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- American Council on Exercise: How to Choose an Exercise Video
- American Council on Exercise: Flexible Benefits
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The Best Workout Videos for Increasing Flexibility
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Flexibility is the third element in a comprehensive fitness program, along with cardiovascular exercise and strength training, though it is often neglected. Workout videos and DVDs can help you get flexibility training into your schedule. The best videos help you to loosen your muscles and increase your range of motion through stretches and exercises that are simple to perform at home.
Importance of Flexibility
The best workout videos are constructed with the importance of flexibility in mind and address how tight muscles can cause your posture to be compromised. For example, tight hamstrings can lead to a stiff lower back, which in turn may cause your abdominals and pelvis to be pulled forward. The result is an increased arch in your lower back and a spine that is pulled out of alignment. The video should also include information and exercises regarding range of motion, which is the ability of joints to move from flexion to extension.
Types of Stretching
Flexibility can be improved through static or dynamic stretching. The best DVDs explain the differences between these two types of stretches and take you through stretches that most benefit your fitness needs and goals. For example, static stretching consists of taking the muscle to its full extension and holding it for a certain period of time, such as 20 or 30 seconds. Dynamic stretching provides a greater functional benefit as it extends the muscles through movement. Examples of the two types of stretches should be shown with a body part that can be stretched both ways, such as the lower back. A forward fold, which stretches the lower back, can be dynamic or static. In a dynamic stretch, you bend forward and touch your toes, but rather than staying in the fold for a certain period of time, you stand up again, slowly and carefully for safety. A static stretch consists of holding the forward fold for at least 20 or 30 seconds. The instructor in the video should explain that dynamic stretching can help to activate and warm your muscles before working out and that static stretching can help to relax your muscles after your training session.
The best flexibility videos will have an experienced and certified personal trainer or yoga instructor leading the stretches and exercises. Attention to body alignment and posture should be emphasized during the stretches, which can help to reduce injuries and maximize your range of motion. The DVD should guide you through a warm-up session before any stretching takes place; attempting to stretch cold muscles can result in injuries. All of the major muscle groups in your body should be included in the stretching session; the major muscle groups are the latissiumus dorsi on the back, pectoralis major on the chest, abdominals, glutes, quadriceps on the front of the thighs and hamstrings on the back of the thighs.
Any type of home workout is likely going to have logistical limitations; therefore the best video for increasing your flexibility should allow you to perform the exercises within the confines of your space. Only simple props should be needed, such as a mat, towel, yoga blocks and yoga strap. The exercises in the video should match your fitness level. For example, if you are a beginner, you will likely not be able to perform advanced yoga poses. A video for beginners should focus on simple stretches that target the larger muscle groups, which are the deltoids, latissiumus dorsi, pectoralis major, abdominals, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. Stretches like forward bend, bridge, child’s pose, shouder rolls and an open shoulder stretch are basic yet effective stretches. A DVD that provides multiple levels and allows you to constantly progress can help you to maximize your investment.
- Milan Markovic/iStock/Getty Images