As I mentioned in my previous post (if you haven’t read it yet, I suggest that you do) I’m going to be going through the 4 pillars of the foundations for strength and performance.
In this post, I’m going to be taking you through the first place in which I would start your foundation training, flexibility.
Developing your flexibility is actually pretty straight forward, but gruelling through a developmental stretch routine is not nearly as fun as it is rewarding.
There are 3 main types of stretching, all of which I will go through below, starting with...
I would never suggest jumping straight into a developmental stretch from the get go, as you won’t get pliability out of a cold muscle, you can also end up doing damage to the muscle by over stretching it too early, because of this, you should always start every stretching workout with dynamic stretches. A dynamic stretch is a slow, mildly progressive movement through the end range of a muscle.
Dynamic stretches often look identical to a static stretch, but rather than taking your body to the absolute limit, you’ll turn the pressure on and off, gradually increasing the range as your muscle starts to loosen. This helps promote blood flow to the area, and prime your muscle for the more developmental, static stretches.
These stretches often tend to be more “compound” in nature, such as the bottom of a squat or a lunge, and would loosen off multiple muscles at the same time.
I’d recommend spending about 30 seconds in each stretch, slowly increasing the tension as you go.
Passive/Static Stretches (Developmental)
Static stretches are the bread and butter of developing flexibility. These should be where you spend the majority of your time during a stretching routine, as this is where most of your flexibility gains will be earned.
Once my body is primed (following a dynamic warm up) I tend to work through all of my problem areas first, so that I can attack them with my full effort and attention.
I’ll then normally stretch everything starting from the neck down. Spend about 40-60 seconds on each body part, and do your best to progress each stretch as much as you “comfortably” can. There’s an element of discomfort when stretching, but it shouldn’t necessarily be pain.
PNF Stretches (Also Developmental)
A PNF stretch is a partner assisted stretch, which is designed to increase the range of motion in the targeted muscle. There are 3 types of PNF stretches, all of which are relatively similar by nature. The most common, and the one I tend to use the most with clients is the:
The hold-relax technique begins with a passive pre-stretch. This is held at a point of mild discomfort for about 10 seconds. The partner assisting you will then apply pressure to the stretch for about 6 seconds. Your job during this 6 seconds is to not allow your partner to move your leg, which creates an isometric contraction at your full stretch capacity. Once (a gruelling) 6 seconds are over, your partner should assist you in a further 30 second long passive stretch. You’ll see a slight increase in your range of motion since the first one.
These flexibility gains tend to last until the following day, so it’s important to practise these as frequently as possible, to make the added range of movement more permanent.