Flexibility simply refers to the range of motion
Stand where you are right now and reach for your toes, keeping your legs straight. If you get there, congratulations, you are one of the very few people that can. If you’re currently touching your knees (or thighs), you’re like the overwhelming majority of people-inflexible and primed for injury.
Of course, this is a very simple way to address the issue of flexibility. But what exactly is it?
Flexibility simply refers to the range of motion in a joint or group of joints, or the ability to move a joint through a full range of motion.
For some people, flexibility comes easily. For others, a lot of work is required.
Flexibility is an important aspect of fitness due to the following reasons:
- It increases your range of motion. Limited range of motion can lead to pain, injury, and poor overall performance.
- You’ll be hurt less. Remember that old children’s song “the knee bone’s connected to the foot bone…”? Well, it’s a good, albeit simple, way to describe how your body works. Everything is connected, and everything works together to perform daily activities. As a result, when one part of your body is injured, other parts will try to take over the job. This can lead to imbalances and, ultimately, injuries. For example: if your ankle joints have a poor range of motion, you will start to walk incorrectly because all of your muscles are trying to compensate. Eventually your hips will get sore, your back will get sore, and you’ll be miserable and immobile.
- Your strength will improve. Flexibility leads to optimal motor control and the ability to effectively recruit muscle fibres. Simply put, well stretched muscles contract more efficiently.
So how do I improve my flexibility?
In order to improve your flexibility you will need to stretch as often as possible. Flexibility takes a substantial amount of time to obtain, and quite easily regresses when not practiced. There are many different approaches to stretching, the most popular of which is static stretching (inwhich the stretch is held in its end position). The reason for this is that it is considered both safe and effective.
In order to get an effective stretch, follow the following guidelines set out by the American College of Sports Medicine:
- Aim to stretch at least twice per week, more if you are feeling particularly tight
- Stretch when your muscles are warm: after a workout or a bath
- Stretches should be held to the point of producing a slight pull, but not to the point of producing pain
- Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds
- Perform each stretch 3-5 times
- Breathe normally and relax
- Keep still-don’t bounce
When one stretches, one should focus on all major muscle groups, as well as areas that are prone to tightness. Some areas prone to tightness are the quadriceps (front of thighs), hamstrings (back of the thighs), hip flexors (front of the hips) and calves.
While it isn’t necessary for the average person to be able to bend themselves into a pretzel, flexibility can have real benefits when it comes to your overall functionality and fitness. Try to stretch after every workout and you’re sure to feel the benefits!
by Chanel Serfontein