So you want to become flexible?
If you need to be sold on the benefits of flexibility, then google it. I’m sure there are hundreds if not thousands of posts reeling off the benefits so I’m not going to bother here. Just know that all professional gymnasts and weightlifters are flexible.
Dynamic stretches are great for warming up but you need to also spend time in static stretches in order to push past your current range of motion and become more flexible.
Avoid static stretches before other activity, in particular weightlifting, your body may not be used to it’s new range of motion which can cause injury. Dynamic stretching pre-training (warm up), static stretches post workout (cool down).
Keep it simple. Don’t try to be fancy and find “the next best thing”. Bands etc. are fine but honestly the best way to learn the splits is to sit in the splits, the best way to learn a pike fold is to sit in a pike fold. It doesn’t have to be complicated, regardless of how inflexible you currently are. Obviously there are many other accessory stretches that can help you along the way but hopefully you get my point – keep it simple.
Don’t be half hearted. Treat stretching like a another training session. Sitting in front of the TV is fine and can be a good distraction but you have to be careful not to get lazy. As a general rule of thumb sit in a stretch for 2 plus minutes and it should be uncomfortable, not easy. Try and dedicate specific time to stretching.
“Stretching shouldn’t hurt” – I’ve heard this a lot and I understand the point, you don’t want to push so hard you pull or tear a muscle but you need to realise that stretching is going to be reasonably uncomfortable and unpleasant … it shouldn’t be easy. People use this phrase as an excuse to be lazy. Don’t be that person. To some degree, you need to push your body past it’s current range of motion / limitations so that it can adapt and become more flexible.
Stretch with a partner. If you can use your own bodyweight to push you past your current range of motion then great but sometimes you need someone to give you that extra push. Weighted mobility exercises are also great e.g. Jefferson curls, weighted shoulder dislocates. This is usually really effective in adults that don’t already have a good foundation. Their bodies are often to reluctant to move into a position they’ve never needed to use before, so adding weight can help ease into the stretch. Weighted mobility is also great for building strong connective tissue (tendons, ligaments etc.) but that’s another big topic in itself.
Work towards mastering these stretches and you are well and truly on the path to success … !!
- Front split (both legs)
- Hips facing forward and no gap between you and the floor is the end goal.
- Side split
- Sitting upright with no gap between you and the floor is the end goal.
- Pike and straddle fold (pancake)
- Chest flat on floor/legs
- Knees turned to face ceiling for straddle
- Toes flexed, pointing up to ceiling for pike
- Don’t cheat by arching your lower back. Keep back flat – think about getting your stomach to the floor.
- Deep inverted hang on the rings/bar (rings better)
- DEEP. Try to get to the point that you’re hanging so deep you’re body is almost in a straight line despite being in an inverted hang.
- Relax and let gravity pull your full bodyweight down.
- Shoulder dislocates (pass throughs)
- Start with a band and work towards a stick until you can do it with your hands just wider than shoulder width.
- Aim to get your shoulder (armpits) level with your hands, with arms straight, legs straight and together.
Don’t mistake this as a quick process. It will take a while. Probably a long while. However, once you have the above you are pretty much there with flexibility .. there’s very little else you will need to learn, it then becomes maintenance.
Which are most important for Crossfit?
- Pike and straddle fold (pancake)
- Deep inverted hang
- Shoulder dislocates