Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Benefits of Flexibility!

A key component in preventing injury and the ability to maintain a consistent workout throughout your life is flexibility.  Flexibility is a measure of range of motion.  Range of motion is the degree at which you are able to move around your joints. 

Here are some factors that affect flexibility:
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Activity Level
  • Joint Structure
  • Muscle Build
Everyone is affected positively or negatively by one or more of these factors.  Whether or not you are flexible, it is important that you maintain flexibility or also avoid being hyperflexible (hypermobile).  As you age and lose muscle tone your body builds more connective tissue around your joints which makes you less flexible.  Performing movements with resistance, in full range of motion, is helpful in maintaining flexbility.  Resistance training can also be productive in correcting hypermobility issues.

To maintain flexibility it is important to stretch before and after a workout.  Having a stretch session separate from a workout has also been proven to improve flexibility.  The proper way to stretch before a workout is dynamic movements without resistance that are related to the functional or isolated movement you will perform.  This type of stretching is referred to as "warming up".  A warm up should precede your workout and should last 10-15 minutes.

Benefits of a warm up:
  • Preparation for efficient muscle contractions
  • Improved reaction time
  • Improved muscle power and strength
  • More oxygen delivery to the muscles
  • Gradual elevation of heart rate
  • Less risk of injury

Stretching done after a workout is referred to as static stretching.  This can be executed with a partner (passive) or alone (active).  A static stretch can be accomplished by extending a muscle through its full range of motion while relaxed.  Once you have fully extended, to the point of slight discomfort, hold for 15-30 seconds before returning to the relaxed position.  A static stretch is not recommended before a workout.  This kind of stretch can be counterproductive if performed before a resistance training routine focusing on strength and power.  Warming up should entail dynamic movements or light aerobic training.

Static stretching does have its benefits in improving overall flexibility and posture.  After a workout is the best time to perform static stretches.  A separate stretch session can work well too, as long as you precede it with a standard warm up.  Static stretching two times a week has been proven to increase flexiblity which will prevent injury and contribute towards training posture and performance.

Injury prevention is the main reason why flexibility should be maintained.  Amongst all the other benefits that flexiblity has on performance and recovery; staying healthy, active, and consistent with you program overtime presents the best results.


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