Seems like every time someone mentions how inflexible they are, the automatic response has become, “You should do yoga.” But what happens if you dislike yoga and do not want to waste your precious gym moments learning how to chill out?
Don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to get flexible without learning deep belly breathing and hold poses for long periods of time. Here are ways to develop flexibility when you hate yoga:
1. Do a dynamic warm-up
No, you do not have to hold stretches forever, and you do not have to spend hours working on your flexibility. Instead, try dynamic stretching. This can be done before any workout – lifting or cardio. Go through some light bodyweight exercises like squats, walking lunges, push-ups, and jumping jacks. Do some leg swings, arm circles, trunk twists, and the like.
Optionally, some people like doing improvised movement (or dance) that works through their entire body. Make sure your dynamic warm-up is about 3-5 minutes in length. You should do it vigorously enough that you work up a slight sweat. Avoid bouncing movement.
2. Cool down with stretching
Okay, now that you completed a workout do hold passive stretches. Throw down some of those traditional stretches you have been doing since elementary school – the butterfly, triceps stretch, seated forward fold, quadriceps stretch, modified lunges, seated twists, and piriformis stretches. Stretching after a workout will help your muscles recover more quickly, lowering the chance of DOMS, and aid in flexibility.
3. Use gym equipment
Bet you never thought of using exercise machines, dumbbells, and barbells as a means of stretching your body. This method is best when you are already warmed up or in the process of cooling down. You can also do these stretches if you are transitioning through a number of supersets, for example. Here are 3 examples:
- Take a bench and add a 60-degree angle as if setting up for a chest press. Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit back. Curl the dumbbells slowly then begin to lower at the same speed, letting the weight of the dumbbells open the chest, upper arms, and shoulders.
- Another is to stand at a Smith Machine. Turn away from the machine but grab the bar with both hands, palms facing down. Walking forward slowly and let your deltoids (shoulder muscles stretch). Hold for several seconds.
- Hang over the back extension seat.
The other thing to remember is that full range of motion exercises like squats with an overhead press, deadlifts with rows, and other movements also develop flexibility. Simply breathe. Remove tension from your body, and move through the exercise with correct technique.
4. Pick stretches you love
So maybe there are some excellent stretches in yoga that you absolutely adore. Maybe it is just the spiritual zone of the class you can’t tolerate. In that case, pick the stretches that you love and just do those. For example, a lot of people love Forward Fold, Cobbler’s Pose (Butterfly Pose), Cobra Pose, Child’s Pose, and Downward Dog.
You do not have to attend a class to get the benefits of these stretches, nor do you have to commit to doing them every single day. These stretches can be incorporated into your other routines or done before bed to help you wind down after a long day.
5. Take a dance class
What’s one thing dancers love to do? Stretch! Why? Because dancers need both strength and flexibility. Warm-ups are generally comprised of various full range of motion dynamic movement.
Though these exercises may not appear to be doing anything for your flexibility, they are heating up the joints and lubricating them so you can move through various steps and choreography with ease. Over time, you will naturally develop more flexibility.
Ballet is great because the barre section focuses on strengthening the body while stretching the synergistic and antagonistic muscles. You get a full body workout that gets you using muscles you never thought you had. If you want to boost flexibility but hate yoga, taking a dance class is a perfect option.
More: Zumba As a Way of Life
6. Re-think “yoga”
I know, I know. You already made it quite clear that you hate yoga. But, hear me out. There are various types of yoga. And if you really loathe regular yoga, do a yoga spin-off class like Pilates, PiYo, Barre or something similar.
These yoga-inspired group classes are going to be much faster than what you would assume, and they will incorporate more focus on strengthening and stretching the body at the same time. It is less of a spiritual experience and more of a workout.
Yoga may help increase your flexibility, but there are dozens of range of motion (ROM) exercises out there to help stretch you out. If you hate yoga, do not force yourself to do it. Next time you are looking to boost flexibility, remember these tips and do what feels best for you.