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How to Improve Flexibility (Painlessly)

Jan 15, 2010

Many people don't know how to improve flexibility effectively without trying to force themselves into painful and even injurious positions. But improving your flexibility shouldn't be painful. You can encourage your muscles to grow longer and more supple without causing yourself pain. Here's how.

1) Commit to a Regular Stretching Routine

You can't build flexibility without committing to a regular stretching routine. The more often you stretch, the more flexibility you'll gain, and the more quickly you'll gain it. Stretching frequently is more important than stretching for a long time. If you stretch for twenty minutes a day, five days a week, you'll gain more flexibility much faster than you would if you stretch for an hour one day a week.

2) Breathe Properly

Breathing deeply, fully and with control is key to effective stretching. When you breathe deeply, your lungs are able to add more oxygen to your blood. Heavily oxygenated blood helps remove toxins and lactic acid from your muscles. It also makes your muscle tissues more elastic.

Breathing deeply encourages good blood circulation, helps your body to relax and calms nervous agitation. Concentrate on the part of your body that you're stretching as you breath deeply in and out. You'll find that awareness of the muscles helps them to relax even more each time you exhale.

3) Practice the Three Rules of Effective Stretching

Effective stretches rely on three basic tenants: leverage, isolation and safety.

  • Leverage allows you to maintain control over the stretch, moving more deeply into it only as you feel comfortable. Leverage allows a deeper, more intense, but also safe stretch.
  • Effective stretches isolate individual muscles or muscle groups. Isolation ensures that the force of your stretch will go where it's most needed, or not be wasted on other muscles or muscle groups that don't need the stretch as badly.
  • Effective stretches are safe. They allow you to maintain good posture and balance while stretching. They provide support for your body so that you can stretch without tearing or straining a muscle.

4) Stretch Fatigued Muscles

Muscles stretch better when they're warm and somewhat fatigued. If you don't have time to work out before your stretching routine, that's okay. You can achieve the same effect by contracting and relaxing your muscles before you stretch them.

Tense the muscle or muscle group that you plan to stretch and keep it contracted for at least thirty seconds. Relax the muscle and then move into your stretch. You'll find that the muscle is even more flexible once released from a contracted state. Repeat the contract and relax process two or three times to add to your stretching routine.

5) Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Repetition is one of the best tools you can use to build flexibility easily and quickly. Repeat your stretching exercises two or three times apiece. You'll find that the more often you repeat the same exercises, the more flexible your muscles become Repetition can help you grow more flexible by leaps and bounds.

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