FLASH SALE: 25% Off Certificates & Diplomas! Sale ends on Friday, 17th January 2020Claim My 25% Discount
Health and Fitness - Flexibility
The Benefits of Flexibility
Most trainers, exercise physiologists, and health care professionals agree that flexibility training, although often overlooked, is an important component of a physical fitness program.
Stretching becomes even more important as athletes achieve advanced levels of muscle strength and endurance. If optimum performance is the goal, then adherence to a consistent flexibility program is required.
This module will help you understand the importance of incorporating flexibility training into your workout routine.
You will also study strategies that will help you develop your personal flexibility and what exactly happens within the body when flexibility is developed.
Proper use of stretching increases flexibility and provides the following benefits:
Reduced potential for injury (i.e., muscle strain or sprain).
Reduced muscle soreness.
Decreased risk and severity of low-back pain.
Increased blood flow to the joints.
Flexibility and Performance
Flexibility is an integral part of a conditioning program and enhances performance by extending the range of motion in which one can optimally perform.
Proper physical conditioning is necessary for successful performance of any physical endeavor.
If you compete in any physical endeavor, you are at high risk for musculoskeletal injuries. Joint stability and consequent protection against injury are best achieved through a flexibility balanced physical conditioning program designed to improve both muscle strength and flexibility.
Strength and flexibility training should be considered interdependent since both are involved in the degree and quality of movement across a joint.
Flexibility and Strength
Muscles that are strengthened should be stretched, and vice versa.
An intense strength workout can cause microtrauma to the muscles, and the process of recovery can shorten the muscles and connective tissue. Stretching prevents this shortening which could contribute to muscle strains or other overuse injuries (e.g., tendonitis, fasciitis).
Flexibility training, without concurrent strength training, weakens the muscles and
connective tissue and places the joints and muscles at risk for sprains, partial and complete dislocations, and muscle strains. Strengthening the muscles surrounding a stretched joint helps stabilize the joint and improve muscular function, thus decreasing the likelihood of injury.
Overstretching may lead to injury; however, as long as a flexibility program is well balanced with strength training, this possibility is negligible.
What is Flexibility?
Flexibility is the ability of a limb to move freely about a joint through a full range of motion.
In other cases, flexibility refers to the optimum range of motion surrounding a particular joint that is necessary for peak performance. Range of motion is specific to each joint and dependent upon:
Joint surfaces and capsule and the degree of movement required for the joint to function.
Muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissue associated with limb movement around a joint.
Strength of the musculature surrounding the joint.
Types of Flexibility
There are two types of flexibility: dynamic and static.
Dynamic or active flexibility refers to the speed attained within a range of motion at the joint during physical performance. This type of flexibility involves the intrinsic musculature surrounding the joint and its ability to overcome resistance to motion.
An example would be the flexibility required to throw a baseball, punch a boxing opponent, or perform a martial arts kick.
Static or passive flexibility refers to the maximal range of motion of a joint during passive movement induced by an external source (e.g., a partner, equipment, gravity). The range of static flexibility is always greater than that of dynamic flexibility.
The Stretch Reflex and the Lengthening Reaction
The stretch reflex and the lengthening reaction are joint-protective mechanisms in which sensory organs, located in the muscles and tendons surrounding a joint, are activated when muscles are stretched.
As seen in Figure 1.1. the two sensory organs involved in monitoring muscle tightness are the muscle spindle cells and golgi tendon organs (GTOs).
Figure 1.1. Graphical Representations of Muscle Spindles and Golgi Tendon Organs
Golgi Tendon Organ
Muscle Spindle Cell
The Stretch Reflex and the Lengthening Reaction (Continued)
The stretch reflex involves muscle spindles which lie parallel to the muscle fiber.
These spindles are very sensitive to changes in muscle length. When the muscle stretches, muscle spindles send signals to the spinal cord, which in turn, sends signals to the muscle telling it to contract in order to protect the muscle from potential tissue damage.
The classic example of the stretch reflex occurs when a physician taps a patient just below the kneecap.
The quadriceps muscle is quickly stretched, and the muscle spindles react by contracting the quadriceps muscle causing the knee-jerk response. The greater or more rapid the stretch, the greater the response of the muscle spindles and the resultant muscle contraction.
The Stretch Reflex and the Lengthening Reaction (Continued)
The lengthening reaction engages GTOs, which are located in the muscle-tendon
junctions, and activates them when the tension in a tendon is increased as a result of either muscular contraction, stretching the muscle beyond its resting length, or a combination of the two.
When muscular tension increases, the GTOs respond by sending inhibitory signals to the muscle; this causes the muscles to relax, and protects the muscles and tendons from tearing due to tension overload.
Knowledge of the stretch reflex and the lengthening reaction is useful for effective stretching.
The most effective stretches are performed slowly, and held for 15 - 30 seconds.
Performing the stretch slowly avoids excessive activation of the muscle spindles and resultant muscular contraction. Holding the stretch allows time for the muscle spindles to adapt to the new muscle length, and eventually, to achieve greater lengths.
The length and duration of the stretch should also be sufficient to activate the GTOs so that they override the muscle spindles and induce muscular relaxation.
END of UNIT
Click NEXT to proceed
Log in to save your progress and obtain a certificate in Alison’s free Health and Fitness - Flexibility, Calisthenics and Plyometrics online course
Sign up to save your progress and obtain a certificate in Alison’s free Health and Fitness - Flexibility, Calisthenics and Plyometrics online course
Please enter you email address and we will mail you a link to reset your password.