The benefits of flexibility are well-documented - whether it’s being able to jump higher, run further, or even just reach the top shelf in the supermarket, flexibility is a key component that we very rarely think about, especially when it comes to exercise. This article aims to change that.
The benefits of flexibility training are varied, and can give you that extra edge when it comes to your workouts. In this article, we’ll explore what flexibility training is, how it’s beneficial, and how you can implement it into your workouts.
Read on and learn more!
- What Is Flexibility Training?
- What Are The Benefits Of Flexibility Training?
- What Is The Purpose Of Flexibility Training?
- What Are Some Examples Of Flexibility Training?
- How Long Should I Spend Doing Flexibility Exercises?
- What Are The Risks Of Flexibility Training?
- Our Conclusions
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What is Flexibility Training?
Before we begin telling you about the wide range of benefits of flexibility training, we’re going to explain to you what flexibility training actually is first.
You probably know what it means when someone is described as being flexible. More often than not it means that they can reach down and touch their toes without pulling a muscle, or put their legs behind their head. However, the definition of flexibility is a little more complicated than simply being able to do a few stretches.
The U.S Surgeon General, for example, says that flexibility is defined as being a ‘health-related component of physical fitness that relates to the range of motion available at the joint.’
That means that each joint and group of muscles in your body have a different level of flexibility, or range of motion (ROM). Some areas of your body may feel very tight, which means that your muscles will be feeling restricted and short.
Other areas of your body may feel very loose, so you may be able to move and lengthen these muscles freely without any issues.
For example, you may be very flexible in your hamstring, meaning you can bend over and touch your toes without any discomfort. But your thigh muscles may be inflexible and tight, so it may be harder for you to bend backward or stand up straight.
Many people who work in offices, for example, may develop inflexible hips as a result of sitting down each day.
That’s where flexibility training comes in. Flexibility training includes stretching exercises to lengthen your muscles, with the aim of improving your flexibility so as to help you move more comfortably throughout the day.
Flexibility training can take many forms, including activities such as Tai Chi, pilates, and yoga. And if you’re a fan of all things flexibility, then check out OriGym’s guide to the best yoga YouTube channels, and find your next yoga inspiration!
But it’s not just your flexibility that flexibility training has a positive effect on. This type of training has a huge range of benefits that go much further than just being able to touch your toes, as we’re going to explain in this article.
So, what are the benefits of flexibility training, you ask? Allow us to explain…
What Are The Benefits Of Flexibility Training?
#1 - Prevents Injuries
One of the more important health benefits of flexibility and stretching is the fact that by becoming more flexible, you’re actually reducing your chances of getting injured during physical activities!
One of the benefits of improved flexibility throughout your whole body is that it permits your joints to move in the correct sequence smoothly during functional movements. This, coupled with proper muscle control and activation, can help reduce the risk of you picking up an injury by decreasing excessive stress on any given joint.
Developing strength and flexibility in your body will also eventually lead to you being able to withstand more physical stress than you could before, which is ideal. A 2007 study from the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology found a significant reduction in injuries (and a drastically reduced recovery time, too) when following a flexibility training program.
As well as this, becoming stronger and more flexible will also help rid your body of any muscle imbalances, which will also play a huge role in reducing your chances of picking up injuries during exercise. Plus, learn more about avoiding injury in our comprehensive guide to cardio and aerobic exercise.
Of course, simply stretching and becoming more flexible won’t prevent all types of injuries, but it will definitely help with preventing muscle and ligament strains, so that’s one less thing to worry about when you’re working out.
Preventing or lessening the likelihood of injuries is one of the biggest advantages of flexibility training for sure, and is a good enough reason alone for you to start stretching and working on being able to touch your toes!
#2 - Improves Your Posture and Balance
One of the benefits of regular flexibility exercises is that you’ll see a vast improvement in your posture and balance the more you do them!
You can even test that improvement with one of OriGym’s picks of the best balance boards.
Poor flexibility places a lot of unnecessary strain on your muscles and joints, which can often result in you suffering from poor posture. Tight muscles can also have a negative effect on your spine’s alignment too.
Increasing your flexibility and stretching will help you correct your posture. It’ll also allow you to have proper alignment and correct any imbalances you may be suffering from.
An increased range of motion from stretching and working on your flexibility may also mean you’ll find it easier to stand or sit in certain ways too. It can actually make everyday tasks and actions, such as reaching overhead or bending down to pick something up that much easier.
In fact, research published by the Human Kinetics Journal in 2017 showed that flexibility training exercises resulted in much improved balance and coordination.
Not only this, but it’ll also make exercising easier too. Being able to reach further, move more fluidly, and transition between exercises and movements is among the most important benefits of increased flexibility.
There are a range of ways you can practically experience the benefits of good flexibility. Yoga, for example, has been shown to not only help you improve your posture but your balance too, as has Tai Chi!
#3 - Increases Mobility
As the benefits of good flexibility go, having an increased range of mobility has to be up there as one of the best for sure!
Whilst everyone has varying degrees of flexibility, generally speaking, the more flexible your muscles are, the greater your mobility will be. Basically, you can’t be mobile without having flexible muscles.
Having tight muscles can cause you to have a reduced range of motion throughout your body, which can make everyday activities and exercise difficult.
That’s where flexibility training comes in. Becoming more flexible can make exercising and these routine activities so much easier.
This is because flexible muscles make moving much more comfortable and allow your joints to move in sequence correctly. This means that you’ll be able to load the right muscles and joints to perform exercises.
An improved range of mobility makes just about everything so much easier, from HIIT training and hiking to reaching the top shelf or picking something up off the floor. And regardless of your workout of choice, make sure you’re exercising safely with our guide to gym etiquette.
As advantages of flexibility go, making your life much easier and less uncomfortable has to be up there with the best of the benefits around.
#4 - Reduces Pain
One of the benefits of flexibility training that may prick up a few ears is the fact that doing it regularly can help reduce feelings of pain and soreness!
Your body is likely to feel much better overall once you work on lengthening, strengthening, and opening your muscles. When your muscles are less tense and looser you’ll struggle with fewer aches and pains!
Having looser muscles can also mean you may be less likely to experience muscle cramps too.
If you suffer from chronic back pain or lower back pain then you may want to consider taking up flexibility training. According to a systematic review in Healthcare from 2016, stretching your hamstrings, hip flexors, and the latissimus dorsi and erector spinae muscles in conjunction with other regular exercises can help with reducing lower back pain and stiffness!
A 2011 study in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation also found that flexibility training and stretching was effective in relieving chronic back pain, both in a practical capacity and as a therapeutic form of exercise, too.
We certainly think that a reduction in pain has to be one of the most important benefits of regular flexibility exercises! And if you're not sure how to get going, we've got examples and advice for getting started in our guide to dynamic stretching.
#5 - Improves Circulation
Another excellent benefit of improved flexibility is that it may actually improve your circulation, increasing blood flow to your muscles!
Having poor blood circulation may lead to you suffering from a lack of energy, an inability to concentrate, and excessive tiredness.
Research published in Sports Medicine in 2012 found that stretching your torso not only decreases stiffness but also improves blood flow too. This may also be why stretching your calves and hamstrings before bed-time can decrease the intensity and frequency of leg cramps at night.
Having good circulation means that your heart, lungs, and muscles can function properly and efficiently. It also means that you’ll be able to avoid and fight off potential sicknesses and diseases, such as diabetes and kidney disease. OriGym's guide to the heart monitors that track your data will give you all you need to be well aware of how your body is improving.
Good circulation will also mean that the white blood cells in your immune system will be transported around the body as needed.
Improved circulation increases the blood flow to your muscles, which in turn can shorten your recovery time and reduce muscle soreness too!
There are a huge range of benefits for having good circulation, so why not make sure that yours the best it possibly can be by starting flexibility training today?
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#6 - Boosts Mood
One of the psychological benefits of flexibility and stretching is that doing it regularly can have a hugely positive effect on your state of mind!
Regularly engaging in poses that stretch your muscles and open your body up can bring about feelings of relaxation, which can extend to a relaxed and positive state of mind.
Flexibility training also teaches you to rest and handle stress too. When you know how to rest, you can build yourself because your body rebuilds itself whilst you rest. Stretching and flexibility training teaches you how to embrace appropriate amounts of stress to challenge yourself, as well as to remove any undesirable distress and stress.
One of the benefits of increased flexibility is that it can also lead to spiritual awakenings, something you’ll come to experience when taking part in exercises such as yoga, where you’re given time to be introspective and reflective. This could potentially lead to you gaining a much more positive mindset and could really boost your mood too.
One of the more interesting benefits of flexibility training is that not only will you be opening up your muscles, but you’ll also be getting an opportunity to open up your mind too, particularly during exercises such as yoga and Tai Chi.
Or, if you're stuck for time, one of OriGym's best natural mood boosters will keep your mind sharp!
#7 - Promotes Strength
Another of the many great health benefits of flexibility is that it will allow you to increase your strength over time!
Strength is generally increased by contracting your muscles by weight-lifting or by taking part in functional bodyweight exercises. But, the greater joint range of motion you can achieve by increased muscle flexibility can lead to even greater muscle contracting, and therefore increased strength!
When we strength train, we need the joints to be able to move through their full range of motion to effectively load the muscles we’re targeting during the training. Being flexible makes it much easier for your muscles to move under tension, which in turn will allow you to train with more power. Put that muscular prowess to the test, and read up on the benefits of strength training.
It is very important that you increase your strength as you become more flexible. It’ll ensure that your muscles have the right amount of tension so that they’re not only strong enough to support you and your movements but that they’ll also allow you to become more physically fit too.
Research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning supports this, too. A study in 2011 found that training both strength and flexibility in tandem ensured that both benefited equally from the flexibility exercises completed
To be able to get stronger and weight train with more power is definitely one of the many great advantages of flexibility training.
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#8 - Improved Physical Performance
One of the main benefits of flexibility for athletes is that it will help them improve their overall physical performance.
As with increases in your strength, there’s also numerous benefits of flexibility in sport. Coupled with proper muscle stability and control, an increase in flexibility will allow for an athlete to achieve proper postural positions that are needed for specific sports and activities.
For example, a golfer with greater flexibility will be able to achieve a larger backswing, therefore potentially delivering a more powerful drive. Footballers will need to be flexible so that they can make that last-ditch shot, and rugby players will need to be flexible to be able to make more powerful throws and tackles.
A study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning in 2000 found that tailoring these flexibility exercises to the sport being performed meant that the effect was greater, and prepared the athlete for what they were about to undertake.
One of the most understated benefits of flexibility in sport is that it lessens the risk of athletes picking up injuries when they’re competing at the highest level.
Different athletes are going to need to be flexible in different places too. A weightlifter, for example, is going to need to be flexible in the ankle, knees, hips, and shoulders, whilst a runner is going to need to be flexible in the hamstrings, ankles, and calves. Read more on flexibility in weightlifting, and how to avoid injuries with OriGym's comprehensive guide.
One of the biggest benefits of flexibility training is that it can help improve physical performance, which means it’s such an important training method for athletes of all sports all around the world!
#9 - Reduces Feelings of Stiffness and Muscle Soreness
A particularly handy benefit of flexibility exercises is that they can help lessen your suffering from muscle soreness and stiffness after a workout!
As previously mentioned, flexibility training can have a hugely positive effect on your circulation. Having good circulation can actually lead to a reduction in soreness as more oxygen-rich blood is delivered to your muscles.
Stretching after a workout can also be a great way to prevent muscle soreness. Stretching opens up your muscles and makes them more supple and relaxed, meaning that they won’t be tight and uncomfortable when you’re resting and rebuilding. Having tight muscles could lead to you suffering from cramps, on top of the stiffness and soreness too!
Easing feelings of stiffness and muscle soreness won’t just make you feel better though. It’ll also help speed up your recovery period too, so you won’t miss as many training sessions because you’re stiff or sore!
If feeling less sore after a workout is a benefit of having good flexibility that you want to experience, then waste no time in getting started today! But first, make sure you're clued up on what's right for you with OriGym's guide to the pros and cons of yoga.
What Is The Purpose of Flexibility Training?
Now that we’ve looked at the wide range of advantages of flexibility training, let’s talk about why we might do it.
Flexibility training is an augmentation to your regular training. It allows you to increase your range of motion, meaning you can push for that extra mile on your run, or that extra plate on your deadlift. And if you're looking to get more from your deadlift, learn about the benefits of deadlifting with our thorough guide.
It forms a basis for all of the exercises you do by giving you that extra blood flow to the muscles you need for whatever your workout may be. It gives your body a greater capability for movement, and means you’re less likely to suffer pulls or strains, as your body is already prepared for what you want to do.
It’ll also aid you in finding the right form. As we all know, having the correct posture when completing any exercise is crucial, as it allows you to get the most from what you’re doing, but also stops you from suffering any serious injury.
What Are Some Examples of Flexibility Training Exercises?
Now that we’ve established just how many flexibility training benefits there are, you may be keen to try it out yourself. We’d suggest starting off small, so we’ve listed some simpler examples of flexibility training exercises below:
- Twisting Lunge - this is done by moving forward like a normal lunge, and then holding while you twist your upper body to one side. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Butterfly Stretch - sit on the floor and place the soles of your feet together. Slowly lower your body towards your feet while you move your knees towards the floor. Get to a point where this feels comfortable, hold for 30 seconds and then release.
- Side Bend Stretch - in a kneeling position, extend one leg to the side so that the side of your foot is on the floor. Extend your opposite arm, and lean towards the extended leg. Hold this for 30 seconds and release.
- Knee to Chest Stretch - in a lying position, simply pull your knee up towards your chest and hold for 30 seconds.
As we’ve already mentioned, these are some more basic examples, but if you feel as though you’re already flexible, you can increase the amount of time you hold those poses, although we would recommend no more than 2 minutes.
These are implementable and an integral part of your exercise, both in the gym and as part of a home workout.
If you’re looking to share the benefits of good flexibility exercises with others, it might be a good idea to take a class that puts a greater emphasis on flexibility exercises. Almost all gyms (including smaller, local fitness centres) will offer flexibility classes in one form or another. You might try:
- Yoga - yoga comes in many different forms, and is predominantly about focusing the breathing while performing stretches. There are classes aimed at everyone from absolute beginners to even the most seasoned veterans - our guide to the different types of yoga can help you pick out the one that’s right for you.
- Pilates - pilates is often considered to be very similar to yoga, but there are some small differences that might mean one is more suited to you than the other. Pilates uses movements to transition between poses, without holding them like yoga does.
- Tai Chi - Tai Chi focuses on fluid, gentle movements between poses, and is about the channeling of energy, deep breathing, and relaxation techniques.
How Long Should I Spend Doing Flexibility Exercises?
Flexibility exercises are designed to keep your muscles ready and prepared for when you do complete exercises. As we’ve already mentioned in our section on the benefits of flexibility exercises, they provide so much more than just extending your reach that little bit extra - they can increase your mobility, improve your posture, and enhance your circulation.
But how long should you do these exercises to achieve these effects?
Well, as often as you can, without overdoing it! The more you perform stretches, the more your muscles become accustomed to extending and lengthening, and the easier you’ll find it to do further stretches.
Our recommendation would be to try and perform stretch exercises (or attend a class of yoga or Tai Chi) at least 2 to 3 times per week, in conjunction with your usual workouts, whether that’s cardio or strength training. Of course, if you feel as though you can do more, or you have a particularly packed schedule of pilates, then we would always encourage you to do so.
However, if you’re relatively new to exercise, or aren’t feeling confident with stretches, even a 5 minute session of stretches can have a big impact on your workouts. Or, a session of beginner's yoga could be ideal - learn more in OriGym's comprehensive guide to the best beginner's yoga kit.
As always though, if you feel in pain at any point, stop immediately and speak to a doctor before attempting a stretch like that again. We love exercise, but part of enjoying it is being safe and secure, regardless of what you’re doing.
What Are The Risks of Flexibility Training?
Of course, as we always say, there’s an inherent risk with any form of training or exercise. It’s natural, as we put our bodies to the test, and strive to achieve more, whether that’s an extra plate on the leg press, or the extra mile on your run.
The risks of flexibility training are absolutely minimal. It’s a form of training that’s designed to prepare your body for more difficult exercises, and ensure that any preventable injuries don’t occur.
However, it’s always important to be aware of any limitations. Flexibility training is adaptable, in that you can change and adjust stretches so that they fit your own range of motion, but it’s vital that you don’t push it too far. One of the very few risks of flexibility training is overstretching and pulling or twisting a muscle or joint, and this can be avoided if you understand your limits, and only push these when you feel comfortable to do so.
If anything ever feels uncomfortable or causes pain, stop immediately, and contact a doctor before attempting the same stretch or exercise again. We are passionate about exercise and fitness, but only when it’s done safely, and within what we’re capable of.
Before You Go!
We really hope you’ve enjoyed our article on the benefits of flexibility training, and you’ve now got a better understanding of how it can have a positive impact on your workouts.
Flexibility encompasses so much more than a little bit of extra reach, or being able to touch your toes, and it’s definitely something to be considered when you’re working out. Or perhaps you’ve learnt more about a form of exercise that will revolutionise how you stretch ahead of your next gym session.
But if you feel like you’re flying high when it comes to fitness, then perhaps our formally accredited personal training courses are the next step for you! We’re certified by REPS and CIMSPA, so you know you’re getting a quality package when you learn with us.
Or download our FREE prospectus, and learn more about what we offer and how it could be the right option for you.
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- Simão, Roberto2; Lemos, Adriana1; Salles, Belmiro1; Leite, Thalita1; Oliveira, Élida1; Rhea, Matthew2; Reis, Victor Machado2 The Influence of Strength, Flexibility, and Simultaneous Training on Flexibility and Strength Gains, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: May 2011 - Volume 25 - Issue 5 - p 1333-1338 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181da85bf
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