The classic saying, "If you don't use it, you lose it," perfectly describes flexibility. If you want to be flexible, you're going to have to practice. No matter what type of stretching you do, the most important thing is to be consistent.
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If you want to get more flexible in a month, you'll have to do some type of stretching at least once per day. If you do this, you can make a lot of progress in your flexibility in a month's time.
When you get into a month-long stretching frenzy, make sure you have a stretch for each major muscle group of your legs, hips, torso and arms. While all types of stretching are relatively safe, it's important not to push any of your muscles too hard — it's possible to injure yourself stretching.
Incorporate each of these types of stretching and mobility drills into your everyday life and workout routine.
Read more: Static and Dynamic Stretching Exercises
1. Static Stretching
Static stretching means you hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Save this type for after the workout or throughout the day when you have some extra time to stretch and the muscles are warm.
Try to stretch each major muscle group once per day for 30 seconds each. Examples of static stretches include overhead triceps stretch, standing side reach, kneeling quadriceps stretch and a lying illiotibial stretch.
2. Dynamic Stretching
In contrast to static stretching, dynamic stretching is effective before the workout. It's a chance for you to move around as you stretch, so your body can get warm before you jump into the workout. Dynamic stretches are exercises like inchworms, toe touches and butt kicks.
These stretches increase your flexibility by warming up your muscles, which makes them move more easily. Try to go through a dynamic stretching routine before every workout. You should target your calves, hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, and shoulders.
However, you don't need to warm up multiple times throughout the day, so switch to static stretching when your workout is done.
3. Joint Circles
Some joints, like your shoulders and hips, are meant to move in circles. The best way to get these joints more flexible is to make circles with your arms and legs. You can practice these circles from standing or while on your hands and knees.
Rotate one limb at a time and make as big of a circle as possible. Move slowly, but don't fight against your joint, just keep moving and gently push past any areas that are particularly tight.
Circles increase the synovial fluid flowing around a joint, lubricating them and making them move smoothly. Do these circles as often as you can during the day, even before a workout, to make your shoulders and hips more flexible.
4. Foam Rolling
Rolling your muscles with a foam roller will make you more flexible. In fact, it can be equally as useful as traditional stretching to release tension.
With a foam roller you can target the muscles of your calves, thighs, hips, middle and upper back, shoulders, and arms. All you have to do is use your bodyweight and the force of gravity to roll the muscle that you want to stretch over the roller.
The best time to foam roll is before or after a workout. Rolling out before your workout helps you get more flexible and also warms your body up. Doing it after a workout can help you feel less sore. Try to hit every major muscle group at least once per day, rolling each muscle at least 10 times.
Read more: The DOs and DON'Ts of Foam Rolling
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- International Journal of Sports Medicine: Chronic Flexibility Improvement After 12 Week of Stretching Program Utilizing the ACSM Recommendations: Hamstring Flexibility
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: The Acute Effects of a Warm-Up Including Static or Dynamic Stretching on Countermovement Jump Height, Reaction Time, and Flexibility
- Scandanavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports: Effect of a 5-week static stretching program on hardness of the gastrocnemius muscle
- Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research: Effect of frequency of static stretching on flexibility, hamstring tightness and electromyographic activity
- Canadian Living Magazine: Are You Stretching the Right Way?