Okay, this may be a crappy analogy, but if I was to describe an ideal training regime to the components found in a hamburger, it would be this:
Top and Bottom Bun – Proper Diet
Lettuce – Cardio Training
Tomato – Strength Training
Meat – Flexibility Training
You can’t have a hamburger without the actual meat! Similarly, you can’t go ont training without flexibility training!
What is Flexibility?
Flexibility is a “measure of the range of motion around a joint or series of joints. It is most limited by the joint’s physical structure, such as the bone, connective tissue, and muscle. It can be improved with training” (Anderson et al., 2008)
There are two main methods of flexibility training: Static and Dynamic Stretching.
Static Stretching: Holding a stretched position for ~20 sec, and repeat 2 – 3 times
Example: Cobra Stretch (Yoga term, yeryeryer) for your abs
Purpose: Overcome the stretch reflex and coax a joint into a wider ROM
Pros: Easy, usually very safe
Cons: Only improve flexibility at specific body position, not so effective for those increasing ROM at multiple joints
Dynamic Stretching: In simple terms, it is movements that contracts a set of muscles (aka, agonist muscles), while stretching the opposite set (aka antagonist muscles).
Example: Supporting on 1 leg, swing the other leg like a pendulum – Hip flexor muscles act as the agonist muscles, while your hamstring muscles act as the antagonist muscles.
Purpose: warms up joints, maintains current flexibility, and reduces muscle tension.
Pros: Good for Wide ROM, especially when speed is involved
Cons: more prone to injuries than static stretching
Why is Flexibility Training so important?
To perform daily activity with ease. It’s that simple. Unfortunately, it will deteriorate with age, often due to a sedentary lifestyle. As a result, our bodies will compensate for the lack of flexibility by creating reduced mobility movements and poor postures. And as we all know, poor posture can lead to chronic bodily pain. Unless there is an excessive or unstable Range of Motion (ROM), flexibility training generally decreases the likelihood of injury, while enhancing performance in cardio training, muscular conditioning, and in sports.
To allow you to visual the importance of flexibility training, the picture to the right, that is grandma and she is 74 years old. Yeah, WHAT UP!
What are the benefits in Flexibility Training?
- Reduces stress and tension in exercised muscles
- Enables proper posture by balancing tension throughout muscles
- Reduces risks of injury
- Improves performance of everyday activity
How often should I perform Flexibility Training?
Static stretching after every workout
Dynamic stretching, should be part of your warm-up, before every workout
Stretch each muscle group for total-body improvement
Best time to stretch is after a cardio workout (i.e/ after a light jog) because your muscles are then warm and pliable
How intense should my stretching be at?
Slight tension, never painful. Remember, breathing is key in stretching!
How long should the entire flexibility training be?
~5 – 10 min
Anderson, G, M, Bates, S. Cova, and R. Macdonald. Foundations of Professional Personal Training. Human Kinetics. Canadian Fitness Professionals Inc. 2008.