How many times have you stretched muscles without actually getting more flexible? You’ve been stretching your hamstrings for three months, and you still can’t touch your toes. But come to think of it, the last time you’ve touched your toes was in grade 7.
It can be pretty disappointing and sometimes embarrassing not being able to get into positions that you used to be able to with ease.
You say to yourself that it’s because you’re getting older, but I assure you, I know many 20-years-olds who can’t touch their toes and many 70-year-olds who can do hand stands. Don’t use age as an excuse.
There are numerous reasons why it’s not working, and I’ll cover the top 5 reasons why you’re not getting more flexible right here.
1. Stretching Without Strengthening
I swear stretching without strengthening is the biggest reason why people aren’t successful at getting more flexible. You can stretch your chest for days, but if your back is weak, you will always default back into your old position with your shoulders slumped forward.
If you’re going to stretch your chest follow it up with a strengthening exercise such as pull ups, cable fly’s, rows, or banded pull apart!
Athletes are doing a lot of ankle mobility work lately, and ankle mobility work is great! But if you don’t strengthen your tibialis anterior, then you’ll never improve your ankle mobility.
Another example would be stretching your hip flexors without strengthening your glutes. You’ll never lock in the increased lengthening if you don’t strengthen your glutes!
2. Stretching for under 60 seconds
If you want to make a lasting change, you have to hold stretches for at least 2 minutes. AT LEAST. I know this sounds crazy, but it’s true.
Stretching for under 2 minutes will just make it “feel better”, but it won’t make a change.
You’re probably thinking, “My god I’ll have to stretch for hours!”
Not true, just decide on 3-5 stretches that you will do that day and hold each stretch for 2 minutes. That way you won’t have to stretch for longer than 8-15 minutes. And that’s all it takes!
3. Stretching without Massaging/Myofascial Release
Massaging your muscles before stretching them is essential.
Myofascial release (aka foam rolling) will release tension in your muscle, allowing you to lengthen it more.
Next time you’re about to stretch your hip flexors, try foam rolling them first. Apply LOTS of pressure and make it as painful as possible, that’s how you foam roll correctly. Foam rolling isn’t supposed to be a pleasant experience. If it is, then you’re doing it wrong! Follow up the foam rolling with a nice deep hip flexor stretch.
Breathing deeply helps relieve tension too. DO NOT HOLD YOUR BREATH.
You’ll find a point during your 2 minutes of stretching where all of a sudden the muscle “gives in.” You feel the muscle relax and then you feel as though you can go a little deeper into the stretch. This feeling is your muscle releasing tension.
4. Doing the same stretch over and over again
A lot of people stretch their hamstrings by reaching for their toes, and his is an excellent way to stretch the hamstrings when done correctly.
However, if you do the same damn stretch every day, you will not see results.
Try doing other hamstring stretches, like laying down and propping your leg on a corner edge of the wall.
Or grab a band and do a banded distraction stretch, pictured on the right.
5. Not learning proper movement and correcting posture
I can’t stress thing one enough.
You can do all of the above, but if you don’t actively correct your movement/posture, then you will always default back into your crappy position and STAY TIGHT.
If you stretch your chest and strengthen your back but go home and lay slumped on your couch, you will not be doing yourself any favors.
If you stretch your hamstrings but still bend over to grab something by rounding your back, you will never be able to lengthen your hamstrings.
You can stretch and roll your glutes, but if you keep cocking your hip and putting weight on one leg when you’re standing, you’ll never fix those hip issues!
Learn proper movement!
I didn’t start seeing results in my mobility until I started moving correctly. You have to ingrain it in your head. Everywhere you go, think about your posture and the way you’re moving.
On the bus.
Working on the computer.