You Don’t Have to be a Gymnast to be Flexible

Flexibility training exercises for fitness

It takes flexibility to do the splits

Photo: Todd Jensen CC-By-2.0

When I was a teenager, I was pretty flexible. It came from years of Tae Kwon Do training. Funny thing about martial arts, it teaches the body to become agile, and flexible.

Tai Kwon Do is known for it’s kicks. I was able to break a lot of boards that were higher than my head.

I’m not a teenager anymore. To be honest, I don’t see a lot of reason to need to kick my foot at head level any more.

That shouldn’t discount the idea of being flexible.

The Mechanics

Flexibility is the amount of movement a joint can experience during a normal range of motion. Does that come across too technical? No sweat. The more that you can move a joint, the more flexible that you are.

Improved flexibility decreases the chance of injury. Most of the common injuries, whether training/sports related, or just hurting yourself in daily life, can be traced back to poor flexibility.

The How-To’s and Why-For’s

The first thing that I’ll say is that you really, really need to warm your muscles and joints prior to any exercise. This includes flexibility training.

Flexibility training doesn’t have to be a separate workout. Add it to your current routine, after the cool-down. Spend 10-15 minutes stretching.

There are three types of stretching. Ballistic stretching involves movements that include bouncing.

Similarly, dynamic stretching involves movement also. An example of a dynamic stretch would be arm circles. This is ideal for warm ups prior to exercising, or playing sports.

The third type is called static stretching. Imagine bending over with locked knees and feeling the stretch in the back of the legs (hamstrings). Then hold it for 10 to 60 seconds. That is an example of static stretching.

Static stretching is a wonderful way to work lactic acid out of the muscles after hard lifting. This, in turn, will reduce any soreness the next day.

When incorporating flexibility training into your exercise program, static stretching is the best way to increase your range of motion (ROM). By improving your ROM, you will largely reduce the chances of a sports related injury.

Frankly, it’ll help minimize any muscle, joint or ligament injuries in your everyday life.

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15 Responses to “You Don’t Have to be a Gymnast to be Flexible”

  1. Anne says:

    As a former gymnast and martial artist, I was once flexible too. I was just thinking about taking up karate again for just such a reason. Plus, it’s so much fun, and a great workout.

  2. I’m super duper flexible. I pretty much always have been but I do yoga daily and that keeps me limber. I don’t have about doing a split like that but I could try it if I was given tights and a leotard.

  3. Tim says:

    I wouldn’t try that in or out of tights and a leotard. Seriously though, I’ve been trying to stretch after my workouts, and have seen a huge improvement. I don’t really get sore, and am more flexible than I was before.
    It’s a little off topic, but have you tried those foam rollers? I saw somebody at the gym using one the other day, but I’m not sure about it.

  4. This is a great article about fitness and flexibility. People forget that stretching needs to be just as big a part of their workouts as core training and cardio!

  5. Todd says:

    @Anne, Didn’t you hear? Everybody’s kung fu fightin’! You’d better get back in and start doing some karate. :)

    @Julie, Yoga, is amazing for flexibility training. Do you do that on the Wii?

    @Tim, Ya, we need to scrub the image of you in a leotard out of my mind. Why did you even have to go there?

    @Bethany, Exactly! Stretching should be done with every workout. I’m amazed at how much better I feel after dong it.

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  7. Yum Yucky says:

    My husband says he was born inflexible. He damn near claims rigamortis of the legs. But I ain’t buying it. He azz just needs to just stretch some more.
    Yum Yucky´s last [type] ..Carbohydrate Delirium- This Is What It Looks Like

  8. Hey Todd, awesome assessment of the hows and whys of flexibility. I have had a lot of luck when I use dynamic flexibility as part of both my own and my clients’ training programs. And I don’t mean just arm circles – any bodyweight exercise is a great example of a dynamic warm up.

    Some common exercises I use as part of the warm up are often ones that other trainers use as part of their main workout but I find these serve really well to warm up the body as well: bodyweight squat, kneeling push ups (I train a lot of women), plank, side plank, bird dog, bridge or lying hip extensions, etc. These prepare the body more completely then walking on a treadmill or even static stretching can do.

    Thanks for the info – we all need a reminder about flexibility.
    Susan@Home Workouts´s last [type] ..Astaxanthin Benefits & How It Can Help You Lose Weight

  9. Todd says:

    @Yum, Joyce, you just need to put him on the rack. He’ll be limber before you know it. :)

    @Susan, Awesome addition. I love how you include those as part of the warm-ups. I tend to include some of these as well. When I used to coach soccer, I outlawed all of my players from static stretching before practice or a match. It was all about dynamic stretches for them.

    Afterward, that’s when we would do a cool down and static stretches. We may not have been at the top of the teams in our league, but we never had a single injury that wasn’t caused by a careless player on the other team.

  10. [...] You Don’t Have to be a Gymnast to be Flexible [...]

  11. Julie Downey says:

    I got in a little late on this blog post, but couldn’t agree with you more that flexibility training reduces injury!

    I’m a yoga teacher and I’ve seen huge increases in my students when they attend classes with me (or practice on their own) at least twice a week.

    And, the idea of adding a regular flexibility routine to a daily workout is the perfect solution.

    Props to you!

  12. Julie Downey says:

    Oops, forgot to mention that was increases in flexiblity and strength!

  13. Todd says:

    Hi Julie! Thanks for stopping by. Yoga, while torturous to me, is a great way to increase flexibility and strength.

    BTW, love your site!

  14. [...] for fitness. Anybody that has trained in a martial art knows that it gets the heart rate up, and improves flexibility. Muscle is also put to the [...]

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