Improve Your Flexibility For Everyday Health

Most people tend to mainly focus on heavy weight lifting or things that involve running and jogging for either muscle toning or losing weight. What people do not realize or tend to ignore, is that flexibility is also important.

It is easy to ignore regular stretching sessions because you feel fit from the workouts. But the realization that you are not as perfectly fit as you thought sets in when you reach down for an object and are unable to get up again.

Once you start experiencing muscle twinges and knee aches, those are definite signs that something is clearly amiss. Flexibility exercises especially in preparation for the summer are a great way to prevent muscle constriction and pains. Summer is usually a fun time to explore various activities such as water-board skating, dancing, hiking and various other summer activities.

Regular flexibility exercises aids improve mobility and a variety of body movements. The more flexible the body is, the lesser the chances of acquiring an injury from summer activities as well as normal daily routines. Regardless of whether it’s dancing, mountain climbing or simply just swimming in the pool, these activities require great amount of force and flexibility for optimum body movement.
Here are a few common stretching exercises that are done to improve flexibility

1.Butterfly stretch
The butterfly stretch broadens muscles in the inner thigh and groin. One is required to sit on the floor with the feet flat to the ground. Let the knees drop to the ground and squeeze the soles of your feet together. Bring your heels close to your groin without causing pain. Your back should remain straight as you gently bounce your knees up and down repeatedly to loosen the muscles. The stretch should take about 8-10 seconds. Next, gently thrust your knees towards the ground using your elbows for another 8-10 seconds.

2.Kneeling quadriceps stretch
This enhances flexibility along the hamstrings and inner thigh as well as averts injury on the whole upper leg. It starts from a kneeling position. Bring the right foot forward and position it flat on the ground. The knee of your right leg should create 90 degrees angle. With your back still straight, slowly push your hips towards your right leg. You’ll be able to feel a stretch on your left quadriceps and right hamstring. Hold that position for about 10-15 seconds before doing a repeat with the left leg.

3.Arm and shoulder stretch
Flexibility doesn’t only apply to the back, waist and legs; arm and shoulder flexibility is also important for any activity. To start the shoulder stretch, connect your fingers and rotate your wrist in a manner that your palms are facing away from your body. Slowly lift your arms over your head and retain the stretch for approximately 10-15 seconds. Go back to the starting position and place your right hand behind your head. Grasp your right elbow with your right hand and carefully squeeze it down your back as far as you can without feeling a discomfort. Hold for 8-10 seconds then repeat the whole process with the left elbow.

There are various other flexibility stretches to aid one in preparation for the summer activities. It is important however to remember that in all exercises and stretches, safety comes first. Don’t over-do it to the point where you suffer an injury. Do smaller, simpler stretches, then with time progress to the more difficult ones after your body has gotten used to it.

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Self Myofascial Release

Self myofascial release (SMR) is a excellent way to improve flexibility and mobility of tight muscles and restricted joints. It works on two principles: it breaks up fascial adhesions and it manipulates certain neuromuscular receptors to let the muscle release any tightnessSelf myofascial release is the process of applying pressure to muscular knots with implements like balls and rollers to bring about a release of tension. Basically the same release one gets from static stretching. It may be likened to self-massage. With the correct instruction and extreme caution, it can be an incredibly effective skill set to have in your recovery ‘tool box.’ SMR permits an athlete to efficiently deal with some of the knots that develop during the course of their conditioning with out having to wait until their therapist is available for an appointment. When the athlete does eventually make an appointment with a massage therapist, their therapist can go to work on the really deep knots that pretty simply were impossible to get to before because of all the other tension in the muscles.

Fascia is a three-dimensional fibrous matrix interconnected throughout the body from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet. Fascia encompases muscles, bones, and joints providing the body structural integrity and strength. Dysfunctional fascia is a major cause of chronic pain, reduced flexibility, and reduced athletic performance. Positioned within the muscle and tendon tissue are two sensory receptors called the muscle spindle and the golgi tendon organ. These sensory receptors monitor muscular and tendon tension from the surrounding tissue and relates it to your nervous system. They are extremely sensitive to changes in muscle tension and rate of change. Stimulation of the golgi tendon organ results in a reduce in soft tissue tension.

Putting pressure directly on tight or overly toned muscle tissue using deep tissue massage therapy or self-myofascial release techniques stimulates the golgi tendon organ to relax tension in the soft tissue. Reduces in soft tissue tension will help break down scar tissue adhesions, increase joint mobility, reduce pain, and improve overall function.

You should do SMR before your workout routines or runs. This will help your restricted areas improve their mobility and function allowing you to perform better. You may also do it right after your exercise, run or any time you feel you have excessive tension in an area. Trigger points occur when you use or stress a muscle, and some small parts of the muscle fiber knot up. Fundamentally they stay contracted even when the muscle is relaxed. These trigger points can lead to pain continuously or just after being touched. The impact they can have elsewhere on the body is also problematic. Due to the fact the muscles are all connected in a ‘net’ across the body, trigger points that go unchecked can manifest into issues on other parts of your body. For example, if you have knee pain this may often be stimulated by a lack of mobility in the hips.

Self-myfascial techniques are very easy to learn. To do self-myofascial release you will need a foam roller and a small ball (such as a golf ball, lacrosse ball, or softball). Loosen up your body, breathe, and slowly roll through the length of the muscle. Your muscles will effortlessly tense up, especially when you hit a trigger point. Relieve into it and allow yourself to relax.

If you find a uncomfortable spot, stop and visualize the soft tissue as melting butter and the foam roller as a very hot knife. Allow pressure into the tissue and within 30-60 seconds you will notice a considerable reduction in pain. Once the pain reduces drastically, move on to the following painful spot and repeat. Spend between 3-5 minutes on each side. It is really necessary that you spend an equal amount of time on both sides and that you work through each of the areas listed to gain the most out of SMR.

Self myofascial release is a growing principle of self-care that enables the person to not only feel much better by relieving some of the tension in their tight muscles but it also helps to decrease dysfunctional compensations by restoring correct range of motion during movement. It is not a question of ‘if’ the muscles will develop an ischemic condition or an adhesion, but ‘when’ and ‘how much’ of the muscle will be affected.

Self myofascial release will help the athlete to continue to pursue their competitive goals longer and with fewer injuries by the very nature of enhancing blood flow and biomechanical function. Slow work equals fast releases within the soft tissues. We are much better at turning muscles on than switching them off.

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