ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO STRETCHING & FLEXIBILITY (FOLLOW-ALONG)
⏰ Article Summary in 15 Seconds:
Are you looking to start a flexibility routine but don't know where to begin?
If so, check out this 20-minute full-body follow-along routine you can do anywhere.
Also, I created a comprehensive article + checklist to go with the video.
👍In this video & article you will learn:
- Why stretching does NOT equal flexibility
- What are the best stretches for beginners?
- How to "relax" your muscles using brain tricks
- How long is the minimum to stretch for beginners?
- How to use strength to create length in your muscles
🚫 Why Stretching Does NOT Equal Flexibility
Passive stretching improves mobility and flexibility.
BUT...it's not enough on its own.
Also, it can lead to injuries if you don't do 2 critical things:
- Soft tissue work and
- Active flexibility work
🛠 SOFT TISSUE WORK:
Turn Yourself Into a "Master Mechanic"
Tissue work / self-massage / self-myofascial release (SMR) is like learning how to be a "car mechanic" on the human body.
Want your "car" to run smoothly? Learn how to tune it up!
SMR isn’t a new idea. Massage has been used since the dawn of time. However, SMR has become popular over the past decade.
Most people think SMR is foam rolling...but that's not the whole story.
Foam rolling is "SMR 101". It's the starting point. The beginner's course.
There is a wide variety of products and DIY tools. I've curated some of my favorite tools here. These tools have different size, shape, texture, and density.
Learning how to use them will help you graduate to "SMR level 102" and beyond.
Wanna' know something else cool? Current scientific research supports SMR!
- Muscle relaxation:
- SMR helps reduce tension, aches and pain
- SMR helps reduce soreness and improve muscle recovery
- SMR helps improve joint range of motion by decreasing neuromuscular hypertonicity. (This is especially potent when combined with stretching.)
- SMR reduces adhesions and scar tissue (if you have the right tool and the right skill)
Choosing The Right Mobility Tool for The Job
A car mechanic doesn't use a wrench for everything.
You shouldn't use a foam roller for everything.
The type of tool can be a deal maker or breaker. I often discover people using equipment that is too soft or too hard in density or the wrong tool for a particular area.
This is the "Goldilocks Principle." You want a tool that is just right for your pain tolerance and for the area you are working on.
Using the wrong equipment size or density can result in you experiencing more tension. This causes more pain. This makes you avoid or quit your routine altogether.
Having a variety of tools available and gradually progressing "up the pyramid" of mobility tools is the best approach.
Active Stretching vs. Passive Stretching
Another common beginner mistake is to only do passive stretching.
Why is this such a problem?
If you don't do some active stretching, you will be like a stretched-out rubber band. Useless!
So what's the difference? 🤔
Active Stretching: In active stretching, there is no external force pushing you deeper. You are voluntarily contracting one muscle group to pull you deeper into the stretch.
Passive Stretching: In passive stretching, there is an external force. You are being stretched instead of using your strength to move your body.
The take-home point: You need both! In my own routine, I include both active and passive stretches (as well as more advanced techniques) for maximum benefit!
🥇 Best Stretches for Beginners
OK, enough theory...let's practice! The video above is a 20-min routine for beginners.
In the video, I explain everything in simple terms, step-by-step.
The pictures below are a quick reference for the best stretches for beginners.
🧠 Brain Tricks for Flexibility
OK, so you've seen the pictures above...but there's more!
In the video, I talk about Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
What is that?! 🤔
You can think of it like a "brain hack" for getting your nervous system to relax.
It is also called the "contract/relax" stretching technique. It is a form of flexibility training, which involves contracting and then relaxing the muscle being stretched.
This allows you to get deeper than passive stretching alone.
PNF stretching is one of the most effective forms of stretching for improving flexibility and increasing range of motion.
In Fact, Science Loves PNF Stretching! 👇
Yutetsu, M. et al. (2013) Effects of Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation Stretching and Static Stretching on Maximal Voluntary Contraction. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Volume 27 – Issue 1 – p 195–201.
“Results of this study demonstrated that the increase in ROM is significantly greater after PNF stretching than after static stretching for hamstring muscles.”
However, don't get stuck with 1 technique!
You can get a lot from PNF stretching but also try these 6 techniques!
⏰ Lastly, How Long Should You Stretch?
Two minutes is the minimum dose for beginners.
As you get more advanced, you can cut it down to 1:30, then even 30-60 seconds.
However, in the beginning, you need TIME to explore. TIME to relax. TIME to develop the skill of voluntary relaxation.
🎯 Summary and Checklist:
- Follow along with the video above to get started.
- Stretch for a minimum of 2 minutes per muscle group.
- Use PNF stretching and other flexibility "hacks" as you get more advanced
- Don't just stretch. Do tissue work AND stretch AND strengthen.
❤️️ WANT MORE?
Get our 12-month flexibility curriculum below.
Over 20,000 students around the world are using our programs to fix injuries & get flexible.
About The Author
Shane Dowd, CES, CMP is the owner/founder of GotROM.com. He is also a sports performance & mobility coach specializing in injury prevention and flexibility for athletes.