One of the best ways to improve your health and to alleviate any aches or pains is to improve your flexibility. Whether you are very active or quite sedentary, stretching is something your body needs on a daily basis. Here are helpful tips on how to maximize your flexibility in a short period of time:
Dynamically warm-up prior to working out
Before you work out, it is important to do more dynamic warm ups, rather than static stretching. This helps to bring fluid to the muscles, tendons and ligaments, making them more elastic. New studies prove that dynamic stretching is more effective in helping your muscles prepare for strengthening, running, or other sports activities. Examples of dynamic warm-ups are squats, lunges, push-ups and jumping jacks. Doing 2-3 sets of 20-30 repetitions warms up your body.
2. Follow a workout with light static stretching
Static stretches are better performed after a workout, when your muscles are warm and you need to maintain their length. After your workout, it is best to lightly stretch the major muscle groups such as the hamstrings, hip flexors, spine and chest. The older you are, the longer your stretches should be. After age 55, you should hold each stretch over a minute per muscle group. With stretching, never go into pain, simply feel a gentle pull and once you feel a release, then you can gently go further into the stretch.
Work on full range of motion
During your stretching, work on moving through the full range of motion. For example, with your shoulders, don’t just focus on stretching them at the top of the motion. Move through the entire range of motion and then stretch at the very top. This trains your muscles to activate and relax at the proper times throughout the motion.
4. Learn to breathe properly
Many people during or after a workout tend to breathe more with their rib cage. This pattern becomes worse in times of stress, and is a major reason why people feel tense or uncomfortable in their shoulders. During your stretching routine, work on deeper, but controlled breaths in for 4-6 seconds and out for 6-8 seconds. Focus on making your belly rise and keeping your shoulders relaxed. This helps you activate your diaphragm and train your body to breathe correctly.
5. Stay hydrated
Muscles are mostly made of water and require a sufficient amount of lubrication to work. Just like your car needs oil to lubricate parts and make the engine work efficiently, your muscles need water. In addition, your muscles need the right electrolytes to function, especially potassium, sodium and calcium. Not only should you ensure your body is hydrated enough with water, but at times intake other sports drinks to replenish your electrolytes.
Physical therapy and massage
Working out your muscles, running and sports activities place a demand on your body. Muscles can develop trigger points, and tissues can become tighter. Your muscles are wrapped in connective tissue called fascia. This tissue often becomes tighter, especially with frequent use or injury. Having myofascial release performed by a physical therapist, helps to restore the normal function of the muscle and fascial systems. Hands on physical therapy and massage help to gently break up trigger points and adhered muscle tissue. Having a routine PT and massage treatment can help you feel your best.
For more information on improving your flexibility, strength, coordination and balance, take the time to contact Willow Physical Therapy and talk to one of our physical therapists today!