You’ve struggled with flexibility for a long time. You’ve looked up lots of resources to help you work on your restrictions, but you often feel like you’re just too stiff to even stretch.
When you do look for resources, it’s doubly frustrating to only find limber and flexible people demonstrating the stretches. You may think, “I can’t even get into the starting position the model shows!” But no matter how tight you are, you can benefit from stretching.
And what I’ll show you in this article can be applied to any stretch.
Rather than trying to mimic a stretch as a more flexible person might show it, you can follow specific concepts in positioning, making adjustments as needed to work around your own capabilities.
Universal Concepts for Safe Stretching
I know there are literally thousands of stretches you can find on the interwebs, and it can be confusing to know how to do them safely, especially since (unfortunately) most stretching instruction on the market is poor, at best.
The good news is, once you understand some basic principles of safe stretching, you can apply those to any stretch–yes, any stretch.
And even better news: no matter how “tight” you may be, you can follow these tips and get benefit from the stretch (especially if paired with the adjustment techniques in the next section).
1. Focus on the Spine and Pelvis
For most stretches, you’ll want to focus on the positioning of your spine and pelvis first and foremost, as this will maximize the value of any stretch you are performing.
There are exceptions, of course, but in most cases, the spine should be straight or slightly extended. The pelvic positioning will be tilted forward or backward (anteriorly or posteriorly) depending on the particular stretch.
You may find that you need to bend your knees or elbows, or change your shoulder positioning, in order to get your spine and pelvis where you want them–and that’s totally fine.
Don’t worry about straightening out the extremities. Get your spine and pelvis right first and you’ll improve faster.
2. Aim for Stability
If you don’t feel secure and stable in a stretch, your body will naturally guard to protect you, making it much more difficult to let go and get what you want out of the stretch.
It stands to reason, then, that trying to force your body into a position it can’t get into will likely do more harm than good.
That’s why it’s important to adjust your exercises so that the positioning feels safe and secure to you and your body. Don’t worry about mimicking what the model is demonstrating. Rather, follow the positioning for the spine and pelvis, and adjust yourself so that you feel stable. We’ll go over the specifics of this in the video below.
3. Leave Yourself Somewhere to Go
If you start in a position that is too intense of a stretch, and you can’t move at all without pain or discomfort, you’re setting yourself up for a bad situation.
When people write to us saying they “can’t get into the starting position” for a stretch, we always reiterate: your starting position is wherever you need it to be. If you don’t leave yourself any room to move, you won’t get what you need out of the stretch.
So, you’ll want to always back off and give yourself enough room to move toward the feeling of stretch.
How to Adjust Any Stretch
The three principles we just went over will help you do any stretch safely and effectively, and using the following adjustments will help you achieve those principles.
In this video, Jeff will demonstrate how to adjust stretches, using pillows/cushions/towels/chairs/stools and other such bolsters and supports, as well as different options to get into the proper position for the stretch. Below the video, we’ll go over some key points.
The main takeaway points from this video are to:
- Fill in the Spaces–If you don’t have enough flexibility to have contact between your body and the ground (or your torso and your legs), use towels, pillows, or other supports to fill in those spaces. There is no need to use exactly the props shown in the video–just use whatever you have lying around.
- Support Yourself–If you feel unstable or unsafe, use whatever supports you need to, even if it means sitting on a chair to do the stretch.
- Bend Your Extremities as Needed–Remember the key principle of keeping your spine neutral (or slightly extended) and your pelvis in the proper position. Bend your extremities however you need to in order to maintain these positions in the spine and pelvis.
No matter how much you may struggle with flexibility, using these principles and adjustments will help you get as much as you can from any stretch.
Everyone Starts Somewhere (and So Can You)
It’s common for people to feel that they’re “too stiff to stretch” or “too weak to do strength training” or “too ______ to _______.” But no matter what challenges you have, everyone has to start somewhere. And addressing those challenges head-on will help you make a lot more progress than doing nothing.
Plus, you can improve your condition with some simple adjustments, graduating the level of difficulty as you get better.
All of our programs emphasize working at your own level and making adjustments to match your needs.
In our Focused Flexibility program in particular, we emphasize using the adjustments we’ve shown in this article to make sure you’re getting what you need out of each and every stretch.
Focused Flexibility makes sure you’re working on what you need to for your goals, so combining that with personalized adjustments means you won’t be wasting any efforts or feeling frustrated by the process. And with consistent effort, you’ll make good progress.
Start Improving Your Flexibility
No matter how tight you may be, Focused Flexibility will help you work around your limitations and help you improve your mobility where you need it.