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Flexibility Training

Everyone knows what flexibility is and that stretching helps increase flexibility, but their knowledge on the subject tends to end there. What affects flexibility? Is stretching the best way to increase flexibility? Is more flexibility always better? Flexibility is a broad subject and needs more knowledge to truly be able to feel its effect.

What is Flexibility?

Flexibility is simply a measure of range of motion at a joint. Static flexibility is your passive stretch potential (think about bending over to touch your toes to stretch hamstrings) while Dynamic flexibility is the range of motion you can take your muscle through using a muscular contraction (think about lying on your back and lifting your leg as high as you can with your leg muscles to stretch your hamstring.) You may have static flexibility but lack dynamic flexibility or vice versa, it's up to your day-to-day life or sport to decide which one is best for you.

What Affects Flexibility?

There are always many factors to address when wanting to increase flexibility. One person may be able to greatly improve flexibility while someone else just barely see’s results. Joint structure (ball and socket, hinge, ellipsoidal) can be one of the biggest factors affecting flexibility. Some joints are built to be flexible; others are built to be strong; some are only built to be flexible in one direction while others offer much wider ranges of motion. Age and sex are a big factor as young people and women tend to be more flexible than older people and men. As we age, we undergo a process called fibrosis, where fibrous connective tissue replaces muscle fibers, causing a decrease in flexibility.

How Can I Improve Flexibility?

Anytime we can take a muscle through its full range of motion, we are aiding in adding flexibility. This includes resistance training, static, dynamic and ballistic stretching. When resistance training, we should try to push our bodies through the full range of motion to fully stretch the muscles being used and keeping our muscles from sitting in a shortened position. Static stretching is a stretch held in place for a given amount of time. An example of this is doing the quad stretch for 30 seconds. Ballistic stretching is bouncing stretch where you try to go farther with each rep. this would be like doing a seated toe touch and trying to reach further and further. Before doing ballistic stretching, you should be sure that your muscles are already pretty warm as doing this cold could lead to injury. Dynamic stretching is an active stretch where you use your own muscles to take yourself through a given range of motion. This would typically be done in a fashion to mimic the requirements of your sport or workout.

Flexibility training has shown to increase flexibility with as little as 2 stretch sessions per week. If you already have good flexibility for the activities you do, you won’t need to spend as much time as someone who greatly needs to improve. The immediate improvements seen after stretching can last anywhere between 3 minutes to 24 hours, so depending on the goals, you may need multiple stretch sessions per day.

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