Lifestyle

Stretching: The Best Kept Secret!

Stretching: The Best Kept Secret!

When I was 14 years old, I entered the gym for the first time. I was so excited to get in shape that I hit the ground running! Over years of training, I noticed that my body was taking a major beating. I followed every plan to the T, I ate as many calories as I needed and I slept over 8 hours a night, but my body was becoming more and more stiff. So what was I doing wrong? 

I DID have a lot of strength, enough to do these rigorous workouts. What I DIDN’T have was enough flexibility. As the old saying goes, I was as “stiff as a board” with my neck as tight as a drum to go along with it.

I had failed to realize is that to truly PERFECT my exercises, I had to do much more than just focus on my strength.

I had to make flexibility a major part of my routine.

Knowing now that flexibility is the most essential skill to have towards perfecting my body, I have provided you with some of the BEST ways to improve your flexibility and mobility so that YOU can master my future programs on this site!

1) Foam Rolling

At least 5 times a week. For at least 30 minutes.

If you’re not flexible like I was, it takes a slight time commitment. The good news is that foam rolling can be done on your time. It can easily be done at home while you’re watching TV or relaxing. You just use the roller and your body weight to rub out the tension in sore muscle areas.

There is no wrong way to go about foam rolling. You can go to the store and by a foam roller or you can use a lacrosse ball, baseball or tennis ball. If it’s not within your budget to go out and purchase a foam roller, head to your local hardware store and pick up a decent sized piece of PVC Pipe. It will work just as well.

It might hurt a little at first, but over time your soft tissues will begin to loosen up and your muscles will no longer be as tight which obviously leads to increased flexibility.

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2) Practice Yoga

Yoga is an EXCELLENT way to increase flexibility.

Seriously, just do it. Forget about how you think it might make you look. EVERYONE should be doing yoga.

Earlier this year I kept experiencing nagging soreness in my lower back regardless of how much I warmed up for my training sessions or how much I foam rolled. I would train my back and then be sore for the rest of the week, just in time for the next back day.

It wasn’t until I started doing one, one-hour yoga session weekly that I noticed the soreness becoming less and less intense.

Even if you’re only able to make it to one session a week, that’s still much better than avoiding it. Even if you have to skip a normal day of training to make it to yoga, you MUST do it.

Not only will yoga immeasurably increase your flexibility, your mind will be more at peace, which will greatly improve ALL areas of your life, most especially your training.

If you’re a guy, stop worrying about what the girls in class are going to think about you, and then ask them out after class!

3) Stretch

I don’t know how it happened, but somewhere the “experts” decided that static stretching did nothing for us or was, in fact, a hindrance to reaching our training (callisthenic or otherwise) goals.

Obviously, there is a pretty significant correlation or relationship between gymnastics, calisthenics (bodyweight training), dancing , etc. And when it comes to verifying or debunking “rules” shouted out by “experts”, the best way to make a decision is to look at what the professionals do.

There is a very good reason professional dancers & martial artists stretch daily. Because it works!

The beauty of callisthenic training is that it is so simple. All you are using is your bodyweight to get stronger.

As with yoga and foam rolling, every little bit helps. If you’re bored at work or home, take 5-10 minutes and stretch your hamstrings, glutes, quads, etc. Every little bit helps.

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4) Never Skip Your Warm-Up

If you include things like mobility, foam rolling, or stretching into your regular warm-up, and you never skip the warm-up, you’re killing two birds with one stone and saving all of that time that you think you don’t have.

Obviously, before doing callisthenic work, you should NEVER skip your warm-up. Even if you’re pressed for time, and feel the temptation to jump right into your normal training session, DON’T DO IT. Simply cut out some of the volume or work from your training session and save the full warm-up.

5) Always Use Full Range of Motion

Never sacrifice form or full range of motion for more reps.

Lunges suck! They’re hard AND they take longer to complete than most other exercises. For those reasons, you’ll rarely ever see someone actually do them correctly (same for bodyweight squats and many other callisthenic moves that involve the legs).

Mostly people sacrifice the movement by doing “half” lunges or “half” squats. By that I mean they fail to use a full range of motion i.e. they don’t go down all of the way.

If you’re serious about increasing your callisthenic skill, you CANNOT sacrifice full range of motion for more “half” reps. If you can only do 5 full range of motion lunges, that’s always better than doing 10 “half” reps.

If you’re only doing “half” reps, you’ll never increase (improve) your flexibility, your body & central nervous system will never become accustomed to being in positions that are required to complete complex callisthenic movements. Essentially your progress will stall.

No one wants that.

Just by simply making full range of motion a point of focus in your callisthenic workouts will increase your flexibility without adding any additional time which is always a win-win situation.

Obviously we are all busy. One of my biggest frustrations with the fitness/exercise industry when I was first starting out was that with all of the information out there, it felt like I could or should always be doing more than I had time for.

I hated that feeling and I don’t want to make you feel like that either!

Don’t feel like you won’t be able to make any progress if you can’t or don’t follow every single tip on this list. But if you’re able to add in even just one component to your routine or regimen, your flexibility will be increased, which will help you make the callisthenic progress you desire in no time!

– Jesse

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