It’s widely believed that your muscles increase in length the more you stretch them. For example, if you bend down and reach for your toes enough, you’ll eventually stretch your hamstrings to a longer length.
But this traditional understanding of stretching is flawed. Flexibility doesn’t come from stretching the muscles to a more impressive length—flexibility is actually the absence of tension in the muscles. And to get to the root of this tension, you have to address why your body is tight in the first place.
“People always come to me and tell me that they are genetically tight, that their body just isn’t flexible,” says Brian Bradley, fitness director of Elev8d Fitness, the new 8-minute home workout program from Sonima. “But this is a misunderstanding.” You’re not inflexible because your muscles are short. You’re inflexible because your body is out of alignment, and that impinges your full range of motion.
How Does Alignment Improve Flexibility?
Proper alignment starts with the pelvis. “The hips are the epicenter of the body, so when you have function in the hips, all the muscles that originate in that area are no longer under tension or restricted,” Bradley explains. The better the position of your hips, the better its relationship with the upper back, mid-back, shoulder blades, and all connected areas of the body.
“When you align the body, the bones where the tendons connect move into a more aligned position, which loosens the tension in the muscle. It’s freeing up your muscles to their full and natural length,” Bradley explains. In other words, you are changing the position of the skeleton where the tendons attach. When you put these attachment points into alignment, the muscles can relax into their full range of motion. As you slowly loosen tension in this or that muscle, the body comes into concert with itself, unifying as one system rather than a collection of disjointed parts. And that, Bradley says, is where real strength and wellness happens.
Elev8d Fitness is designed around this fundamental principle: Align the body so that it can move through its full range of motion, thus balancing and unifying the musculature as a functional, efficient system. “You’ll actually get your body to the point where you don’t feel like you need to stretch,” Bradley says.
A Workout to Improve Flexibility
In this 8-minute workout, Elev8d Fitness co-founder and world-renowned physiologist Pete Egoscue will coach you through a sequence of one-minute movements. As you fire the hip flexors and core, notice a subtle release of tightness is the upper back and knees. Remember, form is critical. In order to align and balance the body, you have to pay close attention to the position of your spine, shoulders, and hips. For example, be sure to pinch the shoulder blades in the Da Vincis and maintain a slight arch in your back when you squat down for the Elev8d Side Unders.
“You’re going to feel some work in these exercises,” Bradley says. “What we’re doing is training your muscles at their full length.” Strengthening your muscles in this state of zero tension or tightness is key—that’s the way to train your body back into its natural and functional alignment.
“This eight-minute sequence is literally changing how each section of your spine relates to your hips and shoulders,” Bradley says. As you work your way through the exercises, your range of motion is increasing exponentially. So much so that if you started the whole thing over again from the top, you would notice a dramatic difference in your flexibility. That’s because you’ve freed up your shoulders, mid-back, and hips, thus loosening the tension in the muscles.
You’re not necessarily going to feel a stretch with this workout, though. “It’ll feel like work and you may start breathing a little heavy. But then all of the sudden, you’ll be able to reach down and touch your toes,” Bradley says.
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