Flexibility tips and Tricks

Welcome to flexibility tips and tricks with Rochelle! This is where I write about flexibility drills, exercises, and general stretching thoughts. I hope you enjoy! Sign up here to get these posts via email!

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Shoulder drills, yum! Having mobile shoulders is important, but equally as important is having strong shoulders. But how do we do that without tightening up the shoulders?

~"Won't strengthening my shoulders tighten them up?"~

This is a question I get asked a lot. And it totally makes sense. Wouldn't strengthening the shoulders cause them to tighten up? Here are my thoughts about this...when I tell people they need to strengthen their shoulders, a lot of times they will respond with "But I have great upper body strength. I can do lots of pull ups, push ups, etc." The type of strengthening I am talking about though is more stabilization related. Think exercises that do not require the use of extra weight, but instead only your body weight or a resistance band. These are the types of strength exercises I am referring to. By working on these stabilization exercises, it will cause your back/shoulders to feel stronger and more supported, allowing an increase range of motion to potentially happen.

~Smaller movement is better~

When working with my students, I always say this phrase, especially when it comes to shoulder stabilization. It is so tempting when exercising, to try and create big movement. But with shoulder stabilization, you want to make sure you are super controlling your movement. You want to make sure the correct muscles are engaging to move your body. Sometimes form will be compensated, just so there is "big" movement. I personally would rather see smaller movement with correct muscle engagement, versus huge movement with form being compensated. So when trying these drills, be aware of your technique and correct muscle engagement.

~Seek outside help~

I have worked with such a variety of people: athletes who have been working on their flexibility since they were children, and others who have just recently started getting into flexibility. Some people have naturally tighter shoulders/upper back while others are more mobile. All in all, it has been such a variety of people/flexibility levels. I can honestly say, that I find shoulders/upper back to be one of the most finicky, hard to stretch areas of the body. That being said, I think if you are having any issues with your shoulders, upper back, pecks, ribs, or neck, it would be awesome to consult with a physical therapist or athletic trainer. They might be able to help you understand what is going on in your body. They could help you identify specific weaknesses, injuries, past injury or strain, and many other things. And by identifying any of these problems, it will allow you to train smarter, which will benefit your flexibility greatly.

~Stabilization drills~

The drills I have in my videos are designed to help with general shoulder stabilization. Like I said in the previous paragraph, if you are having any pain in the upper part of your torso, I think it would be a great idea to seek the opinion of a physical therapist. When doing the drills I have in my video, make sure the shoulders are warmed up before hand. And like previous stated, pay attention to your technique and form. Air on the side of doing small movement correctly, versus doing big movement that might have compensated form. You can find my stabilization drills on my Vimeo website at: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/functionalflexibility.

~"But Rochelle, I need to see examples of stabilization drills"~

And you can! Head over to my Vimeo page (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/functionalflexibility )

and subscribe! I have a video of me showing and explaining 15 minutes of stabilization drills. Hope you can check it out!


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Inclinations and standing kicks! Inclinations can be very challenging to learn but once you get the hang of them, they are a great addition to your flexibility routine.

~Inclination inspiration beginnings~

Okay, quick story...so inclination inspiration began with my Instagram live classes during the pandemic. One class, I was forewarning everyone that we were going to be doing inclinations the following class. I wanted to have a fun, alliteration phrase for inclinations and I started asking people for suggestions. And everyone had amazing ideas! After many different phrases were thrown around, someone suggested "Inclination Inspiration", and I was obsessed! So now, whenever I tell one of my students we are going to do inclinations, I always think in my head, inclination inspiration. Anywho, I thought the history of inclination inspiration was important!

~What are inclinations used for?~

Inclinations are technically a body skill in rhythmic gymnastics. Inclinations can be done to the side or front, and traditionally are done without hands. However, they are a great exercise to help with improving flexibility. When practicing inclinations, there is a huge emphasis on leaning the entire body one direction, while the hips go in the opposite direction. This idea of leaning can sometimes be hard to understand. Usually when coaching people, I have to give the cue "keep leaning" multiple times. But once the concept of leaning is understood, the inclinations become much more doable.

~Push the hips forward~

So as I mentioned above, "leaning" is a very important part of inclination. However, as you lean one direction, you have to think about pushing the hips out to the other direction. Looking at the picture of me to the left, you can see how my hips are pushing to the right as I am pulling my leg to the left. There are two reasons for doing this: the first is balance, and the second is to create an oversplit of the legs (as you can see in the photo). And that is why inclination is such a great tool to use in flexibility training: we can practice oversplit, without any apparatus and it helps us work on our active oversplit! yay!

~"I cannot push my hips and lean though!"~

No worries! Inclinations are very hard and there are some variations of inclination you can do. In the video I posted on my Vimeo account, I explain where to hold your leg, depending on where your flexibility level is. Another wonderful part about inclinations is you can do drills for them on the knee. So if balance is super difficult for you, you can practice the inclination on the knee, up against the wall. I go over so many different drills for these in the video I posted. The only thing about the knee/wall inclination that is difficult, is you really have to lean. So if the leaning concept is hard to understand standing, doing inclinations from the knee might make it even more challenging. So I say, try inclinations standing first, and then if they make sense, then you can do them from the knee.

~Examples of front and side inclinations~

Here you can see examples of front and side inclination against the wall. Notice how in each photo I am leaning and pushing my hips in the opposite direction of the lean.

~"But Rochelle, I need to see you do inclination!"~

And you can! Head over to my Vimeo page (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/functionalflexibility )

and subscribe! I have a video of me showing and explaining inclination drills, along with standing kick sequences!

Let me know if you have any questions! Remember to check out my subscription page on Vimeo for more flexibility videos!


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Scorpions and needles...a skill I consider to be one of the most challenging active flexibility skills but absolutely gorgeous to see executed!

~ Scorpion vs. needle~

There are so many different names for this skill. I have heard of scorpion, needle, catch-pull, ring hold, standing back split, and many many more. Whatever you call it, the skill I am referring to is when you are holding your leg behind you. When the leg is bent, I call it scorpion and when the leg is straight I call it needle.

~Why is this skill so difficult?~

This is truly, what I consider to be, one of the hardest active flexibility skills. It requires strength and flexibility in the legs, shoulders, and back. In addition to that, you need to be able to balance on one foot. So often I work with people who maybe have one of the elements needed for this skill, but are lacking others. Training scorpions and needles can be super challenging, but with the correct cues and exercises, it can definitely be achieved.

~Everyone's scorpion will look different~

Based on where your body has more mobility, everyone's scorpion/needles will look slightly different. For example, when I do scorpions/needles, I lean forward slightly. This is because I have most mobility in my hip flexors and shoulders. This does not make my form "incorrect", it just makes it different from someone who has more mobility, say, in their upper back. They won't lean forward as much because that would put the stretch into their hips. So make sure, if you are using someone's scorpion as inspiration, you understand yours might look slightly different.

~Biggest mistake I see with scorpion training~

Everyone's journey to their scorpion is different, buttttttt there is one thing I see that I consider to be a huge mistake when training scorpions. This mistake is related to how people use the wall to help them balance.

Okay, so I am such a fan of using the wall in exercises to help with balance and flexibility assistance! So definitely, when practicing scorpions/needles, use the wall! HOWEVER, be aware of where your arms are when using the wall. The biggest mistake I see when training scorpions against a wall is when a person has a theraband/yoga strap wrapped around their foot and as they are pulling the leg up, they have their arms in front of them, elbows resting against the wall. Their arms are way in front of their face and elbows super super bent. The problem with this is that that does not replicate what a scorpion position would be, at all. Never in scorpion/needles are the arms in front of the body. As you can see from the picture above, they are always back. And shoulder flexibility/strength is a huge part of the scorpion training. By placing the arms in front of the body, you are not practicing a true scorpion position. I talk about this in the latest video I posted on my Vimeo. So if you use a band and wall to practice scorpion/needle, check in with where you arms are.

~5 essential exercises to help with scorpions~

There are so many drills to help with this skill, but these are 5 exercises I have found to be extremely helpful for my needles. Make sure before you do any of these that the back, shoulders, legs, and hips are super super warm! If you need any stretches to help you warm up, I have so many videos to help with that on my Vimeo page: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/functionalflexibility

  1. Arabesque leg lifts: use the wall for support

  2. Low lunge: practice bringing torso back

  3. Low lunge on wall: back leg bent against wall, practicing hips pushing down

  4. Arms bend and straightening behind head

  5. Ring kicks against the wall

~"But Rochelle, I need to see you do these drills"~

And you can! Head over to my Vimeo page (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/functionalflexibility )

and subscribe! I have a video of me showing and explaining all 5 of these drills!

I hope these 5 drills help you with achieving your scorpion/needle! Let me know if you have any questions! Remember to check out my subscription page on Vimeo for more flexibility videos!


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