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Start every flexibility session with a warm-up to increase your core body temperature. When you break a sweat, you know you’re there! Brisk walking, light jogging,rowing, and biking are all good examples. A good warm-up may take 5 to 10 minutes.
After a good warm-up, complete the dynamic movements for each joint and the muscles that will be used in the activity you’re about to begin. Your goal is to mimic the movements and prepare the specific muscles you’re going to engage in your activity. Always complete dynamic movements before static stretching and before your activity if you’re preparing your muscles for a workout or an athletic performance.
Dynamic movements are the perfect way to improve your flexibility, balance, coordination, and strength. These movements give you the best “bang for your buck” and maximize your time
if flexibility training is the workout, the static stretches are completed after the warm-up and dynamic movements.
Don’t expect to perform every stretch as depicted, but focus on posture, breathing, and correct form. Stay in a pain-free range of motion and your joints will respond by increasing their mobility over time. It’s important to not ignore the stretches you find most challenging, as those are the very stretches that may be limiting your mobility the most. Mark the most challenging stretches, and be sure they get your best effort and extra time until they’re no longer the weak link in your chain of movement.
Foam rolling: Once you try this, you may want to do it all the time! Rolling, a.k.a. “my cheap massage,” is a great way to help your muscles recover, as well as release their tension and gain elasticity. Using the foam roller can be uncomfortable when you first try it, just like a deep massage. Be patient. After several sessions with the foam roller, your muscles will respond and you will almost feel them loosen up. You can try rolling your muscles before a work out, after a workout, or even while watching television.
Stretching Tips to Remember
Don’t use stretching as a warm-up. Stretching a cold muscle is like flipping a frozen rubber band.Don’t aim for pain. If you lengthen the muscle too far, too fast, or hold for too long, your muscle will contract to try to protect itself and defeat your stretching efforts. See the following “Be Aware of the Stretch Reflex” section.Stick with it. The good news about stretching is that changes in flexibility happen relatively quickly. The bad news is they leave just as fast. Once you feel you’ve achieved good flexibility, you should be able to maintain it with three or four sessions per week, depending on your other activities.
Focus on your tight areas.
While it might be tempting to do only the “easy” stretches that feel good, your greatest gains will come from stretching the areas you find most challenging.
Go beyond the dynamic stretches and yoga poses in this book,and try a yoga or tai chi class. If you’re preparing for a specific sport, you’ll want to expand your library of dynamic movements to mimic the moves required for the activity. Using all your muscles together, the same way you move in life and sport, is the most effective raining of all.
Not to be confused with dynamic movement, bouncing can lead to tissue damage and the counterproductive stretch reflex. Keep the stretches controlled and smooth.