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What Is the Best Way to Increase Muscle Flexibility?

Yoga may improve flexibility.
While stretching exercises will often increase flexibility in a short time, dramatic improvements in flexibility can take more than a year to accomplish.
Some types of yoga can help athletes stretch crucial muscles and improve their cardiovascular stamina.
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  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 14 December 2014
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The best way to increase muscle flexibility is through regular, gentle stretching. Increased flexibility is important because it can improve balance and coordination, improve posture, prevent injury while exercising, and shorten recovery time after an injury. Stretching should be an important part of every workout, but to increase muscle flexibility, it is important to stretch properly.

In the past, it was often recommended that one stretch before an aerobic workout, while the muscles are still cold. This recommendation has changed, however, as it has been shown that stretching cold muscles can lead to injury. Instead, warm up before a workout with a brisk walk, and wait to stretch until the muscles are warm. Most people generally just wait until the end of their workouts to stretch.

The most basic way to stretch is simply to gradually and gently stretch the muscles until you can feel the physical stretch. Never bounce into the stretch, which can cause the muscle to rapidly expand and contract, leading to muscle pulls. Try to stretch muscles in all areas of the body. If sharp pain ever occurs, stop stretching immediately, as this can be a sign of an injury.

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Some people use tools to help them stretch and increase muscle flexibility, such as a large exercise ball or foam roller. Often, lying back on the foam roller or fitness ball can stretch and open the muscles of the chest and abdomen, which can be challenging to stretch otherwise. It is important to stretch these muscles, however, because increasing flexibility in this area can increase muscle flexibility in the back, which can help to prevent lower back injury.

One common type of stretching to increase muscle flexibility is known as Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, or PNF. This type of stretching is done with a partner, and involves one person stretching a muscle until it is tight, then contracting the muscle while the partner holds the limb in place, or provides resistance, then trying to gently stretch the muscle further than before. Before trying this type of stretching, be sure to research it thoroughly and understand how it works.

Yoga and Pilates are two excellent methods of increasing muscle flexibility. These strengthen, stretch, and tone the muscles over the entire body, and an instructor may be able to make modifications for individual people. Finally, some people use massage to relax tired muscles; though this may not increase flexibility, it may allow muscles to heal more easily after an injury or a tough workout.

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StarJo
Post 4

I use a stability ball to stretch my back and my abdominals. It lets me gently stretch my muscles at a variety of angles, and it is very comfortable to rest upon while doing this.

To stretch my back, I position myself over the ball right in the center of my back. I roll slowly back and forth, and my muscles stretch as I go.

I also stretch my abs and even my legs with the ball. I put my stomach on top of it and then slowly ease my body forward with my hands on the ground. I move across it until the ball is under my feet, and this is a good calf stretch.

shell4life
Post 3

Yoga is by far the best flexibility workout I have ever done. After I recovered from a car wreck, I knew that I would need a gentle workout that focused on flexibility, and yoga was ideal for me at that stage of my life.

The positions took some getting used to, and I was not flexible enough to do all of them when I first started. Even bending into position as far as I could and holding my body still like that improved my flexibility, though.

Yoga is great, because it works on both the flexibility of my body and the flexibility of my mind. As I'm holding a position and focusing on slow, gentle breathing, my usually tense mind opens up, and those worrisome thoughts fly out the door while I'm doing yoga.

seag47
Post 2

@wavy58 – I still hate stretching, but I do it anyway. I would hate to get to a point where I can't bend and touch my toes, and I hear that if you don't stretch regularly, your flexibility will suffer.

Even though I don't enjoy doing the stretches, I find that they make me feel much more limber and loose after a good workout. I do dance aerobics, and the entire time I'm exercising, I'm doing quick movements. Doing long stretches afterward really loosens things up.

It is a great way to unwind. By the time I'm done stretching, I feel calmer. It's almost like a mini-yoga workout!

wavy58
Post 1

I remember when I was in elementary school, my physical education instructor would make us stretch before we started working out. I guess since we were so young, we weren't in danger of hurting ourselves by stretching cold muscles, but again, this was back in the day before experts knew you should warm them up first.

I always hated doing the stretches, even though the instructor said it would improve our flexibility. It hurt to hold those positions for so long. My muscles would get more sore from the stretches than from the actual workouts.

This is probably why when I grew up, I abandoned stretching altogether. During my twenties, I didn't feel that I needed it. However, since I have hit thirty, I have had some flexibility issues, so I have begun stretching after my workouts.

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