The world of flexibility training is full of confusion and misinformation.
No wonder so many people are confused.
I remember when I began learning about how to get more flexible. My progress was limited and it really frustrated me. Something was missing…
There’s many people performing stretching exercises out there, but still the majority of people are limited by their flexibility levels.
Feeling free and flexible in my body isn’t something that has been easy for me to experience. My body is more naturally wired for strength. However after many years of research and practice I’ve found some powerful principles that have dramatically improved my flexibility training in a way that is usable in day to day life.
You’ll learn some of those principles in today’s post.
1. Balance strength and suppleness.
Flexibility is all about range of motion you can use during movement. In order to use a specific range of motion, you must be able to contract whilst in the position. True flexibility requires a balance of strength and suppleness.
To create full body flexibility that allows you to move more easily, instead of just flop into a position. It’s important to ensure your stretching also places appropriate demands on your strength, at the range of motion you’d like to use.
2. Practice daily.
This is not rocket science, but many overlook this principle… You get good at what you do often!
Getting more flexible is no exception. If you want to improve your body’s suppleness you need to practice daily. The more you practice, and listen to your body the faster you’ll progress.
3. Focus on your whole body.
When you really observe how the human body works you’ll notice that what you do to one part affects all parts of your body. This became very obvious during my years learning about traditional Chinese medicine.
For example, you may think your hamstrings are tight, so naturally you stretch them. You may do this for a while, and eventually hit a plateau. Does this mean you need a new way to stretch your hamstrings harder to improve range?
I experienced something similar in the beginning of my flexibility practice. The solution wasn’t about focusing on stretching one area. It was when I began to focus on my stretching my whole body from my head to my toes, that I opened up new range and freedom in my hamstrings.
Everything is connected, like a river… Sometimes to clear the blockage in the stream you don’t need to fix the block itself; instead look up and down stream to find the source.
So focus on full body flexibility to improve your body as a system, instead of looking at it as a bunch of parts.
Don’t worry, you can still address individual areas of your body, but work on the whole first.
4. Have clear markers.
Stretching to simply relax and feel good is one thing, but stretching to create new range of movement that lasts long term is something different entirely.
When you’re looking to improve your suppleness in a way that is balanced between strength and flexibility, it’s important to have some clear progress markers to continually gauge your progress.
Theres a few foundation positions I recommend you build your flexibility practice around, to give you regular feedback on your progress. Test your progress on these positions over time, to see if you’re getting more flexible.
Here’s two foundation positions I use for beginners. These both test a balance of strength and flexibility.
Position 1: The Wall Squat
The wall squat is a useful position to gauge your body’s ability to fold in on itself. Becoming small is a very useful ability and the wall squat is a good representation of this skill.
Using the wall, and having your arms out stretched requires you to use your whole body to maintain this position. It exposes weakness and tightness across a range of areas from your hips, legs and torso.
- Feet must be flat on the floor
- Arms must be straight
- Toes pointing in the same direction as knees
Position 2: The Super Man / Woman
The super man / woman is a position to gauge your body’s ability to open itself and become big (the opposite of the wall squat). It can also be a useful indicator if your physical structure is ready to begin handstand training.
This position uses the floor to challenge your strength and flexibility levels, and once again requires a balance of strength and flexibility to maintain this position. This position highlights balance between the front and back of your body, whilst bringing awareness around weakness and tightness through your shoulders, neck, torso, arms and legs.
- Belly button must be off floor
- Hips must be on the floor
- Spine should be neutral (not arched)
- Hands must be off the floor
You don’t need to get these positions perfect straight away, simply re-visit them periodically to assess the effectiveness of your flexibility practice. If your stretching efforts are not improving these positions, you may need to re-evaluate your approach.
I would recommend being able to hold these positions for a least 30 seconds before moving towards more advanced movements that require a strong, flexible body, like back bends.
5. Find a friend.
Unless you’re very self disciplined, and deeply inspired, sometimes doing things, like getting more flexible can be tough to do all by yourself.
You can make your stretching efforts more fun and potentially more effective by practicing with a friend.
Make sure though that you’re both on the same page and clear where you’d like to go, or otherwise having a friend around be more of a distraction and can work against you.
It can help to set a clear intention for your training together and also one for yourself. This will ensure you both know the purpose of your interaction and you stay on course.
What You’ve Just Learned
To re-cap here’s the 5 foundations we covered in this article to help you get more flexible:
- Balance strength and suppleness
- Practice daily
- Focus on your whole body
- Have clear markers.
- Find a friend
Practice these foundations consistently and humbly and like me you can begin to remove your flexibility limits and get flexible faster than you may imagine.
Get Flexible, Without Guessing
A great way to ensure great results from your flexibility training is to know a proven process. The Embodied Flexibility is working for hundreds of people around the world. Check it out here.