Lack of flexibility can limit your enjoyment of movement. You should be able to move your joints through their full range without pain. Impingement in the joint or tightness in the muscle and fascial tissues above and below the joint can restrict movement. An impingement occurs inside the joint and needs to be addressed by a doctor.
Lack of flexibility occurs when the muscles or fascial (connective) tissue does not function fully. It can occur in the lengthening and contracting muscles, so both sides of the muscle must be worked. Here are several ways to do this.
Rolling with a foam roller or firm ball can be done anytime. The idea is to knead the muscle belly between the joints to stimulate blood flow and intercellular fluid to allow the muscle to glide among the fascial tissue and adjacent muscle fibers. Place your preferred tool, such as a foam roller, on the muscle belly. Smash from side to side, across the length of your muscle. Focus on sensitive areas that are tight. Be sure to also work the opposing muscle. Try this technique on the floor, chair or against a wall.
Dynamic stretching can be done before or during exercise. Move the joint in both directions in a rhythmic pattern, such as swinging your leg forward and backward to stretch the front and back of your hip and leg.
Resistance stretching uses the strength of the muscle being lengthened as well as movement to stretch the muscle and encourage better fascial organization. For example, get into a standing stretch position such as a lunge. Use the strength of your legs and press your feet against the floor and toward one another to stretch your calf, hips and back of your thighs. Alternate between pressing down and relaxing into the stretch. Experiment with different positions and use tools such as blocks, straps, a wall or chair. This method can be done anytime except before a workout.
Static stretches are held longer than two minutes and work on lengthening the fascial tissue. This can be quite relaxing and should not be done before exercise. Lie on the floor and create the stretch position for the area of your body that needs lengthening. Use tools to help you in the position. You should be able to relax into your position and hold it for at least two minutes. Breathe deeply and relax into your stretch. Shift to an opposing position for the next stretch.
Enjoy working on your flexibility regularly. It can make moving more pleasant.
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