Whether you’re looking for the confidence to sit (cross-legged) at the front of your yoga class, or just to be able to touch your toes again, there are things you can do to help inch you towards your goals.

Being the third pillar of fitness (along with cardiovascular conditioning and strength training), your flexibility is an important part of your physical health. Flexibility training is important not only for daily life to ensure good posture and mobility, but also for weight training. Having full range of motion is crucial in order to help prevent injury, and ensuring you’re able to complete exercises that require being able to have full range in your joints (like squats and deadlifts).

The first thing to remember is to not stretch cold muscles. Stretching first thing when you get to the gym without warming up could do more harm than good. Instead, start each session with a dynamic warmup that will get your blood flowing and your muscles and joints limber. Getting your body used to a range of motion with movements like body weight squats, side lunges, jumping jacks and pushups prepares your body for training by making the muscles contract and relax. Then when you’ve finished your workout, do your static stretches focusing on the muscles you worked out.

Remember that you don’t have to save stretching for when you’re working out. Scheduling in stretching sessions throughout the day, or on days off will help you work towards your goal.

You can even work on your flexibility while working out, by focusing on moves that use a full range of motion. Incorporate compound moves that demand the flexibility of your joints, like going full depth in moves like squats. When learning new moves, or getting used to going full depth in moves, start with little to no weights as you build up strength.

If you’re already lifting heavy, and have built up a sizeable amount of muscle, it’s imperative that you work on your flexibility alongside your strength. Stretching out the fascia allows for more room for your muscles to grow, so you’ll actually be doing yourself a favour if size is your goal. Plus, if you’re lifting with constricted muscles and low range of motion, you’re actually putting yourself at risk for injuries like muscle pulls or tears.

If you don’t already go, adding in massage to your health routine is also beneficial for flexibility. Not only is it an opportunity to relax (since stress tenses up the body), but will also help break up knots that restrict movement. If you can’t make it for a massage, adding in some foam rolling pre and post workout helps with preparation and also with flushing away the body’s waste products like lactic acid, and releasing muscle tension.