The general idea about fitness for most people is to lose that unhealthy pound of fat in their belly or arms. Unless you are into modeling or competing in a bodybuilding show, your fitness goal in life would normally be to have a healthy physique. Let’s assume that you have indeed successfully lost that undesired mass of fat, would you be intrigued if you found out that there was more to it than just getting rid of that extra bulge? Have you ever heard of the phrase “Fitness is a lifestyle”? You cannot train for a few months and stop when you’re satisfied with what you’ve achieved and expect yourself to continue to look good. If you do this, you will start experiencing the effects of deconditioning which is when the body goes through the process of muscle loss mainly due to inactivity. So how can you stay fit? Would you still be able to lift as much as you do right now as you get old?
While I was discussing this topic with a friend of mine, she told me “My goal in fitness is that I would want to be able to tie my shoelace even when I am 60 years old”. I think that anyone who desires to have a healthy physique needs to develop these three things.
- Strength – to cope with the mundane activities
- Agility – to be able to move quickly
- Flexibility – to be able to pick that fork you dropped down without hurting your back
According to the American Council on Exercise, flexibility training is not something that is given equal importance as cardiovascular or weight-training. In this article, we will discuss how to incorporate flexibility training into your fitness regime.
While training helps you reach your fitness goals, it only becomes effective when the training is defined by the form in which you do it. A bad form can easily get you injured over a period or sometimes instantly. For many people, bad forms are a result of poor flexibility. Even strong people who can lift heavy weights can have limited limb movement and this is mainly because they are not flexible. These problems can be overcome by introducing a little bit of stretching and calisthenics.
Is stretching really important?
Well to start with I was one of those people who thought stretching was a waste of time in the gym until I developed Achilles tendonitis. Regretting my decisions, I slowly understood the importance of it. Static and dynamic are the 2 ways in which you can stretch your muscles. If you are serious about fitness, then you should consider doing your stretches at least 30 minutes thrice a week. While stretching can be beneficial, it can have a negative effect if you do it hard when your muscles are still cold. Always remember to start with warmups like walking knee hugs, marching, arm circles, and ankle/wrist circles.
If you are one of those busy bees who cannot spend more than 45 minutes or an hour at the gym, then the below stretches are going to be your best choice.
Loosen those tight hamstrings and carry out some spinal flexion by starting with this stretch. This will be pretty difficult if you have never tried it, but still achievable. You can bend your knees slightly, to begin with, and slowly bring it to the right form.
- Stand upright with both your hands raised up
- Slowly bend over towards the floor
- Touch your toes with your fingers and hold for 20-30 seconds
Camel & Cat
Let me get this clear. Some people like to call it cat/cow and other cat/camel. It’s all the same. Primarily for spinal flexion, this stretch can sometimes help you fix acute back pains caused due to muscle spasm. This is meant to be a dynamic stretch with repetition.
- Get on all fours
- Push your back upwards and move downwards slowly for 20-30 seconds
- Keep in mind to not perform some sort of twerks but rather have a controlled motion
Get a good stretch in your gluteus and improve your core stability. This will also loosen up those tight shoulders. Like Camel & Cat, the table bridge is also a dynamic stretch.
- Sit with hands behind your back at shoulder width and legs about the same width with knee pointing up
- Balance your weight between legs and hands and form a table like a figure
- Perform 8-12 reps
How can calisthenics help?
It is similar to any other resistance training, but unlike traditional bodybuilding where free-weights and large equipment are used, in calisthenics, only bodyweight is required.
Calisthenics is considered as one of the most effective ways to develop a good physique since it is more athletic when compared to other types of training. It is said to be the best option for fat loss as all the exercises in this type of training uses compound movement and therefore you increase your strength every step of the way. Most importantly this can help you develop the strength to carry your body around which is very important for better flexibility. The following exercises are basics that you can include in your training.
Pull-ups/Chin-ups: (6-10 Reps x 3 sets)
Pull-ups/chin-ups might seem hard for a beginner. This is because pulling your entire body may seem like too much to start with. To overcome this, you can start by trying to do 1-2 reps and slowly build your way up.
- Place your hands (pronated for a pull up/supinated for a chin-up) about 1.5 times the shoulder width
- Legs can be slightly folded for better balance, tighten your core, pull yourself up and slowly come down (controlled eccentric motion is what develops your strength)
Prisoner Squat: (10-15 Reps x 3 sets)
Perfect squat to hit those quads and to get good conditioning on the posture. This is a very simple form of squat hence if you are finding this easy you may even try the pistol squats or any plyometric pistol squats.
- Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing out
- Place your hands behind your neck and elbows out and up
- Squat by shifting your weight to the heal and go down as much as you can
Push-ups: (8-12 Reps x 3 sets)
This is one exercise that comes to everyone’s minds when the word ‘fitness’ is spoken of. Targets pectoralis, deltoids, triceps brachii, and the core. Best done on the floor but you can also use a push-up bar to make it easier on your wrists.
- Keep your head, neck, and torso in line and never make any arches
- Un-shrug your shoulders, bring the shoulder blades close and tight to each other and tighten your glutes
- Perform quality reps over quantity and if it is difficult after a point take a short pause and repeat
Well, that concludes this article and always keep in mind, any type of fitness done in proper form is going to get you to get healthier but being flexible is going to help you avoid injuries and keep you fit even when you become 60!