flexibility

Flexibility - that loose, free, mobile feeling. You want it right? We all wish we had it! Perhaps the only way you know how to shoot for it is traditional, touch your toes and hold kind of stretching. This 'static' stretching can be frustrating. It can be really uncomfortable with no immediate increase to your flexibility. This can leave you unsatisfied and not motivated to stretch regularly. I’ve outlined 3 different techniques, backed by science, that will help to increase your flexibility in just one session.

 

Let’s use the seated forward bend stretch as an example.

 

Hold-Relax

Step 1.

Sit in the forward bend stretch as shown in the pic above. Push yourself to a comfortable end point. You should feel a stretch along the back of your thighs (your hamstrings!).

Step 2.

Breathe in.

Step 3.

Breathe out.

As you do, press your heels and back of legs firmly down into the floor. You should feel your hamstrings contracting. Hold for 10 seconds. Continue to breathe in a relaxed manner.

Step 4.

Breathe out.

As you do so, slide your hands further towards your toes and deeper into the stretch. Hold for 10 seconds. Continue to breathe in a relaxed manner.

Step 5.

Repeat until you can no longer reach further into the stretch.

 

A type of Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF), the Contract Relax stretch works by your nervous system detecting the hamstrings being in danger of tearing. This is due to the contraction of the hamstrings while it is being stretched to its maximum. A reflex of the nervous system then causes the hamstrings to relax to avoid a muscle tear.

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Reciprocal Inhibition

Step 1.

Sit in the seated forward bend stretch as shown in the above pic. Push yourself to a comfortable end point.

Step 2.

Breathe in.

Step 3.

Breathe out. As you do, lift your heels off the floor. Even if you can’t physically lift the heels, the action should contract the tops of your thighs (your quadriceps!). Hold for 10 seconds. Continue to breathe in a relaxed manner.

Step 4.

Breathe out. As you do so, slide your hands further towards your toes and deeper into the stretch. Hold for 10 seconds. Continue to breathe in a relaxed manner.

Step 5.

Repeat until you can no longer reach further into the stretch.

 

Reciprocal Inhibition is another form of PNF. It is very similar to the Hold Relax stretch, however, the key difference is you are contracting your agonist muscle.

The agonist muscle is a muscle that performs the opposite movement on the same joint. Reciprocal Inhibition occurs when your quadriceps contract to straighten your knee, and the hamstrings have to lengthen to allow this movement. In the seated forward bend stretch, the hamstrings are already stretching and therefore are in danger of tearing. The same reflex of the nervous system as mentioned above, relaxes the hamstrings to avoid a muscle tear.

 

Gliders

Step 1.

Sit in the seated forward bend stretch as shown in the above pic. Push yourself to a comfortable end point.

Step 2.

Breathe in. As you do, point your toes down and away from you.

Step 3.

Breathe out. As you do, pull your toes back towards you. Repeat this 10 times.

Step 4.

Breathe out. As you do so, slide your hands further towards your toes and deeper into the stretch.

Step 5.

Repeat until you can no longer reach further into the stretch.

 

Your nerves are able to stretch, slide and be compressed to some degree to allow for functional movement. This is known as neurodynamics.

Flexibility can be decreased if there is a problem with the neurodynamics of your nervous system.

The Glider stretch works by sliding your sciatic nerve up and down the leg. This releases restrictions along the nerve. Improving the ability of the sciatic nerve to slide and stretch.

 

Try one or try all 3 ways to increase your flexibility. I guarantee your flexibility will increase within one session.

If you are looking for a long-term increase in your flexibility then it is vital to perform these stretches at least twice weekly. By doing stretches frequently you will start to make physiological changes.

 

The seated forward bend is one example, however, you can use these principles for any muscle or nerve tension. Online.Physios are available via online consultations to assist you to reach your flexibility goals.

Our team of physios can give you a tailored stretching program to do at home.

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