As a majority, our culture has become dependent on the many luxuries we have available, that we no longer have full control of our own bodies. We hunch over our desk at work or school, slouch in our car on our ride home, and sit on the toilet bowl when nature calls or when we want to get away from the wife/husband/children.
The point is that we are primarily forced into unnatural positions that result in tight and weak musculature, poor posture, skeletal misalignment and an overall poor quality of life eventually.
Can this be fixed? YES!
Stretching has been under fire lately in the fitness world as to whether or not it will increase/decrease athletic performance or increase/decrease the prevalence of injury. I have my own beliefs on these topics, but this is not the point of this post.
My aim here is to get the average person to increase their joint mobility, strengthen their posture and set themselves up for a stronger musculoskeletal system that will allow them to continue to be independent in the later years of their own life. To put it bluntly, the body will inevitably breakdown with age. However, we can slow this process down by eating well, exercising the body & mind and REMAINING FLEXIBLE AND MOBILE.
- Stretch all the major muscle groups (hamstrings, quads, chest, back, shoulders, and neck) first thing in the morning.. Maybe after you've had a few minutes to warm up.
- WARM UP Before exercising (50 jumping jacks, 50 high knees + 50 butt-kicks works well for me)
- Foam roll or massage out all the major working muscles after exercising.
- Stretch all the major muscle groups, including "accessory" muscles (calves, biceps, triceps and forearms) after a hot shower or before bed.
- Focus on implementing body weight exercises (pull up, push up, squats, lunges and dips) before working with too much external resistance.
- Be mindful of your posture. When sitting for extended periods, make sure to sit up tall, shoulders pulled back with a very slight arch in your lumbar spine.
If you stick to the guidelines I have presented, I promise you will achieve greater joint mobility, improve your posture and increase the longevity of your musculoskeletal system.
You will also benefit in the progress of your strength/growth program by creating a greater range of motion when performing exercises. A greater range of motion = more time under tension and more muscle fiber recruitment, which ultimately = stronger/denser muscles. Also, you will be incorporating many more stabilizer muscles when working through a greater range of motion, helping you to have more balanced musculature.
Lastly, you will reduce a tremendous amount of stress, both physiologically and psychologically. Many of the minor injuries that we have are a result from tight muscles overcompensating for their weak counterparts. When we let these minor injuries nag for an extended period of time without correcting the weaknesses, we eventually wind up with major injuries. By stretching and strengthening, we can reduce the amount of physiological stress we accumulate after training hard, working laborious jobs, and carrying out daily activities. The psychological stress reduction comes simply from relaxing the muscles and the mind, taking a few minutes to focus on your mind-body connection and relieving your system of the tension from the day.
Now that you understand the benefits of increasing your flexibility, I hope you will decide to put it into practice. Develop your body; let it work for you, not against you!
Here's an example of some ways to use a foam roller: