How To: Improve Flexibility
Flexibility. All dancers and flyers strive for it and, thankfully, all can attain it. Not only do athletes need to focus on frequency of stretching, but also form and sequence, it’s not just about how often you stretch, but how you stretch and in what order. There are several different kinds of stretching that you can incorporate into your daily routine.
Static stretching: this involves holding a specific stretch for 15- 30 seconds, slowly moving deeper into the stretch with each breath.
Dynamic stretching: warming up the body through full range of joint motion. Leg swings and hip circles are common examples. This can have a huge impact on body preparedness for strenuous activity.
Ballistic stretching: bouncing while holding a stretch, this should be avoided, as it puts a harmful strain on tendons, joints, and muscles.
First, increase heart rate for 5-10 minutes, then, move into dynamic stretching including shoulder rolls, arms swings, and torso twists. For the lower body there is leg swings, hip circles, half squats, and lunges. Dynamic stretching keeps muscles warm and engaged because it helps to keep the heart rate up. Static stretching should be used during your cool-down, held for a minimum of 15–30 seconds. By doing static stretches at the end of your practices you are able to push the muscles further because they are at their warmest.
Stretching with a partner can also quickly increase flexibility because it keeps constant pressure on the muscle group being stretched. It is important that partners communicate with each other throughout the stretching process. Pressure from the person stretching the athlete should be constant, easing into the stretch and keeping pressure consistently whilst maintaining technique.
By placing stretches throughout your practices in the time frame suggested above, the muscle groups are being stretched at the ideal time to optimize your flexibility.