Flexibility, of the three main aspects of fitness (cardio, strength and flexibility) you are the one people tend to forget about the most. Somehow you are thought to be less important – when really the opposite is true. Good flexibility is key in mobility, injury prevention, and overall wellness and yet many people avoid it like the plague. I think some honestly don’t realize how important it is (like the people who leave a fitness class just as the stretch/flexibility portion is starting – not because they have to go, but because they don’t think it’s important to stay… *insert side eye here*), find it too difficult or uncomfortable, or think stretching is somehow only for weak people <– nay, the strongest overall people are those who do flexibility training. Today I’m going to talk about how you can make flexibility training easier.
Who is a flex strap designed for?
Not every one falls into those categories, those who practice yoga and pilates have stretches built right into their movements, and dancers and gymnasts also take stretching very seriously. Last summer when I went to meet Ellie Black and watch her train, she spent a long time warming up, stretching and preparing to practice. It’s just so important, especially in a sport like hers, to make sure your body is ready to go before you actually “go”.
Today I’m here to talk to the people in category two – those who find it too hard/difficult and therefore avoid it. Maybe it’s difficult because you’ve made it a habit not to properly warm up or stretch after workouts, maybe an injury or illness (like arthritis) makes it difficult for you to get into the positions in order to stretch, or maybe you simply find it difficult for no other reason that it’s difficult.
It doesn’t have to be. Get out of your mind that stretching, yoga, flexibility training, or whatever you want to call it, has to include turning your body into a pretzel or forcing yourself into positions that feel impossible, painful and are simply put – uncomfortable.
Let’s Make Flexibility Easier!
Want to know how to make flexibility training instantly easier? Use props. A chair, a bolster cushion, yoga blocks (or a little pile of books), rolled up blankets, and straps – all of which can assist you in most any position to help support you, allow you more freedom and comfort and a wider ROM (range of motion). For the sake of this post, I’m going to be talking about one prop in particular – the strap. There are lots of different flexibility straps on the market, but I am using the Flex Strap from FlexFixx which is my favourite of the flexibility and yoga straps I’ve used over the years.
Your average yoga strap is one long strap with a buckle on one end so you can make a loop on one end to assist you in certain positions. The downside of those straps is that every time you change positions you have to stop and readjust your buckle or un-do it completely which really slows you down and takes away from your training time (and your overall experience if in a yoga class). That’s why I live the Flex Strap so much, instead of the built-in buckle, it has built-in loops for foot and hand holds that you don’t have to adjust for every movement change. You can easily slip your hands and feet in and out as needed.
As you can see in the photo above, each loop is numbered making it really easy to track your progress through your training. Each end starts with 1 and works its way up to a 6 before hitting the middle which is labelled with the FlexFixx logo.
I don’t know how many of you have the need to use a seamstress fabric measuring tape, but 90% of the time when I pick one up I find I have the wrong end (the one with the highest number), and then have to fish around finding the other end with the 1. That might not seem like a big deal, and it isn’t, but having either end of the strap start with 1 means that I never have to stop what I’m doing to find the other side if I am tracking my progress. It also means that for positions where I can easily move from one side to the other, I am able to very quickly determine if my flexibility on one side is roughly the same on the other.
Using a strap makes it easy to achieve stretches or poses that limited ROM or the length of your limbs would make otherwise difficult.
Positions like a seated hamstring stretch (with straight back),
bound side angle,
and standing straddle – and really any chest opener.
The use of a strap can also really help to force you to activate muscle groups in a stretch or pose, instead of allowing them to be passive. Using the strap allows you to not only maintain the stretch but in positions like a seated straddle also forces you to keep your feet actively flexed.
Looping the strap on one foot when moving into a seated straddle with side stretch again keeps your feet active while allowing you to choose your degree of side stretch based on which loop you put your hand in,
and in this lateral flexion, having your hands on the strap ensures you keep them the same distance apart throughout the move, which generates a better stretch.
And finally, using a strap can help support you in positions that you might find uncomfortable. For many, one such position is butterfly, as they find their knees don’t fall towards the floor very far and it can be uncomfortable to try and hold them up. Using the strap (I show in the video below how to do it) takes the pressure off the knees and allows you more comfort while allowing the stretch to do it’s job.
Many people find that the addition of props allows them to move into poses/positions that were previously unavailable to them, like reclining butterfly. The strap provides the support and relieves the pressure from the knees which may then allow you to move easily into this restorative position.
Making Flexibility Training Easier Video
I have put together a video for you showing some of the stretches above, as well as a number of different stretches/poses not shown above.
I hope you can now see why adding some props to your flexibility or yoga training can really open up a whole new world of flexibility for you – and quite possibly make it a whole lot more fun! Please let me know if you’ve enjoyed this post if people are interested I might make a few more of these posts showing how other props can really help your flexibility training. I find in classes they are underutilized because people have a stigma attached to them for some reason.
Toss your expectations aside and pick up a prop like the Flex Strap! It could change your entire flexibility game!
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The Flex Strap is available for purchase on Amazon:
When you order a Flex Strap, you get not only the strap but also a user guide filled with exercises you can do using it. Some are the same as those I’ve shared above, but there are also many different exercises, which is nice because I’ve never received a user guide with any other flexibility strap I’ve purchased over the years.
Finally, I hope you take some time today and stretch, your body will thank you for it!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for the FlexFixx Flex Strap. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I truly believe in this product and using props to aid your flexibility practice.