The word "stretching" typically brings to mind guys decked out in sweatpants and high socks with their foot up high reaching for their toes. Turns out that isn't the only way to improve flexibility. Your routine in the gym can have a drastic affect on your ability to touch your toes. The exercises in your workout combined with nutrition, hydration, and lifestyle choices can all have an impact on your flexibility.
Improving your bending ability is crucial for more than just preventing injury. In fact, flexibility training is an important aspect of gaining strength and size. The typical lifter spends most of their day outside of the gym hunched forward over a computer further deteriorating any chance at proper posture. Outside of just preventing injury, having better posture helps to show off the muscular physique you worked so hard to build. Proper flexibility also goes hand in hand with full range of motion exercises like squats and deadlifts, which are major muscle builders. Having tight hips and shoulders is a limiting factor for proper form on these exercises and can limit your program.
The Rules of Improving Flexibility
Rather than taking a haphazard approach to improving your flexibility, follow the rules set below to gain new ranges of motion and prevent poor posture.
NUMBER 1: Dynamic warm-up prior to working out
The days of long holds on stretches before exercise is largely over. Research continually demonstrates that static stretching isn't as beneficial prior to working out as dynamic stretching. Before starting your lifting or cardio session, go through some bodyweight movements like squats, lunges, push-ups, side lunges, and jumping jacks. Perform three sets of each movement for 20-30 reps to warm up your entire body. This type of warm-up should leave you in a light sweat ready to tackle your workout.