I am devoting February to flexibility! Some of us have it, some of us need to work a bit harder for it. Me? I fall into the latter! But luckily, the very flexible Personal Trainer, Shanna van Mens, has helped out with her expert knowledge and tips!
According to Shanna (pictured), flexibility is the ability of the joints or muscles to move freely. With greater flexibility comes ease of movement. “Take the squat, for example – one of the most important exercises in the sports world. With a technically correct squat, flexibility is needed in the back, hips, butt, hamstrings, and calves. If one or more of these muscle groups lacks flexibility, the chances of poor technique and / or injury is greater.” So how can we improve our overall flexibility?
Dynamic Stretching refers to stretching in motion and is a great way to warm up your body. It improves your range of motion and activates your muscles. Think of swinging / circling your arms, shoulders and hips, as well as exercises like leg swings, knee lifts, high kicks, and walking lunges (a quick google search will help if you’re not sure what these are). Shanna also stresses that you need to do dynamic stretches which utilize the muscles and joints that you will be using in your workout, and to gradually build the intensity of the movements. This way you will prepare your muscles for what you want them to do later on.
Static Stretching refers to stretching a muscle and holding the position for 30+ seconds. This temporarily decreases the maximum strength, power, and explosiveness of the muscle – the very things you need in both cardio and strength training. Therefore, if you do static stretching before you exercise, you are going to increase the risk of injury and negatively impact your performance. So these stretches are best done after your workout – the time when your muscles are still warm but they no longer need to perform strenuously. Shanna also recommends that you incorporate static stretches on days when you don’t workout. But listen to your body – stretching is also taxing!
Shanna also recommends yoga, especially Bikram, as an excellent way to improve flexibility. Because it is performed in a hot room, the muscles can relax more easily. I have personally tried this kind of class at Hot Yoga Eindhoven. At first I thought that I wouldn’t be able to get through the whole hour in a room that was heated to 38 - 40 degrees (ironic considering I’m from Australia), but I soon forgot about that as I relaxed into each pose, and really enjoyed the class.
Shanna van Mens: “Everything revolves around balance, including flexibility. I highly recommend regular exercises which stretch the whole body.”
Great morning workouts (especially the cat – camel stretch)
And one of Shanna’s personal favourites: Hip-flexor stretch to prevent lower back pain
If you’d like to find out more about Personal Trainer Shanna van Mens, please take a look at her website (Dutch only), or follow her on Facebook. I really recommend that you also follow her on Instagram for a daily dose of fitness inspiration!
This blog also appeared on Eindhoven in Motion.