In your Fitness journey, you are going to face great challenges if you want to accomplish real goals. Nowadays, almost everyone thinks that they are fit because they work out, however, most people work out without goals. Going to the gym can become part of our daily routine, but honestly, it is more than that—it is a lifestyle that only serious fitness people understand. Though the fitness life is amazing, is painful and full of sacrifices, which may seem to be difficult for some; however, I believe everyone can live such a life. If you want to work out not only to look great but also to feel great and healthy physically and mentally, all you need to do is re-think before you continue with your fitness journey and establish serious goals to accomplish them with deadlines.
What is this fitness secret that will help you to improve your workouts forever? Flexibility, yes, in the fitness industry very few people talk about flexibility in the workout routine. Everybody focuses on becoming stronger, building muscles, losing weight, losing fat, etc., however, improving flexibility is going to help you tremendously to accomplish all kind of fitness goals. Why? let me explain to you why:
We all have four physical capacities—endurance, strength, flexibility, and speed—and all these capacities can be developed by practicing sports and exercising in general.
These capacities are a common topic in physical education and sports, but in my opinion, the fitness industry should consider them too and get the basic knowledge of this awesome information that could lead athletes, fitness figures, bodybuilders, and everyone to the next level.
The physical capacities
- Endurance can improve our cardiovascular, respiratory, and muscular performance, reduce fatty tissues, improve capillary and vascularization of the muscle, help prevent coronary diseases in adulthood, and compensate for stressful situations.
- Strength can improve the performance of our muscles, bones, and joints, improve muscle toning, help better perform our everyday tasks, and prevent some postural diseases.
- Speed can improve the performance of our nervous system, improve attention and concentration, and allow faster and more effective movements.
- Flexibility can improve the range of motion of the joints, improve coordination, prevent different injuries of the musculoskeletal system, and help in keeping postural hygiene. It is the most important capacity because it increases the performance of other physical abilities. Flexibility allows us to do large movements without harming ourselves, thanks to joint mobility and elasticity of muscles and tendons.
I can explain this to you with an example that I learned many years ago in my Physical Education class.
Flexibility is the main physical capacity of all humans; it helps to maintain healthy muscle fibers for a long time and we can work out with fewer risks. The other three capacities depend on flexibility to be well developed.
Why is it important to add stretching exercises to the workout plan?
We talked about the importance of the knowledge of the physical capacities in the fitness industry, but why are stretching exercises important to a workout routine? Because better muscle flexibility can help us achieve a better performance.
Benefits of flexibility for bodybuilding:
- Reduces the risk of injury.
- Increases muscle mass faster.
- Improves muscular endurance for high-intensity workouts.
- Produces a healthier body to achieve any fitness goal.
How to improve flexibility?
In my personal experience, the best way to start improving your flexibility is by including appropriate warm up and cool down. Also, if you want to do a high-intensity workout, you can include basic stretching exercises in the middle of your routine to give a little break to your muscles, activate them, and thus, have a better response and endurance during your workouts.
- Try alternative classes such as stretching classes, yoga, Pilates.
- Try different training methods such as balance training, TRX training, Core training; the purpose is to stimulate your body to uses other muscle groups, activate them, and as a consequence, use them to improve any physical capacity (including flexibility).
- Another good way is to use your rest day i.e. Sunday for a stretching session either at home or at the gym. I got used to doing it and I have achieved good results.
- Go to a chiropractic session at least once every three weeks as we have no idea what’s going on in our body, and maybe we need some of the adjustments that will help us include new training methods.
- Get a sports massage at least once every month as it has the following benefits:
- Increased joint range of motion (ROM)
- Increased flexibility
- Increased sense of well-being
- Decreased muscle tension
- Decreased neurological excitability (nerves more relaxed)
- Decreased muscle spasms
- Better sleep
For how long should you stretch?
This depends not only on the physical activity but also on the type of training, for example, when I used to do yoga classes, I found that even in this class there’s a warm up that includes stretching. Though it made no sense to me then as to why we should warm up with stretching exercises in a yoga class but I learned the reason later on. (You just need a few seconds to stretch correctly and get the awesome benefits of every physical activity you are into.)
On an average, in every physical activity—sports, classes, and workout sessions—the stretching session should be something like this:
- Warm-up: no more than 6 sec for static exercises, for dynamic exercises you can do sets of 6 – 10 reps
- Middle workout: For static exercises no more than 6 sec, and for dynamic exercises, stretches are not necessary
- Cool down: For both static and dynamic exercises you can do between 10 – 20 sec and sets of 10 – 15 reps, respectively
Note: My personal opinion based on my experience is that you should do dynamic stretching exercises for a warm-up and static stretching exercises for the cool down.