Summer Training: Be Flexible

Posted: June 3, 2013 at 12:13 pm

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Flexibility training is an important aspect of any exercise regime. Achieving your optimum level of flexibility increases your body’s resistance to muscular injury by allowing your joints to move through their full range of motion.

Flexibility training targets two different tissue adaptations: elasticity and plasticity. Elasticity refers to the muscles ability to return to original resting length after a stretch. Plasticity refers to the muscles tendency to assume a new and greater length after a stretch, even after the force is removed. The primary goal of stretching is to produce a plastic deformation over time, which causes a permanent increase in our range of motion. Some tips to help achieve this are:

  • Emphasize stretching to the point of minor  discomfort
  • Hold the stretch for at least 15 to 30 seconds
  • Stretch after you have sufficiently warmed up the muscles

There are many factors that influence flexibility, some include: joint structure, age, core temperature, and activity levels. While not all of these factors are controllable, we can implement different practices to increase our flexibility.

Traditionally static stretches are completed during warm ups for the majority of our stretching. Holding positions such as a standing quadriceps stretch, a hurdler stretch, or a basic sit and reach.  Another option is to use active mobility exercises, such as dynamic stretching, to help warm up the muscles dynamically and take the joints through their full range of motion. That is not to say that static stretches do not have their place in routines. It is good practice to use static stretches after the cool down of your workout.

Dynamic stretches use controlled movements to improve range of motion, loosen muscles, increases heart rate, increase body temperature, and increase blood flow to help you exercise efficiently. Dynamic stretching is most effective when it is activity-specific. The best time to perform dynamic stretches is during a warm-up routine. Several examples of dynamic stretches include walking lunges, straight leg kicks, high knee walks, and arm swings. Once your workout is complete it is a good idea to perform a cool down, and then perform those static stretches.  Remember to hold the stretch until you feel a light pull on the muscle. While holding the stretch, be sure to relax. If you are unable to relax, that is a good sign that you may need to lighten the stretch just a little. As you feel less tension you can increase the stretch again until you feel the same light pull. Hold this position, and then relax. You should be able to notice a difference after 3 to 4 weeks.