Flexibility is described as the length to which muscles can be lengthened and the resulting joint motion that can be attained. The better flexibility you have the greater mobility you will have in order to move and do functional tasks such as squatting, lifting, walking, running, jumping and getting in and out of a car, chair and bed. The degree of flexibility will vary from person to person. One’s genetics, age, gender, and injury history will have an effect on flexibility. It is important to note that everyone can improve flexibility and at any point in their life- so it’s never too late to start!
- Preserve (or increase) joint range of motion and muscle length
- Preparation for physical activity and relief of muscle soreness after physical activity
- Decrease muscle tightness and stiffness, resulting in greater overall mobility
- Increase blood flow and nutrients to muscles
- Raise tissue temperature for better muscle pliability and injury prevention
- A form of treatment for certain injuries.
- Try to achieve a “moderate” stretch but do not stretch into a painful range
- Listen to your body and respond accordingly by discontinuing your stretch if you feel pain
- Warm-up prior to stretching- try some light cardiovascular exercise for 5-10 minutes
- Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds and perform 3-5 repetitions
- Stretch a variety of major muscle groups
- Try to maintain a balanced and stable position to avoid additional muscular tension
- Breath normal
A static stretch is a slow and passive stretch targeting a specific muscle or muscle group. A dynamic stretch involves active movements. Typically both static and dynamic stretches can be performed before athletic activities. (Examples of dynamic stretches are jumping jacks, body weight squats, and legs swings.) Be careful to not do too much static stretching prior to activity or sport as this can cause some muscle fatigue. A static stretch should additionally conclude your workout routine. It is imperative that you pay close attention to stretching all your major muscles that will be (or where) utilized during your activities.
Flexibility demands will vary based on the sport or activity of participation. A golfer will need a significant amount of trunk rotation, whereas a throwing athlete will require greater shoulder motion, and a gymnastic or martial artist will need overall flexibility of the arms, shoulder, and legs. Without adequate flexibility performance could be impaired, which may result in injury.
Stretches do not need to be strictly regimented. Try varying your stretching activities by using stretching accessories such as a towel. A recent upcoming trend is incorporating yoga into a fitness routine. You may be able to find a class that focuses on flexibility and stretching singularly, or one that incorporates cardiovascular, muscle strengthening, or visualization/meditation.
As we age our muscles shorten and become less pliable due to chemistry changes in the muscle, which has a detrimental effect on flexibility. A loss in flexibility could result in a decrease in mobility and even injury. This results in necessary changes being made to one’s lifestyle due to the manner of operation of the muscles and joints.
Stretches can be performed by individuals of any age, and may help reverse the effects of aging. Through an appropriate stretching regiment, your flexibility should improve. You may notice an increase in the tolerance to each stretch, and greater range of motion and muscle lengthening. It is important to remember that similar to muscle strengthening, you will lose what you’ve gained if you do not maintain on track with your regimen.
If you don’t know proper stretching techniques, don’t fret! Anyone can receive instruction and be taught stretches with some guidance from a sports medicine specialist. If you are interested in working with a ProEx Physical Therapist to incorporate a flexibility program into your fitness routine, please contact us toll-free at 877-776-9843 or via the web at www.proexpt.com. It is important to check with a healthcare professional before starting or changing your stretching routine.