Circuit training is not just for lifting weights in the gym. You can create your own tailored flexibility training circuit that hits all of the major muscle groups. Perform the circuit once after cardio or strength training to stretch your muscles or several times in a row for a flexibility training session.
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Importance of Flexibility Training
The American Council on Exercise stresses that although most of the exercise spotlight is placed on strength training and cardio, there's actually three major components to a well-balanced fitness program. Flexibility training is the third crucial component that is often overlooked. According to ACE, flexibility training is important because it improves your muscle and joint range of motion, relieves muscle soreness and reduces your risk of injury. ACE recommends spending at least 30 minutes, three times per week on flexibility training. But if you're in a time crunch, use circuit training to build a flexibility routine that you can perform in a shorter amount of time.
Circuit Training Basics
Circuit training is a method used to increase the intensity of a workout by squeezing in more exercise and less rest into a shorter time period. Circuits include several exercises stacked back to back without a rest period in between. After you've completed the circuit, take some time to rest and then start again at the beginning. Circuit training is beneficial because it keeps your mind and body active throughout your entire workout and allows you to create your own perfect routine. Instead of winging it, organize and set up your circuit training "stations" before you start exercising. A stopwatch or timer app can help you to stay on track for each exercise.
Sample Flexibility Circuit Routine
For this sample flexibility circuit routine, you'll need about 20 minutes and enough room on the floor to spread out a yoga mat. Warm up your muscles for five minutes by walking or jogging in place. Next perform three full circuits of the following stretches: standing forward bend, Downward-Facing Dog, seated forward bend, seated single leg stretch, seated wide-legged stretch, Cobra stretch, Bridge pose, wide-legged forward bend, butterfly stretch and a runner's lunge. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and move immediately to the next stretch. The entire circuit should take you about five minutes to complete.
Tips and Considerations
As you cycle through your flexibility circuit, remember a few basic techniques for proper and safe stretching. The American Council on Exercise recommends moving slowly into a stretch, without bouncing your muscles. This allows your muscles to stretch gradually and helps you to avoid injury. Breathe deeply and evenly throughout the entire stretch and avoid holding your breath. Take care not to stretch your muscles beyond what is comfortable. If you feel any pain in your muscles or joints, ease off until the sensation is not intense or painful.