My dream body looks like Elastigirl i.e., Mrs. Incredible. She’s strong. She’s quick. She’s got a really fa…r reach. No really, everyone should strive to be as flexible as Mrs. Incredible.
Greater flexibility allows for fewer injuries, greater strength, and a general improvement in athletic performance. But how do you get stretchier? Keep reading.
1. Stretch strategically.
You know those stock photos of a runner pulling back her quad before a run like the funky chicken? Believe it or not, this isn’t the right way to stretch.
Prior to a workout, you should focus on stretching dynamically to warm up the muscles. These are active movements where muscles and joints pass through a full range of motion—for instance, arm circles, walking lunges, or neck rolls. At no point should you hold the stretch; rather, you should move fluidly through the motions to prepare your muscles for greater intensity.
It isn’t until after your workout that you should perform the stereotypical (formally known as “static”) stretches, in which you hold poses for 10-30 seconds or longer.
If you are looking to up your stretching game whether before or after your workout, consider implementing stability ball stretches into your routine. Stability balls allow for a greater range of motion, maximizing your flexibility. Plus, who doesn’t love playing with a giant bouncy ball?
2. Stretch frequently.
You don’t have to dedicate a ton of time to stretching—even 5 to 10 minutes has been found to be beneficial—but just like your regularly programmed exercise, consistency is key.
Aim for stretching at least 2-3xs a week in addition to before and after every workout. Even taking 5 minutes out of your 9-5 to stretch out on your yoga mat can have both physical and mental benefits.
3. Massage your muscles.
Knots, tightness, and soreness are the enemies of flexibility. To combat this, massages can relax your muscles so you can reach further within your stretches. However, you don’t need to hire an expensive masseuse after every hard workout—you can do it yourself. “Self-myofascial release,” a.k.a. tool-assisted self-massages, increases blood flow to muscles to allow for faster recoveries.
Why is it that hydration seems to make everything better? Well, probably because it does. Your joints are made of “synovial fluid”—fluid being a keyword. When you’re dehydrated, your joints will be stiffer and your muscles more prone to cramping. Consume electrolytes to more sure you stay hydrated before and after a workout
I hope these tips make you stretchier and stronger. For me, I know that I’m one step closer to becoming Elastigirl, and that’s enough motivation for me.
This article was written by Melissa Pelowski.