What is Flexibility?
It is your ability of moving a joint through its complete range of motion without any hindrance. Although it may vary from person to person and joint to joint, minimum range of motion is still quite essential for maintaining your joints, bones and overall health.
Body flexibility can also be understood as the mobility of your soft tissues including muscles, ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, and skin. They surround the joint or set of joints so as to allow a painless and free movement of your limbs and body parts.
Types of Flexibility
- Dynamic flexibility also known as kinetic flexibility refers to active movements of muscles so as to reach the full range of motion in joints.
- Active flexibility or static-active flexibility is the ability to assume and maintain an extended position using only the tension in your muscles.
- Passive flexibility or static-passive flexibility is similarly the ability to assume and maintain extended positions using your weight, limbs or some external prop.
For most people, it is the active flexibility that’s harder to develop. Except that it depends on both your passive flexibility and muscle strength so as to be able to assume and maintain an extended position.
But while flexibility can normally deteriorate over time especially with aging, there are a number of factors that can affect it. Let’s take a look.
There are three types of flexibility, normally being the active one the hardest to develop
Factors that Affect Flexibility
Flexibility is influenced by a lot of factors which could be internal and external. While most of them can be managed with regular stretching and training, some of them are innate like aging and gender which cannot be controlled.
Factors such as:
- Lack of physical activity and stretching
- Too much of physical activity without sufficient stretching or warm-up
- Physical injury, disability or medical condition
- The type of joint
- The resistance within a joint
- Bony structures that may limit the movement
- The elasticity of muscle tissue, tendons, ligaments and skin
- The ability of muscles to relax and contract so as to achieve maximum range of motion
- The temperature of the joint and connected tissues
can ultimately lead to fatigue, wear and tear thus shortening of soft tissues around your joints and bones which can ultimately limit the flexibility of your body.
Yet the most common factors responsible for lack of flexibility are bone structures, muscle mass, excess fatty tissues and connective tissues. These factors including physical injury can impose a lot of internal resistance and restrictions on your flexibility as well as range of motion.
To counter that, you need proper and regular stretching as it’s been proven that stretching can help improve both flexibility as well as range of motion.
Benefits of Stretching for Flexibility
- Improved range of motion of joints
- Enhanced physical performance
- Reduced risk of injury
- Optimization of muscle functions
- Increased blood and essential nutrients supply to joint structures
- More quantity of synovial joint fluid
- Better neuromuscular coordination
One of the main benefits of flexibility is the reduced risk of injury.
Now, despite being an essential component of physical fitness, flexibility is unfortunately the most neglected one not only among common people but fitness enthusiasts and athletes alike. And that’s one of the reasons why many sportsmen end up having shorter careers than expected.
Therefore, stretching is something that should not be overlooked regardless of what you do– be it weight lifting, HIT (High-intensity training) such as crossfit, yoga, Pilates, or even Tai-chi.
Here’s what you should do for a safe and effective stretching to improve your flexibility.
How to Stretch for Maximum Flexibility?
In order to reap the benefits of stretching, you must include a regular stretching module into your daily workout routine.
You can stretch whenever you want and wherever you want, but with a proper form and technique because incorrect stretching will only do you more harm than good.
With that being said, let’s take a closer look at some of the essential aspects of stretching that you should consider before getting on with it:
- Stretching isn’t a warm-up so start with something to activate your muscles like jogging, biking or jumping-jacks. Stretching on cold muscles can actually hurt you and cause unnecessary wear and tear.
- Focus on your alignment, symmetry and balance during stretching or any other exercise for that matter.
- Do not tilt or bounce unnecessarily rather maintain a smooth and steady position.
- Cover all your major muscle groups including muscles that are used in your daily schedule, as well as the ones that remain inactive or not used enough throughout your day. Also minimize the movement of other body parts when stretching a specific muscle group.
- Hold and maintain your stretch for 20-30 seconds in the beginning while slowly taking it to 1-2 minutes after some experience.
- Stretch daily or at least 5 times a week.
- Stretch to create tension but not pain. If you feel any discomfort and pain, it means you’ve gone too far. So, get back to a comfortable position.
- Last but not the least, BREATHE while stretching.
Research also shows that water is as important as your diet when it comes to improving flexibility. Increased intake of water improves mobility and provides total relaxation.
All-in-all, stretching is the key to improving flexibility at any given day regardless of your age and gender.
A freelance writer, a poet and an avid reader. He’s a passionate wordsmith who believes in writing content which is simple, beautiful and informative. He’s a practised communicator coached by British Academy.
Apart from being a playful scribbler, he’s a hardcore music fan and loves exploring space and science. He is also a spiritual soul and fitness enthusiast. Yoga, meditation and workout are some of his favourite health activities.