Flexibility is one of those things that many people talk about dreamily. Like, being flexible would be nice, but sigh, it’s just a pipe dream. Except the reality is that, while some people are definitely naturally more flexible than others, if we all just took a few minutes each day to do some stretching, we’d notice improvements.
The problem is that most of us are too busy to squeeze in a workout, let alone a leisurely stretching session. Angela Salvetti, NSCA-certified personal trainer and area fitness manager at New York Sports Clubs for East Manhattan, tells SELF that almost everyone that comes into her gym is tight. “Their hamstrings and hip flexors are super tight from sitting all day,” she says. Others who do a good job of being active don’t take the time to focus on flexibility and mobility.
“People say it hurts or it’s boring or if they go for a run right before work, for example, they’re just trying to get something in and that time crunch is there,” she explains. “But a lot of people don’t know that prioritizing the extra 10 to 15 minutes [to stretch] is going to let you get more out of your workout.” When you’re tight, you have a limited range of motion, so you can only use your muscles so efficiently. “But if you have a full range, you have extra momentum and room to work.”
There are numerous other benefits to being flexible besides just increasing your strength potential. Flexibility helps prevent injury, relieves pain, and promotes good posture. It’s also helpful for just moving about daily life.
If you’re really tight, Salvetti suggests doing a handful of these stretches every single day at whatever time of day is easiest for you to remember. “Consistency is really key,” especially if your goal is to touch your toes, she says. After a couple weeks, you should notice improvement. Just make sure that if you do them before a workout, that you do a dynamic warmup after (where you’re moving and getting your blood flowing) so your muscles are properly warmed up.
If you ever feel a pinching sensation or discomfort, come out of the stretch and try going back into it again slowly, Salvetti says. “Sometimes that helps it feel better. Or, change the angle a bit.” If you ever feel a sharp pain, stop whatever you’re doing—that doesn’t mean you’re stretching, it means you might have hurt yourself.
Hold each stretch for 30 seconds to a minute.