Staying flexible is an important part of feeling strong, fit, and healthy. However, as you get older, it often becomes more difficult to keep the same joint mobility you had in your teens and 20s.
Between spending decades at a desk, commuting, sitting, and everything else that is involved in your modern lifestyle, having your joints and muscles move as freely and effortlessly as they once did can be a challenge.
On top of this, much of the mainstream advice circles around stretching, massage, and other ways of loosening up muscles and joints. Unfortunately, these changes are often short-lived and can even be detrimental long term to your health, function, strength, and flexibility.
So how can you increase and keep your flexibility when your body is saying it just wants to become tighter and less mobile?
The answer lies not in loosening your muscles, but rather in strengthening them.
That’s right, having stronger muscles not only will keep you more physically independent as you get older, it will keep you more flexible, as well.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “I’ve seen all of those weight lifters who are tight and stiff and can barely move… you want me to be like that??”
And the answer is an emphatic NO.
While I absolutely insist that you prioritize strength training, HOW you do your strength training will make all the difference in whether you end up tight and stiff or strong and mobile.
So how should you do your strength training to increase your flexibility?
There are four components you need to consider.
The first component is to make sure you are staying within your symptom-free range of motion while you do each exercise. This means you want to use as much motion as you can so long as that motion does not have any symptoms with it.
The only thing you should be feeling is your muscles squeezing. This means there should not be any pain, discomfort, pinchy feelings, zingy feelings, or even stretching feelings. You should not feel anything negative in your joints, muscles, fascia, nerves, ligaments, tendons, or discs.
The only things you should be feeling are your muscles squeezing and, eventually, fatiguing.
The second component is to control your moving and non-moving segments. This is what is often called “form”. Essentially, this means being mindful and strategic with what parts of your body you want moving when you do an exercise and what parts of your body you don’t want moving.
While much of the fitness industry likes to label exercises as either being done with “good form” or “bad form”, the truth is there’s no such thing. There is only form that is right for YOUR body, and controlling your moving and non-moving segments will help ensure you are doing that.
The third component is to move slowly. One of the easiest ways to use too much motion or not control your body is to move too fast. Unfortunately, this is also one of the easiest ways to feel achy, sore, or injured after you exercise too.
When it comes to getting flexible, you need to make sure your form is right for your body and your motion is symptom-free, and moving slowly will help you to do both of those things.
The fourth component is to focus on squeezing your muscles when you exercise. This is often called the mind-muscle connection and it is EXTREMELY important for not only making sure you stay safe while you exercise, but also making sure your workouts are building your strength and flexibility as efficiently as possible.
When you lose the mind-muscle connection, you are going to be more likely to hurt yourself, you are going to be more likely to use too much motion, and you are going to be more likely to not control your body exactly how you intend to. All of these things will decrease your flexibility over time.
On the flipside, though, when you keep the mind-muscle connection with every exercise you do, you are going to be way more in tune with how your body is feeling, when your body says you need to change how you are doing an exercise to avoid injury, and when your body says to stop moving through a motion. You will also have much more precise control over your body. Each of these aspects is a crucial aspect to building and keeping your flexibility long term.
Staying flexible and mobile is a critical part to being able to live life on your terms and doing the things you want to do as the years go by. However, most ways of trying to increase flexibility deliver minimal positive benefits that are often short-lived and can even lead to various injuries.
Instead of taking the conventional approaches to becoming more flexible, add these four components into your strength training with every workout that you do. Not only will your body feel stronger and more capable as a result, you will also increase your flexibility without having to spend any time stretching, rolling, or doing any mobility work.
These components are exactly what I help my personal training and Muscle Activation Techniques® clients with every single day at Muscle Activation Schaumburg as well as within every workout in the Exercise For Life Membership.
If you would like my guidance implementing them into your own workouts, I invite you to check out two programs within the Exercise For Life Membership:
- Full Motion, Full Strength, Full Function
- Fit and Flexible
I can’t wait to see you there!