July is nearly here, which means that it’s time for another 6 Week Challenge! This summer, we’ll be focusing on improving our flexibility. Let’s get bendy!

If you’ve always given priority to your workouts and mostly avoided any form of focused stretching, I can completely relate. As athletes, we all want to become as strong as possible and kick butt in our workouts, PR our 100 Burpee Challenge times, and bust out handstands, pull ups, and other cool skills. No wonder that stretching often takes the backseat to our workout routine.

Because we’re all pressed for time, we tend to think that we’re good as long as we get our workout done, right?

…Wrong. Here’s why you should start finally paying attention to your flexibility and join us in the Get Bendy 6-Week Flexibility Challenge this summer:

Do You Prioritize Workouts Over Stretching? Here’s What To Do About It

If you give your workouts 100% priority and tend to treat stretching as an afterthought, it’s time to change that way of thinking. Because good flexibility can actually help you to become even better athlete.

There are several reasons why most of us tend to prioritize working out over stretching, and here’s why it’s important to start re-thinking those reasons:

Reason #1: You want visible results. Sure enough, if you want to gain muscle mass and lose body fat, working out gets you there, which is why this is usually your top priority.

Re-think it: That’s right, flexibility won’t directly help you to lose body fat like working out does, but the bendier you are, the better you can do those workouts. For example, if your calves are super tight and you can’t do a full squat because of that, you don’t make the most of your squats. Doing a full squat instead of squatting half way enormously increases the workload in your glutes because if you’re able to sit lower, you’ll engage your glutes much more. As a result, you can do better squats and build more muscle.

Reason #2: You want to burn calories. Many of us want to lose weight, so energy expenditure is part of the game. Working out hard burns more calories than stretching.

Re-think it: Similar to the first point, having better flexibility lets you do your workouts better and therefore leads to greater calorie expenditure.

Reason #3: You want to be able to do crazy bodyweight Stuff. To do pistol squats or handstands, you need to build strength and stamina, so you need to work out.

Re-think it: Without good flexibility, these types of goals are so much harder to achieve. For example, super tight hamstrings can make it nearly impossible to hold your non-working leg straight in front of you when doing pistol squats or both legs in front of you when practicing L-sits.

Reason #4: You find working out more fun. HIIT workouts keep you engaged for the full 12-16 minutes. You don’t have time to get bored! Getting more flexible is slower process, and let’s face it, usually not that entertaining.

Re-think it: You can make stretching more fun too! You can stretch in front of the TV while watching your favorite show or movie or listen to an audiobook or podcast to help distract yourself.

Reason #5: Working out gives you endorphins–and you feel them instantly. You can get really “high” from a good sweaty workout! You feel energized and you’re ready to conquer the world.

Re-think it: Okay, you probably won’t get an adrenaline rush from working on your flexibility, but you can get a different, yet really awesome feeling from that as well. Your body will feel much looser and more open after a good stretch. That’s often the most noticeable after getting out of the bed in the morning or after sitting a long time at your desk–just a couple of stretches make you feel better immediately.

Reason #6: You don’t have time for both working out and stretching. If you’re super busy and have to choose just one, you choose working out.

Re-think it: You don’t actually need to spend a lot of time on flexibility practice. Even just 10 minutes a day makes a big difference. And if you spend some time in the evening in front of the TV or surfing the web, you very likely have time for stretching too.

Also, try this: next time when you want to say “I don’t have time for this”, stop yourself and instead say, “That’s not my priority right now”. This simple sentence can help you understand what your priorities really are.

Why Else You Should Improve Your Flexibility?

We already addressed some of the reasons why you should be stretching on a regular basis, but here are some more:

  • To increase your range of motion. For example, if your upper back, shoulders and neck are really tight, it’s hard to do any overhead movements like overhead squats or handstands.
  • To improve your athletic performance. There are an endless list of exercises that having a lack of flexibility can reduce performance. For example, think about those full squats and pistol squats that we mentioned before.
  • To increase blood flow into the muscles. Blood transports nutrients into your organs and muscles, which helps them to perform better.
  • To decrease risk of injury. If you’re tight, the chances of getting injured are higher not only when you work out, but also when you’re doing everyday chores, like carrying grocery bags or picking up your kid!
  • To avoid muscle imbalances. So many people spend their days sitting, slouching over a computer. As a result, their chest muscles get tight and muscles in the upper back stretch too much, leading to constant hunched position. That’s just one example!
  • To avoid pain. Bad posture not only doesn’t look aesthetically pleasing, it can also get very painful. Many back, hip, and knee issues start from muscle tightness.
  • To reduce stress. This is actually a huge reason to stretch–loose muscles and a more open body make you feel better not only physically, but also mentally!

Get Bendy 6-Week Challenge Rules

We hope you’re on board and ready to loosen up your muscles during the next 6 weeks! Here’s what you should know about this challenge:

The challenge officially starts this Friday, July 1st. As in previous challenges, keep your eyes open every Friday when we’ll be posting the next week’s focus and homework.

Be ready to work on your flexibility 10-15 minutes a day 4-6 days a week. Stay consistent! That’s the only way to get better.

We’ll be focusing on one or two muscle group(s) every week, but you should still be working on the previous week’s homework too.

Post pictures and videos in the 12 Minute Athlete Facebook group. Let us know how you’re doing and get support from other group members!

Don’t miss out on the Flexibility Challenge! Join below for updates:

Let’s Do This!

Although we’ll be posting about the challenge on all the normal social media places (use the hashtag #12MAflexibility!, our Facebook group is the place where we’ll all be sharing our struggles and successes during this and all future challenges. Let’s all support and help each other, just like we did in our last two 6-week challenges, the Fuel Your Body Nutrition Challenge and Handstand Challenge. Be sure to join the group if you haven’t done it yet.

As always, the Get Bendy 6-Week Flexibility Challenge is meant for everybody and all levels of athletic abilities, so don’t be too intimidated to take part. If you’re ready to put in the work, you will see progress.

Let’s get to work!

Weekly Focuses and Homework

Check out the following links to read about weekly focuses and homework and to watch the demonstration videos.

Week 1: Hamstrings and Calves

Week 2: Hips and Quads

Week 3: Lower Back

Week 4: Upper Back & Shoulders

Week 5: Abs and Obliques 

Week 6: Chest, Arms, and Shoulders