Flexibility training is often the most overlooked and skipped part of a workout. With so many areas to address such as core, strength and cardio conditioning, it can be difficult to fit in. However, flexibility shouldn’t be neglected, especially when you consider the benefits. Flexibility training can help improve posture, increase mobility, and produce a higher quality workout. In the past, static stretching was generally the only method used. This involved, taking a muscle to the point of tension and holding for approximately 30-60 seconds, generally done at the beginning and/or end of a workout. While static stretching is still an effective and important method to optimal flexibility, it is only a small piece of the puzzle. Flexibility has evolved and includes a variety of modalities such as, self myofascial release, active/dynamic stretching, and static stretching. So the question is how do we fit it in? By dedicating at least one session a week to flexibility or by integrating into the workout itself! Below is a description of the various flexibility methods that can be used and when it’s best to perform them.
Self-Myofascial Release (SMR): is the process of applying pressure to the muscle by using a bio-foam roller and/or a massage stick. SMR feels like a deep tissue massage and can be tender is some areas. However, when done consistently SMR becomes much easier and less painful. The purpose of SMR is to help eliminate adhesion/knot build up due to training and/or postural stress. This in turn will help improve flexibility, mobility, and joint mechanics.
To SMR, slowly roll along your muscles until a “tender point” is located. Rest on the tender point for 30-60 seconds or until there is a 75% reduction in pain felt. SMR can be done before and/or after your workout.
Active/Dynamic Stretching: is the process of using opposing muscle groups or controlled momentum to take a joint/muscle through the full available range of motion. Perform 6-10 reps per exercise/muscle group at the beginning of your workout right after SMR.
Static Stretching: is the process of passively taking a muscle to the point of tension and holding the stretch for between 20-60 seconds. Static flexibility is reserved for after a workout in most cases. However, it can be used before a workout for individuals with overly tight muscles and/or muscle imbalances. But keep in mind that static stretching prior to a workout may actually increase risk of injury in some cases! An active/dynamic warm up should immediately follow if done prior to a workout. Perform 1-3 reps per exercise.
- Warm up: SMR & Active/Dynamic Flexibility (10-15 minutes)
- Strength & Conditioning (30-40 minutes)
- Cool Down: Static Flexibility and/or SMR (10-15 minutes)