muscular strength and cardio-vascular health. An adequate degree of flexibility will improve performance, speed up gains, and help prevent injuries. Simple stretching to improve overall flexibility can be done at home, in the office on your break, or in the gym.

Stretching before your workout will warm up your joints and muscles and prepare them for the work ahead. Stretch briefly before weight training and more extensively between sets and after your workouts. It is believed that excessive stretching before weights can diminish your overall strength for the workout. Longer stretching periods should precede every heavy duty cardio session from pounding a treadmill to outdoor interval training. Stretching after a workout of any kind will help your muscles and the body’s systems to cool down and aid in reducing muscle soreness.

When stretching, only go as far as your body allows. Stretch until you begin to feel a slight tension. Hold this position for 20 seconds. Never bounce or force a stretch. Breathe in deeply as you go into a stretch and then exhale as you reach the point of tension. Flexibility is not hard to develop or improve. It only takes a few minutes every day. Try these stretches in the morning before work, preceding a run on the beach, or your routine in the gym.

Stretch One- lower back; hamstrings and calf.

Stand with your feet about six inches wider than shoulder width apart. Slightly bend your knees into a relaxed position and roll your head and shoulders all the way over until level with your knees, or lower. Be sure your weight is forward, over the balls of your feet, and just relax into position.

Stretch Two- lower back; hamstrings and lats.

Move right into this stretch from stretch one, reach with both arms over your right leg and try and touch your forehead to your right knee.

Stretch Three- hamstrings and hip sockets.

Continue from stretch two by placing both hands on the floor and lunge over to the right, bending the right knee to a 90 degree angle and leaving the left leg straight while flexing the left foot.

Stretch Four- quadriceps, lats and shoulders.

Stand up and lunge forward with your right leg. Place your left hand on your right knee for support, lift your left foot off the floor and grasp it with your right hand. Keep your back straight and lean slightly over your right knee as you hold the stretch.

Stretch Five- pectorals and shoulders.

Stand in a doorway. Move to your left and place your left raised forearm inside the doorframe and step slightly forward as you torque your upper body to the left. Hold the stretch, release it, and then do the same on your right side.