Flexibility is one of the most overlooked Components of Fitness among both the athletic and non-athletic populations. For the non-athletic, lack of flexibility and a functional range of motion (ROM) around a joint can cause pain and discomfort.
Low back pain syndrome is usually caused by lack of flexibility, poor strength and poor anaerobic endurance in the back and surrounding muscles groups (i.e. hip flexors).
The athletic population does not spend the appropriate amount of time on their flexibility, preferring to spend their time on the more “Showy” Components of Fitness. This decision leads to numerous athletic injuries. Athletes require full functional range of motion and a “reserve” range of motion, particularly when their sport may require a “Ballistic Contraction.”
This is obvious in sports like gymnastics, wrestling, martial arts, track and field, etc., but may not be as obvious in a sport like golf. Without sufficient functional ROM (FROM), the golfer will not perform optimal strokes at best and at worst, risks debilitating injury.
Flexibility Training Tips:
1. Always warm-up before stretching. Muscles can increase their functional range of motion by 30% when warm.
2. Perform each stretch to the point of tight and hold for 30 seconds. When the muscle begins to “loosen-up” and increase its functional range of motion, you can take it into a deeper stretch for an additional 30 seconds (60 seconds total).
3. Never go to the point of pain! When you perform a painful stretch the muscles will react be DECREASING your functional range of motion to avoid potential tearing injuries.
4. Increase the functional range of motion symmetrically. Improve flexibility in all muscle groups equally, especially agonist-antagonist muscle groups.
5. Flexibility exercise increase functional range of motion, but after 4 hours, muscles begin to lose their increased FROM.
6. It is recommended that you perform flexibility exercises everyday to improve functional range of motion and relieve stress.
7. Breathe regularly during stretching.
8. Functional range of motion decreases with age and physical inactivity (though growing evidence suggests that physical inactivity, specifically failure to train flexibility, is the primary reason for loss of flexibility with age).
9. Perform 1-3 repetitions of 1-3 sets utilizing the IFPA Gradual Progressive Overload (GPO) Principle.
10. Static Stretches can be performed anytime on your own using your body weight. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) techniques can be performed with a competent partner or IFPA Certified Personal Trainer. Ballistic stretching should only be performed if required for your specific sport or activity (i.e. ballet).
11. Always use proper form as detailed in the IFPA Book on Personal Training. Correct form is safer and more effective than incorrect form or “cheating” to increase reach.
12. Since Flexibility Training is a very low intensity exercise regimen, it is possible to train everyday, 3 times per day with no ill effect. DO NOT STRETCH an affected area if: – You had a recent bone break or fracture – You had a recent sprain or strain – You had a sharp, acute pain with a joint movement or muscle elongation.
Dr. Jim Bell,
CEO of IFPA