Regularly stretching your body is important for staving off soreness and preventing injury, so if you're taking the time to squeeze it into your schedule every day, kudos to you. But if you've been working on your forward folds and they're not getting any easier—and you're finding that you're not getting any more flexible—it may be because you're going too hard in your stretch routine.
Flexibility, in general, is critical for moving comfortably through your daily life. "Muscles that are more flexible mean that they have greater suppleness and range of motion, which means that they can help your functional movements, like reaching for things and sitting pain-free, and also improve your workouts so you can squat deeper or run further," says Vanessa Chu, co-founder of Stretch*d. "It also helps with overall balance and range of motion as you age."
One of the key elements of building flexibility is developing a consistent routine, but if you're already stretching on the reg and still aren't seeing improvements, it's likely because you're overdoing it. "People often mistake pain for gain with flexibility," says Chu. "Grimacing your face while trying to get into the splits is not actually going to benefit you—you can actually overstretch, which damages muscles and joints."
Instead of trying to force multiple muscles into the deepest versions of a stretch all at once, your best bet is to isolate certain spots and engage in dynamic stretching to slowly build up your range of motion. These types of stretches involve moving your muscles instead of holding them statically in a given position, and "by moving through the stretches, you trick your body into staying relaxed which means longer-lasting results and more range of motion," says Keren Day, DC, co-founder of Racked Stretch.
Chu explains that with this method, you'll be able to build flexibility gently over multiple repetitions so that by the time you reach the last of your 10 to 12 reps, your muscles will be far more limber than when you started. And over time, that flexibility will holdover from one stretch session into the next.
For the sake of improving your flexibility, you'll want to treat your muscles to these types of stretches every day for at least 10 minutes, because as Chu puts it, "Stretching even 10 minutes every day is better than stretching for an hour every week." Try to focus on one or two muscle groups at once, and prioritize the tightest areas that may need a little extra love. This way, you'll be well on your way to getting into that full split without any grimacing at all.
Need a little strech-spiration? Follow along with the video below:
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