Most people interested in fitness understand that you need to be flexible in order to achieve total health. Having a larger range of motion helps prevent injuries, lets you get into more optimal lifting positions and counteracts the effects of sitting constantly. But the actual getting flexible part is what stumps a lot of people. For many of us, flexibility drums up images of doing toe touches in PE class in high school. Although that type of stretching, known as static stretching, can be helpful, it isn’t optimal. There are many stretching protocols, but we’ve chosen the 3 that are the most effective for people who don’t have a lot of time, but still want to work on this aspect of fitness.
Dynamic stretching is a form of stretching that works great as a warmup, because it involves active movements that increase range of motion, as well as blood flow, while raising core temperature.
This video gives a great rundown of a basic dynamic stretching routine to do as part of a warmup. If you’re not already incorporating something like this into your workouts, give it a try. It’s just a few short minutes, and it will make your workout better, as well as fixing some lingering mobility issues.
Isometric stretching is like the stretching you did in PE class, but with a twist. Instead of just touching your toes, for instance, you would grab onto your ankles, and then generate some force in your hamstrings by trying to straighten your back while maintaining your grip on the ankles.
This is a great post-workout stretch that can really increase your range of motion. Make sure you’ve warmed up before doing isometric stretching, as it does put some strain on the muscles.
PNF stands for “proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation”, so you see why we went with the initialism. Technically, it’s a type of isometric stretching, but there’s a slight difference. Instead of stretching while also flexing the muscle for some resistance, you alternate between periods of tensing the muscle, and then relaxing into the stretch.
This video shows a great 5 minute routine for PNF stretching. It’s short enough that you can easily fit it into your day, but it’s still very effective. If you’re serious about increasing flexibility, give PNF stretching a serious try for a few weeks. You will see results.