Strong, Supple, Flexible: Understanding muscles & mobility
Your pre and post-workout stretch can be forgotten all too frequently. But why is it so essential? At Grace Belgravia we believe in maintaining a strong, healthy body and flexibility is a key component of this. Here, our Posè & Swan instructor, Lemi Ismayilova, guides us through the importance of stretching and the impact it has on your fitness.
Stretching is essential to building muscle and getting fit, as we need flexibility to maintain a range of motion and protect us from strains, joint pains and muscle damage. You won’t achieve the results you want with short, tight muscles as they limit your mobility and prevent you from performing exercises correctly. As boring as it might be, stretching has to be done on a regular basis to keep muscles long, lean and flexible. Patience and consistency are key – it can sometimes takes months to get tight muscles supple and even.
In our classes we combine static and dynamic stretches used by ballet dancers and gymnasts. We work on each muscle from different angles and positions to maximise the effect.
We pay special attention to the muscles crucial for mobility:
- Thoracic Paraspinals -The big spine muscles in the upper back may be the single most common location in the entire body for minor, but frustrating, muscular tension.
- Pectoralis Minor – A fan-shaped muscle of the shoulder girdle, located between the third and fifth ribs. Routinely a cause of significant tightness and pain in the chest and arm.
- The Quadriceps – If left unaddressed, overly-tight quadriceps can affect posture and body mechanics, leading to back pain and predisposing you to hip and knee injuries.
- The IT Band -Tight muscles in your hips or along the side of the leg can be a major contributing factor to IT Band Syndrome. These tissues are all connected, so knee pain could actually mean your hips are the issue.
- Hip Flexors – Shortness and tightness in this muscle has the power to limit your range of motion and prevent you from mastering the most common exercises or poses.
- Hamstrings – When your hip flexors are tight, it causes a pelvic tilt that creates tightness in the lower back, resulting in tight hamstrings.
- Gastrocnemius and Soleus –Your calf muscles may gradually tightened up over months of not stretching effectively before and after training. Tiny micro tears in the muscles cause them to go into spasm.
Get more out of your Barre workout
Posè & Swan aims to re-create the barre workout and make it more functional, focusing on muscle imbalance and overuse. We often see people relying too heavily on quads and neglecting glutes and hamstrings, causing knee pain or injury. This is why good form, isolation and engaged muscles are so important.
The most neglected or underused Gluteal Muscles are:
- The Piriformis – A small muscle located deep in the buttock, behind the gluteus maximus. It helps the hip rotate, turning the leg and foot outward.
- The Tensor Fascia Latae – Muscle is found on the outer hip and helps in flexing and abducting the thigh.
Complications arising from poor posture and muscle imbalance often render both the Gluteus Maximus and the Tensor Fasciae Latae seriously diminished in their capacity. This is why you always hear your instructor repeating “squeeze your bum” or “activate your glutes”. Next time you’re doing Squats, Pliès, Fondus and Grand Battement leg lifts, make sure the movement starts with glute activation.
It’s also important to engage the deep core stability muscles such as the Transversus Abdominis and Multifidus, key for spine, pelvis and back support. All barre exercises require deep core engagement for balance and stability. This is why breathing is so important – subtle movements of the spine during breathing can stabilise the core and help performance.
Want to learn more? Lemi leads fun classes for all abilities several times a week at Grace. Book now with MINDBODY.