Flexibility training is often the most overlooked and skipped part of a workout routine. With so many areas to address such as core, strength and cardio conditioning, it can be a challenge to fit in.
However, flexibility shouldn’t be neglected, especially when you consider the benefits. Flexibility training can help improve posture, increase mobility, increase sport performance and boost overall day-to-day function. Plus, it is a great way to aid in recovery from more intense workouts.
One effective method that I have discovered for flexibility training is incorporating the use of a suspension trainer. Suspension training is typically used for strength and conditioning purposes, but it can also serve as a great flexibility piece, especially if you’re looking for an alternative to traditional stretching. Similar to when it is being used for strength exercises, suspension trainers have two straps that are anchored overhead, allowing users to angle their bodies in a way that is appropriate for their flexibility level.
Outlined below are five of my favorites that will give you the most bang for your buck. If you consistently dedicate at least one session a week to these stretches, you will see noticeable improvements in overall flexibility and mobility.
In the outlined stretches, we will use a combination of active and static flexibility. Each set will begin with an active stretch. This involves using controlled momentum to take a joint or muscle through the full available range of motion for a total of 6-10 reps. Once the final rep is reached, we then perform a static stretch at the end range of motion for a 30-second hold.
Begin with your back facing the anchor point, holding the suspension trainer in each hand with your elbows at your sides. Step out with your left leg and lower your body as if you were performing a lunge, keeping your back leg straight, while simultaneously fully reaching overhead with your arms. Briefly hold for 1-2 seconds and return to the starting position, and then repeat on the same side for six total reps, holding for 30 seconds on the last rep. Once complete, repeat the same pattern on the opposite side.
Begin with your back facing the anchor point, holding the suspension trainer in each hand and extending your arms out to the side to a 3 and 9 o’clock position. Walk away from the anchor point until you feel slight tension in the chest and shoulder. Position your feet together and gently lean further into the stretch for 1-2 seconds. Rock back and forth in this position with controlled momentum for 10 reps, holding for 30 seconds on the final rep to complete the stretch.
Side Bend Stretch
Begin with your back facing the anchor point, holding the suspension trainer in each hand with your elbows at your sides and your feet together. Extend your right arm over your head and bend sideways to your left, pushing your hips in the opposite direction and keeping your left arm down. Hold for two seconds and return to the starting position. Repeat for 6-10 reps before holding for 30 seconds at the end. Then repeat the sequence on the opposite side.
Rotational Hip/Hamstring/Back Stretch
Begin by facing the anchor point, holding the suspension trainer in each hand with your arms in front of you at chest level with palms facing up. Drop your hips toward the floor, keeping a slight bend at the knees and your upper body straight until your arms are fully extended. Slowly rotate at your hips toward your right side while straightening your right leg and keeping your left leg bent. Hold for 1-2 seconds and then rotate to the opposite side, straightening your left leg and bending your right. Repeat by alternating sides for 6-10 reps per side and then finish with a static hold of 30 seconds on each side to complete the set.
Standing Inner Thigh Stretch
Begin by facing the anchor point, holding the suspension trainer in each hand with your arms in front of you at waist level with palms facing down. Widen your stance until you feel a slight stretch of the inner thigh. Hinge at the hips and reach your arms out in front of you. Shift your weight to the right leg, keeping it bent while straightening the left leg. Hold for 1-2 seconds then shift to the opposite side, straightening your right leg and bending your left. Repeat for 6-10 reps per side then finish with a static hold of 30 seconds on each side to complete the set.
Jason Wanlass, the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian, has more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or championfit.net. He writes a monthly fitness column for Idaho Statesman.