Are You Flexible?

What is flexibility?  Essentially, flexibility is the ability to perform pain-free movement around the joints with the help of muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, together with the joints.

What is stretching? The appropriate definition would be: a type of movement or exercise done to achieve increased flexibility for general well-being, sports-specific reasons or rehabilitation purpose.

While being flexible is highly beneficial in general fitness, being hyper-flexible can cause you physical damage.  Therefore, it is essential to incorporate a safe stretching routine with proper stretching techniques.

Finally, prior to begin any flexibility program, it is wise to have a flexibility assessment done by a trained professional.  The major benefits to any flexibility program and subsequent results will include:

1. Increased movement around a joint
2. Injury prevention and treatment
3. Increased co-ordination
4. Improved circulation
5. Decreased soreness due to other activity

Types of stretches are either 1) static (slow / without movement, sustained) or 2) passive (static with the assistance of another person).

Even though this article focuses primarily on static stretching which is safe and effective for the general public, other methods of stretching also common in the world of sports and rehabilitation, are passive, active, PNF and dynamic.

Word of Caution:
With the exception of static stretching, it is mot advisable to attempt other forms of stretching without a guidance of a trained fitness professional, as if improperly done, these methods could do more harm than good.

12 musts for a good flexibility program (DYI):

1. Do not stretch if you are recovering from a trauma or injury due to a recent fracture, infection, inflammation or if you experiencing any sharp pain or have any  medical condition. (Always consult the appropriate professional prior to engaging in any flexibility program).

2. Proper warm up before stretching

3. Target all major muscle groups

4. Hold each stretching exercise for 40-60 seconds and repeat 2-3 times

5. Minimum of 4-5 day per week

6. Proper breathing is important (exhale when you feel the stretch)

7. Only stretch to the point of slight discomfort and never to point of pain

8. Do not bounce or jerk while you stretch

9. Do not force the movement

10. Only use recommended routine and exercise and body position

11. Do not over stretch or stretch weak muscles without guidance

12. Hold the stretch in natural range of motion

Always remember to warm up for 5 – 10 minutes, then follow with your cardio vascular or resistance training.  Finally, end your exercise with static stretches and ultimately you will enjoy flexibility throughout your active life and you will be able to better minimize injury the next time you bend, reach or twist.

Ranil Harshana
Fitness Consultant & Performance Coach
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