Being flexible lets you do more than snap a bendy pose for instagram – it can improve posture, increase mobility, reduce injury risk, improve postural imbalances and even boost self-esteem. The techniques to help you touch your toes traditionally include static or dynamic stretching, but now a growing trend towards foam rolling is taking centre stage for reducing muscle tightness.
Foam Rolling- What’s the fuss?
Foam rolling is a form of myofascial therapy (tissue surrounding all the muscles and bones), which improves lymph and blood flow, and activates the stretch reflex to relax contracted muscles. So should you roll or stretch your way to flexibility success?
Pre workout = Dynamic
Watch a sports team before a game and you’ll likely see them swinging their arms and legs about. This is form of stretching, known as dynamic stretching involves active movement that pushes the joints and muscles through a full range of motion. This type of stretching will also elevate the internal muscle temperature, increase blood flow, and activate the nervous system to prepare for on-going muscular contraction – hence why it’s the prefect way to stretch and warm up before exercising.
Post workout = Foam rolling + static
After a workout, a combination of static stretching and foam rolling are beneficial to improving flexibility and alleviating any muscle soreness you may feel the next day. Static stretching, which typically involves holding a stretch in one challenging but comfortable position for a period of time. This form of stretching works to counteract tightness and tension built up in muscles during exercise bringing them back to a relaxed state. Combined with foam rolling to release particularly tight spots that are hard to target with static stretching alone. For best results, stretch the desired area, followed foam roll for few minutes.
Injury rehabilitation = Static stretching
Nursing an injury, such as a sprain or tendonitis (inflammation to the joint), usually means being stuck in a cast or splint, making the affected joints and muscles stiff. Gradual static stretching is your best bet to help increase joint range of motion and speed up recovery. However, the important point to remember during the recovery phase of an injury to stretch at a light and gentle pace, and to a point to mild discomfort, but not pain. An exercise physiologist or physiotherapist would best advise of the best static stretches.
Rounded shoulders (aka hunch back) = Static stretching
Perfect posture takes work and being chained to your desk all day is not what the human body is designed to do. Extended periods of sitting are linked to slouchy postures including forward head position and tightness in the front of the hips. Static stretching helps to release the overactive tight muscles of the chest and shoulders from prolonged desk work. For example, clasp your hands behind your back to stretch the chest and counteract rounded shoulders.