Flexibility is not the most important part of a workout for most people. Cardio and weights are the first two things that come to your mind when thinking of fitness but flexibility should also be in there. Flexibility is more than being able to touch your foot to the back of your head. It decreases the likelihood of injuries and makes your workouts more effective.
Types of Stretches
There are many different types of stretches you can do. Static, dynamic and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) are the three major types. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), static stretching is the only type that is recommended for most people.
Static stretching can be accomplished by slowly stretching a muscle through the entire range of motion until you feel tightness. If it doesn't feel comfortable you are going to far.
You have to approach working out to get your muscles stronger, and working out to get more flexible as two separate and different things. The main difference is how long the effects of your routine will stay with you.
Effects of Training
If you stop doing bicep curls, it'll take some time for you to lose a significant amount of strength. If you stop stretching, the effects will go away a lot faster. An adequate flexibility program will consist of at least 2-3 sessions per week but a good one will be 5-7.
Before beginning to stretch, you should do a small warm up that will increase the temperature in your muscles. This will make it easier to stretch without any discomfort or pain. You should hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds and do two-four repetitions per stretch.
The Bottom Line
Most people don't stretch. They justify it by thinking it won't make their arms bigger and won't give them the edge in a race. Flexibility gives you a wider range of motion which is beneficial in everything from picking up heavy tools in your garage to winning a race. Flexibility is an often overlooking aspect of training but it has many benefits.