A new course is available at Weik University on flexibility. Those interested in sitting through an easy course, no need to look any further because class has just begun.
Everyone is guaranteed an "A" for the course as long as you sit through the course and pay attention (you can take notes if you wish). From there, all you have to do is take what you learned from the course and utilize it during your training protocol.
What Is Flexibility?
According to the ACSM, flexibility is the measure of the range of motion at a joint or group of joints and the ability to move a joint through its complete range of motion.
The ACSM recommends stretching three times a week. You want to stretch 10% beyond normal length or to the point of tension (overload but do not overstretch). You want to hold the stretch anywhere from 10-30 seconds. You should ideally try to achieve 3-5 reps with 4 reps being ideal.
What Determines Flexibility?
There are many things that determine flexibility:
- The shape of the bones and cartilage in the joint
- The length and extensibility of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia across the joint (The length of bone segments impacts range of motion)
- Your personal physical activity
- Tissue interference occurs when either muscle or fat tissue physically blocks a movement, restricting a joints full range of motion
- Hormonal influences on muscle elasticity generally make women more flexible than men (sorry guys, we have a disadvantage)
- Muscle temperature, disease status, tissue interference, gender, age (Increased muscle temperature increases the muscles elasticity)
Flexibility is joint specific. For instance, the shoulder is the most flexible joint in the body. You can move your shoulder in more directions and has more range of motion than any other joint in the body.
The elastic and compliant properties are enhanced by regular stretching of the connective tissues. Stretching exercises have the greatest impact on the connective tissues of the muscles and tendons.
Health Benefits Of Flexibility
There are many health benefits that string from working on your flexibility. By working on and improving your flexibility, you will be able to do daily activities much easier.
For example, those who have problems putting on their shoes and tying them benefit from increased flexibility. People who play sports or workout will find that they have improved athletic performance and fewer injuries. Not to mention that people who have good flexibility have much better posture.
Stretching is a technique that will definitely improve flexibility. Flexibility is a component of fitness and should be worked on as if it were your cardio or weight training session at the gym.
Many people neglect working on their flexibility. This cannot only decrease the quality of their life (for instance, not being able to touch your toes or tie your shoes) but it can also cause injuries due to lack of range of motion.
What Decreases Flexibility?
- Lack of physical activity
- Sedentary living
- Tissue injury
- Joint structure
- Fat (adipose tissue)
When Do You Stretch?
Stretching should be done after cardio or weight training when the muscles are more pliable. Use the ACSM Guidelines above to stretch after a workout.
It is important that when stretching, that you don't hold your joints. It is also important that you do not overstretch. Both of these forms could help save you from an injury.
Types Of Stretching
There are two different types of stretching—active and passive.
- Active stretching is where you are taking the muscle beyond its normal range of motion with assistance (PNF or with the help of a partner).
- Passive stretching allows the muscles and tendons to stretch naturally without the use of additional forces acting on the muscle/tendon. The flexibility gains are not as great with passive stretching as it is with active stretching.
There are four major types of stretching—static, PNF, dynamic and ballistic.
- Static stretching is a technique where the muscle is slowly stretched and then held in the stretched position for several seconds. This type of stretching allows the muscle to be relaxed so that a greater length can be achieved. It is the most frequently used and most recommended type of stretching. There is a low risk of injury with this technique.
- PNF stretching is a much longer stretching session when compared to the other types. It requires a partner's help to utilize this technique. The use of a partner is so that there can be a contraction and relaxation phase. This type of stretching is actually the most effective form of stretching, but it is also considered the most painful type of stretching.
- Dynamic stretching is a technique that many athletes should be accustomed to. This type of stretching can be in the form of leg swing walks or carioca just to name a few. This is a great way for teens to work on their flexibility in a fun way. It allows them to be active and it can be done with groups and teams. This type of stretching goes for more than two seconds and is done without stopping the movement.
- Ballistic stretching is a type of stretching, but it is not recommended for improving flexibility. This type of stretching could lead to muscle soreness and injury because it is possible that this technique could cause small tears in soft tissue due to the bouncing movements that force the muscle to lengthen. Ballistic stretching due to the bouncing, could stretch ligaments too far if the movement is not controlled.
Stretching has many benefits that cannot only help you trainer harder, but it also helps you in life. This is something that many people either forget to do or simply don't care to do following a workout.
As you have read above, this is something that you definitely want to add to the end of your training protocol. The extra 10-15 minutes it takes you to stretch is well worth the time and effort. Some gyms even have stretching machines that you can use while there. I find them to be extremely easy to use and I find I get a much better stretch than I would if stretching by myself. The positives definitely outweigh the negatives, so no more excuses. Start stretching!