Flexibility training is not extremely intense; nevertheless you will generally need a proper warm up. At least make sure you start your stretching exercises with a low intensity before performing the more challenging exercises. A warm up can be a simple 10 minute jog to get your muscles loosened up, to raise your heartbeat (results in a better blood flow) and to warm up your muscles. Warm muscles are more flexible than cold muscles.
1. Do not stretch until your maximum level right away. Rather take some time to let your muscles get stretched out by only using 90% of your flexibility the first set(s).
2. Hold the position for 3 sets of 10-30 seconds. After that you can let go of the pressure and take a short break of about 10-20 seconds.
3. Use all sorts of flexibility exercises. Stretch all muscles in your lower body for maximum results!
4. Try out different styles of training. If you feel that holding a position for 30 seconds is not enough, you can hold the position longer. You can also choose other exercises that do give you the effects you desire. There is not one single way to get flexible, there are hundreds!
5. Stretching should not be painful, but you will feel something. The uncomfortable feeling you get while stretching should get less the longer you hold the position!
The answer is 'yes'. The problem is that the level of your flexibility will go down when you get older, so the older you are, the more difficult it will become to learn advanced exercises like the split. It will still be possible to significantly increase flexibility at an older age. First consult a physician to take a sports test. He or she will be able to tell you if it is safe for you to exercise.
I am a guy, I can do the splits. So, yes. Men are less flexible than women. The reasons for this are that men have more muscle mass, tighter tendons and more muscle tension. Hence, women are generally speaking, more flexible than men and will have fewer problems with getting more flexible or learning the splits and other advanced exercises like these.
Flexibility and strong muscles are a combination that most people believe is nearly impossible. Stronger and bigger muscles usually have a high muscle tension, which means it is more difficult to stretch out the muscles to make them longer. There are plenty of big muscular guys who can also show an impressive piece of flexibility. A lot of gymnasts and martial artists have a very muscular physique, but they can still show a great level of flexibility. So, yes, but with a bit less muscle tension it is a lot easier.
Soccer and also football players often do not benefit from becoming too flexible. You will not need to learn a front split to kick a ball properly. When you are a soccer or football player, your muscles are shortened due to the sports specific movements you need to make. This makes your hamstring muscles (muscles in the back of your upper leg) tight, which results in very inflexible muscles.
The reason why you should not try to get flexible as soccer players is to avoid injuries and to specialise in your own sport. A martial artist does not need to practise the 'lay up', just like a horseback rider does not need to be able to serve a tennis ball. We should stick to what we are good at.
This is probably the most difficult question I get about flexibility. The truth is, I can not tell. Everybody will need a certain amount of time to reach such level and there is not a single guideline or time limit I can give you to work with. It took me about 6 months of more specific training, but before that I did some stretching exercises after my run training to get more flexible. When I would have used a specific program it might have only took me 3 months. There are so many factors that influence your chance of succeeding, that a safe time limit for me to give you would be 1 or 2 years.
Like I said before, flexibility training will not burn a big amount of energy and therefore you will not necessarily need a lot of rest. This means you could safely do some stretching exercises each day. It is a good idea to take some days of rest too. When you feel sore or have painful muscles from stretching you need to take a day off.
That is completely up to you. If you have a lot of free time and if you want to learn something real quick, you can make your routines last 30-60 minutes. There are, once again, no strict guidelines that tell you how long your training should take. A training of only 5-15 minutes a day will greatly improve your flexibility.
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