For many, the concept of flexibility is the 'church' to strength's 'state'. The practice of yoga and/or basic stretching rarely cross paths with standard exercise routines. Questions are asked about the benefits of stretching: should you do it before a workout, after the workout, or sometimes even in the middle. However, if you don't practice yoga, you often leave flexibility to the fate of the gods. And those who practice yoga often miss out on elements of strength training that would benefit their bodies as well.
As we have progressed more and more towards the idea of body weight practices with less time in the gym, the blend of exercise concepts makes perfect sense. Few would complain about a way to workout less and achieve better results! And when you blend modalities within a routine, sometimes even within a move, you can increase your workout efficiency, and thus boost your metabolism more in less time.
Flexibility, the range of motion about each of your joints, can be integrated into many exercise moves that are typically known for the development of strength. Here are five exercises that you can adjust in terms of their ability to do more than you generally think they do.
Most people flail about as they perform jumping jacks, just trying to get to the end of the segment. Wet noodle arms are how we describe the flaccid movement we trainers see frequently. However if you minimize the bend in your elbows, control your arm movement in both directions, and focus on elongating your spine as you stretch your arms up, you achieve a stretch through your back, shoulders and, to a lesser extent, your chest.
You know that I love push ups. Push ups elevate the heart rate, and they work the arms, shoulders, lats, back, all the while forcing the isometric contraction of your core muscles. A perfect storm. Rather than rush through them, and falling down to your knees to rest, take your time and add a downward dog to stretch out your calves and hamstrings. Slowly invert to upward dog and feel the elongation of those sad hip flexors.
Performed properly, a lunge can help you increase the strength of your legs, hips, and glutes. More importantly they force your legs to work independently of one another, which is important in order to mitigate imbalances between your dominant and weak sides. Stretching out the quad of the back leg can be achieved by reaching back and gently pulling on the foot. Always be careful not to let the front knee go past the toes on the front foot.
Targeting the muscles of the lower back with the superman move should be included in almost everyone's regular routines. And one of the best reasons to add this move (and the next) is that you get to lie on the floor. Stretch your arms out completely, with little bend in the elbows. Your legs are straight, and your feet should be inverted so that your toes are pointed. The modified version of this move asks you to lift the left arm and right leg, then the right arm and left leg. Move slowly. You contract your lower back muscle lifting up, but you will feel the stretch down the arm and through the hips.
Like the above, simply lying down on the floor with your arms over your head and breathing deeply is a stretch in and of itself. When you are ready to roll up, scoop in your tummy muscles and slowly lift straight up, keeping your back straight. Make sure that you don't bend your knees as your torso straightens. Hinging at your hips, lean slightly forward (you don't need to touch your toes), to stretch the back of the leg.
Your body's balance relies on it's ability to move in all directions without resistance from sad joints, so use the control you exert over your body during exercise to lengthen and pamper your limbs throughout your workout.