Flexibility is needed to perform everyday activities with relative ease. To get out of bed, lift children, or sweep the floor, we need flexibility. Flexibility tends to deteriorate with age, often due to a sedentary lifestyle. Without adequate flexibility, daily activities become more difficult to perform. Over time, we create body movements and posture habits that can lead to reduced mobility of joints and compromised body positions. Staying active and stretching regularly help prevent this loss of mobility, which ensures independence as we age. Being flexible significantly reduces the chance of experiencing occasional and chronic back pain.
Purpose of Flexibility Training
It is important to include flexibility training as part of your regular fitness routines. Improved flexibility may enhance performance in aerobic training and muscular conditioning as well as in sport. There is scientific evidence that the incidence of injury decreases when people include flexibility training in their routines due to the enhanced ability to move unimpeded through a wider ROM. The only exception to this would be when there is an excessive or unstable ROM, which may increase the likelihood of injury. When used appropriately, flexibility training allows clients to become more in tune with their body. It is a form of active relaxation that can improve both mental and physical recovery.
Once your workout is complete, you can focus on relaxation and rejuvenation of mind and body. After pushing the body to work hard, it is time to encourage recovery. This is an excellent time for flexibility training because the muscles are warm and pliable, allowing them to stretch farther.
Following are some of the major benefits of flexibility training:
- Reduces stress in the exercising muscles and releases tension developed during the workout.
- Assists with posture by balancing the tension placed across the joint by the muscles that cross it. Proper posture minimizes stress and maximizes the strength of all joint movements.
- Reduces the risk of injury during exercise and daily activities because muscles are more pliable.
- Improves performance of everyday activities as well as performance in exercise and sport.
Frequency of Flexibility Training
Stretching should be included after every workout to encourage improvement and maintain overall flexibility.
Intensity of Flexibility Training
Stretching should never be painful. The focus should be on bringing the muscle to a point of slight tension. Encourage clients to continue their breathing pattern throughout the stretch.
Duration of Flexibility Training
The length of the flexibility component depends on the needs and motivation of the client. In most cases, flexibility training should last at least 5 to 10 minutes. Stretching is one area of the workout that tends to get cut short when time is running out. Don’t assume that clients will perform their own recovery and flexibility once their session with you has ended. Being organized with workout design ensures that there is always time for stretching.
Guidelines for Flexibility Training
- Don’t overdo it; work within your limits.
- Breathe comfortably. Exhale as the muscle lengthens to assist in relaxation.
- Perform flexibility exercises for each muscle group for total-body improvements.
- Work with warm muscles because they lengthen more easily and with less discomfort. The best time to do flexibility training is after the cardiorespiratory workout.
- Modify. You can alter the difficulty of a stretch by paying attention to
- Single-joint versus multi joint movements (complexity),
- Position of the stretch (whether it involves balance),
- Available ROM (individual limits),
- Length of the lever (longer is more difficult),
- Degree of exercise difficulty,
- Chosen stretching technique, and
- Effect of gravity (as an assistance or resistance).
Choose activities that serve two functions: relaxation and flexibility. This does not mean that the entire time has to be spent stretching. There are many methods of flexibility training that promote relaxation, such as yoga, meditation, Pilates, tai chi, visualization, and breathing. Try these alternatives to assist clients in relaxing and encourage them to de-stress from their busy lives.