Flexibility: Stretching for Athletes and Accountants.
Why should EVERYBODY stretch?
Flexibility training is the most undervalued component of fitness. While ongoing debate questions its role in injury prevention, athletes and non-athletes can both gain much from a stretching regime.
From a volleyball spike to a rugby drop kick, flexibility of the body’s muscles and joints play an integral part in many athletic movements. Similarly, from a simple brisk walk to a day sat at the desk stretching also plays an integral part in sustaining physical health in the average individual.
In general terms, flexibility has been defined as the range of motion about a joint and its surrounding muscles during a passive movement.
The Benefits of Flexibility Training
By increasing this joint range of motion, performance may be enhanced and the risk of injury reduced. The rationale for this is that a limb can move further before an injury occurs.
Tight neck muscles for example, may restrict how far you can turn your head. If, your head is forced beyond this range of movement it places strain on the neck muscles and tendons. This is applicable to both day-to-day movement and sporting activities.
Muscle tightness increases the risk of injury, and stretching will reduce this risk. The importance now is identifying what kind of stretching is right for the individual and his/her lifestyle.
For example, static stretching prior to taking part in a dynamic sport may not reduce injury risk and dynamic stretching for a relatively inactive day may not be ideal either.
Sports Related Stretching
Tight muscles have been associated with an increased risk of muscle tears, and can be reduced before training or competing with dynamic stretching.
For this reason many coaches now favour dynamic stretches over static stretches as part of the warm up.
Competitive sport can have quite an unbalancing effect on the body. Take racket sports for example. The same arm is used to hit thousands of shots over and over again. One side of the body is placed under different types and levels of stress compared to the other.
A flexibility training program can help to correct these disparities preventing chronic, over-use injury.
Of course, a more flexible athlete is a more mobile athlete. This allows enhanced movement with greater ease and dexterity.
Most individuals will benefit from stretching, as it promotes muscle health and enhanced posture. When the individual does not take part in high intensity or dynamic sports/movements static stretching is most adequate.
Some More Benefits…
Some other benefits of stretchingmay include an increase in body awareness and a promotion of relaxation in the muscle groups stretched.
Types of Flexibility and Stretching
These are the 3 most important types of stretching for you to know about and add to your conditioning plan, depending on your personal goals. Understanding these 3 types of stretching is enough for you to pick which one/s best suits your lifestyle and goals.
1. Dynamic flexibility – the ability to perform dynamic movements within the full range of motion in the joint.
Common examples include twisting from side to side or kicking an imaginary ball. Dynamic flexibility is generally more sport-specific than other forms of mobility.
2. Static Active flexibility – the ability to stretch an antagonist muscle using only the tension in the agonist muscle. An example is holding one leg out in front of you as high as possible. The hamstring (antagonist) is being stretched while the quadriceps and hip flexors (agonists) are holding the leg up.
3. Static Passive flexibility — the ability to hold a stretch using body weight or some other external force. Using the example above, holding your leg out in font of you and resting it on a chair. The quadriceps are not required to hold the extended position.
A flexibility training program can be made up of different types of stretching.
Which type of flexibility training is best?
As discussed, this completely depends on the individual, the sport and the outcomes – something which will be examined more closely in the articles below. Here’s a clue… as a general rule, dynamic stretches are used as part of a warm up and static stretches is used for increasing range of motion.
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