Flexibility is a spectrum. There’s not necessarily a point every person reaches where they could universally be considered flexible. For example, a football player’s level of flexibility would probably be considerably different than the flexibility of a contortionist. So, there isn’t a universal definition of what it means to be flexible.
It isn’t a “one size fits all” type of thing. However, you can constantly challenge yourself to become better, whether that means touching your toes with straight legs for the first time or bending into a more advanced pose. But how long does it actually take to get more flexible?
While most folks notice looser, more malleable flexibility within a few weeks of targeting it, drastic changes don’t happen as quickly. Here’s what you need to know.
How Long Does It Take To Improve Flexibility?
Improving your overall flexibility is a journey that usually takes a few months to years. While you’ll notice results within a few weeks, you won’t automatically achieve ‘contortionist’ status. Many folks with exceptional levels of flexibility and mobility have honed these areas over several years of training.
That said, you don’t have to wait years (or even months) to see results. You should see results within a few weeks if you practice stretching regularly. The more you practice, the better your mobility and flexibility will get.
Generally, you need to practice stretching at least two or three times per week to notice results within a couple of weeks. However, if you up the ante to five to seven days per week, your results will come quicker than if you practiced two or three times a week.
Try to focus on each muscle group for a while in each session, as flexibility isn’t restricted to a single muscle group.
What Is The Fastest Way To Get More Flexible?
You can’t rush flexibility. Your body isn’t equipped to become incredibly flexible suddenly – it takes time. It’s just like building muscle – you won’t go from a smaller physique to a bodybuilder’s form in a single day. Your body needs time to develop and grow as you challenge your muscles to advance in their strength, flexibility, and endurance.
So, there isn’t necessarily a way to “get flexible fast.” You need to focus on your flexibility and prioritize it in your routine. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends targeting your flexibility at least three times weekly, focusing on each muscle group for 30 minutes.
Let’s circle back around to our example of building muscle. If you only focus on the chest and back in every workout, you can’t expect your legs to build muscle magically. The same thing applies to flexibility – you can’t expect to become completely flexible if you only focus on a single muscle group. Total flexibility requires you to target each muscle group and its extension capabilities.
While you should target each group individually, focusing on each group for 30 minutes a day, three times a week, isn’t feasible for most folks. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stretch – if you only have 20 minutes to focus on your flexibility, work with the time you have, spending a few minutes focusing on each group.
Although you can’t rush your body into a more flexible state, there are a few things you can do to help the process along, including:
- Take your time: Your body needs time to adjust to your new regime. So, don’t go too fast or force your body into movements it isn’t ready for. Instead, take it slow and pay attention to what your body is telling you. Forcing your body to speed things up can lead to injuries that will set you back even further.
- Stay on your nutrition: As you build your stretching and exercise routine, remember to stay on top of your nutrition. Eat foods that benefit your body – calcium helps strengthen muscle tissue, protein is essential for recovery, magnesium helps your body use calcium, and glucosamine helps prevent the breakdown of cartilage. Essential fatty acids help lubricate your joints, and ginger can help relax your muscles. On top of that, remember to stay hydrated – this will help you better your flexibility and prevent cramps.
- Add weight training: If flexibility workouts sound boring, spice it up by mixing your exercise routines. Focus on your flexibility as you lift weights, such as doing deeper lunges or targeting squat mobility.
- Remember to warm up: Warming up is essential to avoiding injury, so don’t skip it. Make sure your body is warm and limber before moving through your stretch routine. If you’d like, add your stretching routine to the end of your workout, as your muscles will already be warm.
- Roll your muscles: Sore muscles are a nuisance and can make you feel unprepared for the following workouts. Help loosen sore muscles by rolling them out using a foam roller. It will hurt at first but eventually will feel relieving as you work the muscle over the roller. This is a type of ‘self-myofascial release,’ which means you work on removing fascial adhesions (where the fascia is damaged and reduces mobility and flexibility).
- Add dynamic stretches: While static stretching (still, holding the poses) is excellent, remember to incorporate a few dynamic stretches. These are stretches where you actively move through the stretch, allowing your muscles to move slowly and steadily through each pose.
Will I Get Flexible If I Stretch Every Day?
Stretching every day is a surefire way to improve your overall flexibility. However, if you don’t have the time to focus on stretching every day, you can still see results if you practice two or three times per week.
Flexibility is just like anything else. For example, let’s look at muscle building again. If you commit to spending an hour in the gym every day targeting muscle gain, you will see results (providing you focus on nutrition, form, etc.). However, you can still see results if you spend an hour at the gym two or three times per week.
The results might not happen as quickly or drastically as every day, but you’ll still see results (again, with proper nutrition, form, etc.). Something is better than nothing, so if you want to improve your flexibility, set aside a chunk of time to focus on doing so. It doesn’t have to be hours on end, nor does it need to be every day.
With consistency and practice, you’ll start to notice the benefits of improved flexibility.
How Is Increased Flexibility Beneficial?
Perhaps you’re focusing on your flexibility because you simply want to be able to touch your toes without bending your knees. Or, maybe you’ve noticed certain things are becoming more challenging to do as your range of motion decreases.
Aside from improving your range of motion to touch your toes or simplify specific tasks, increased flexibility offers several benefits. A few notable upsides to better flexibility include:
Lower Risk Of Injury
Working toward better flexibility can decrease your risk of injury, especially if you only do strength training. These workouts tend to tighten and shorten your muscles, potentially reducing your range of motion and creating imbalances throughout your body.
When this happens, you might not correctly activate the correct muscles in a movement, causing you to injure parts of your body. The neck, shoulders, lower back, and knees are often at high risk for injury.
To reduce the chances of a debilitating injury, incorporate regular stretching. By adding stretching into your routine, you elongate shortened, tight muscles, loosening them and allowing your body to shift safely and naturally into movements.
Healthier Nervous System
Movement (or the lack thereof) affects our bodies in varying ways. Our movements impact our nervous systems, as shortened muscle tissues can block our nerves, inhibiting their ability to work.
By increasing your overall flexibility, you work on your proprioception (sense of self-movement). You’ll probably notice the most change in your wrists, hands, shoulders, and feet.
Ability To Sit Comfortably
Many of us sit for hours on end every day, which can lead to pain, often in the lower back, hip flexors, and hamstrings. The muscles maintain the same position for hours, causing them to ache when you start moving again.
You may notice decreased mobility, making sitting in one spot for long periods challenging. As you work on your flexibility, you should notice better mobility, making it easier to maintain the same seated position for longer.
Movement is an essential part of proper circulation throughout our bodies. While our heart strength plays a significant role in this, our vascular system and how much we move significantly impact our overall circulation.
Circulation is directly connected to how much or little we move in a day. When you incorporate stretching into your routine, you encourage blood flow to areas where circulation is impaired from the lack of movement.
Chronic pain is something many individuals experience as they grow older. We feel our age in our lower backs and joints, and our muscles begin to protest with soreness and cramping. While these symptoms can be the result of something else entirely, they often are caused by a sedentary lifestyle.
When we sit around too much, we lose our range of motion. This, in turn, causes pain in various parts of our bodies. For example, sitting too much can cause lower back pain. The reason your lower back hurts may result from tight hamstrings and hip flexors from maintaining the same position for too long.
As you boost your mobility and flexibility, your pain may decrease as your body improves.