Most people don’t consider themselves to be flexible, so when we see someone do the splits, we’re in awe. What we don’t realise it that flexibility can be trained, and is not all about doing contortions and being the bendiest in the yoga class. It’s about improving the flexibility of your tendons, ligaments and muscle fibres through targetted exercise, which can help prevent nasty injuries and future aches and pains.

At AXA Health Keeper you have access to gyms where you can train your flexibility with personal trainers for support. Today we’ll show you how to stay flexible at home. Sign up now to find out more.

What is flexibility?

Flexibility is the capacity of your body’s tissues to stretch in movement. A joint’s range of movement not only depends on the elasticity of said tissues, but is also one of the factors that can exert a negative influence.

With age, our tissues lose collagen and become more rigid. Sedentary lifestyles also impact negatively on joint mobility. Women theoretically have more flexibility, as their bodies are designed for pregnancy and birth, but with age, their loss of elasticity is the same as men.

However, training continuously with flexibility exercises that strengthen and improve the stretch of your body tissues, together with the right diet, can help you to improve your muscular flexibility and allow you to make a greater range of movements without risk of sprains or fractures.

Types of flexibility

To train your body’s flexibility you should focus on:

  • Static flexibility. This is when you stretch your muscles and tendons by yourself, without movement, in a fixed position. Each stretch should be held for at least 20 seconds.

  • Dynamic flexibility. These involve moving exercises that require a minimum number of repetitions and that progressively increase in strength and intensity. This is also called active flexibility.

  • Passive or assisted flexibility, used in recovery following surgery or paralysis, where a person or machine manipulates the joints externally.

To allow you to start training at home, here are

8 flexibility exercises:

  1. Back twist. Sit on the ground, with your right leg stretched out. Bend the left leg and cross it over the right. Place your left arm on the bent knee and push with your elbow to twist your back. Feel the stretch. Repeat on the other side.

  2. Sit down. Stretch your right leg and bend the left, bringing your foot towards the groin. Stay balanced. Lean forward to try to touch your toes. Switch legs.

  3. Thighs and hips. Lie face down. Bend a leg and catch your foot with the hand on the same side. Pull as much as you can without lifting your thigh from the floor. Switch legs.

  4. Let’s increase the difficulty. Take hold of your foot from behind and pull until it touches your head. Don’t lock the knee of your other leg, to avoid overstretching, and stretch out your free arm in front of you for balance.

  5. Lower back. Stretch one leg and hug the other by grabbing your knee and pulling it to your chest. The outstretched leg should not lift from the ground. Change legs.

  6. Abductors. Sit on the floor. Stretch your legs as widely as possible and lean forward, without bending your legs. Stretch your arms and try to get a little lower.

  7. Stride on the sofa. One leg comes forward, as in normal strides, with the leg at 90 degrees and the other stretched out behind, but this one is resting on the sofa or a chair. This is a difficult position to maintain. Hold and then change sides.

  8. The bridge. This is a yoga position that stretches the spine, chest, neck and shoulders. Lie on the ground face up with your knees bent. Lift your pelvis and torso up towards your shoulders. Press your shoulders down towards the floor so that they stay well supported. Look at the ceiling with your arms stretched out and resting on the ground.

Combine flexibility exercises with static and dynamic stretches remembering to always warm up properly to avoid injury. At AXA Health Keeper there are physiotherapists who can give you advice.