Being flexible means different things to different people. For some, it’s the ability to touch their toes, while for others, it’s about not feeling stiff or sore after an intense workout. The problem is, so many of the routines that focus on flexibility are uninspiring, feel more uncomfortable than anything else, and don’t yield the desired results. Let’s dive into the flexibility fundamentals and how you can work out what you need to do to reach your goals.
How Does Stretching Improve Workout Quality?
Personal trainers are responsible for ensuring their clients cultivate a safe and injury-free relationship with exercise. Performing a client assessment to determine where their limitations lie and what muscles need the most work is critical to seeing progress. One of the many ways to avoid a client injury is to show them how to utilize stretching for more effective exercise results.
Stretching is the intentional warming and lengthening of muscles to improve range of motion and increase flexibility. It’s a fundamental part of any workout that all trainers should incorporate into their client’s routines.
Static stretching is the practice of holding the muscle in its most lengthened position without discomfort for at least 30 seconds in order for the muscles to release.
Dynamic stretching helps to prepare the body for physical exertion by moving the muscles through a full range of motion without holding them in place like a static stretch. It keeps muscles strong, pliable, healthy. Plus, it facilitates the necessary motion of joints and ligaments for overall physical well-being.
However, stretching isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Many people struggle to embrace the discomfort that comes alongside flexibility training. And everyone has different limitations in terms of what is realistically achievable.
The objectives of your client should be the main focus when developing a flexibility and stretching routine. If their goal is to do a middle split, regular training of the quads, hip flexors, and deep hip external rotators would be appropriate.
On the other hand, if their goal is simply to become generally less tight or stiff in everyday life, you need a very different flexibility training routine. The best trainers determine what their client’s goals are, and which parts of the body require the most attention in this area.
Pinpoint Your Pain Points
Identifying the parts of your client’s body that need the most work is the first step towards improving their flexibility.
Performing various basic stretches and pinpointing the areas that produce the most discomfort is an important process. Doing this can indicate where to focus your attention during future stretches.
Short muscles (muscles that are in an overactive, contracted position) should never get confused with tight muscles. Tight muscles are typically underactive and in a shortened position.
Understanding the difference between these two states of muscle is essential. Knowing the difference is fundamental to helping your client determine which areas of the body to stretch out more regularly for increased flexibility.
Set Flexibility Fundamental Goals
Goal setting has proven to be an effective method of obtaining new skills. If your client is seeking to improve their flexibility, setting some realistic goals is a great place to start.
Once you’ve performed your assessment of the client’s current state of flexibility, it’s time to look ahead. You should discuss methods and techniques that align with their future goals and level of capability. Small but specific flexibility goals such as touching toes or squats without lifted heels are great beginner benchmarks.
Whatever your client’s flexibility goals are, it’s your responsibility as their trainer to ensure that those goals are both safe for them to attempt and realistically feasible. Being able to consistently reach their goals is what will drive their confidence and determination forward.
Identify Appropriate Stretching Exercises
Once you’ve established your client’s goals, you can work together to identify stretches and flexibility-enhancing exercises. These exercises will be sufficiently challenging without risking injury.
There’s a wide variety of stretching exercises that are highly effective in the process of lengthening and strengthening underworked muscles. For the back, yoga stretches like child’s pose, cobra, and seated spinal twists can help to facilitate tension release.
For improving hip mobility, you can also draw inspiration from yoga. Frog pose, side lunges, and forward lunges can help to restore or promote flexibility However, you will need to carefully pick stretches you know are safe for your client and suit their objectives and goals for the future.
Draw Up (And Stick To) A Plan
In any journey to success, consistency and determination are integral to the outcome. This becomes especially true within the context of physical well-being. It must become a part of your client’s lifestyle if they are going to see lasting, transformative results.
Drawing up a game plan is where it starts. But sticking to it is what’s needed to see progress become tangible in the long run. Very tight or short muscles take a long time to stretch out, so the flexibility training needs to be executed on a regular basis if your client wants to experience greater mobility.
Make Flexibility Efforts Count
The aim of frequent stretching is for your client’s flexibility to have a lasting impact on the body. Muscles require consistency both to strengthen and remain extensible. The exercise plan you create will need to take both short-term and long-term elements into account.
One way to facilitate long-term flexibility is to take into account the related importance of mobility and muscle strengthening via the use of myofascial release. Myofascial release (MFR) is a form of physical therapy that focuses on relieving pain, promoting mobility, and facilitating post-workout recovery.
The word myofascial refers to the fascia, which is a thin casing of connective tissue which coats the surface area of every organ, muscle, nerve fiber, blood vessel, and bone in the body, that is present within muscle tissue.
By carefully stretching and working the muscles, MFR aims to release tension within the fascia, ultimately improving mobility, flexibility, and range of motion. You can also use MFR to help your client improve oxygenation and blood flow towards the muscles.
Stretching For Success
When it comes down to it, how often you advise your client to perform stretching exercises will depend on their goals, current level of strength, and capacity to perform. However, most people adhere to a mobility and flexibility-enhancing routine at least two or three times a week.
If your client is able and willing, you might want to consider pushing that routine up to four or five times a week to see greater progress. Just be sure to ask them how they feel about this and to provide ample rest time too.
Flexibility isn’t a quick fix, it’s an ongoing process that everyone experiences differently. It’s up to you to help your clients stretch their way to sustainable success.
About the Author
Megan P. Howard started her writing career specializing in educational copy in the fitness industry, covering a wide range of topics, and writing for a variety of online publications. When she’s not writing, you can find her hiking the outdoors or signing up to run a 5K.