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Home Training Living in Fitness Flexibility Articles to Help You Feel Better and Perform Better

Flexibility Articles to Help You Feel Better and Perform Better



Flexibility Articles to Help You Feel Better and Perform Better

 

You should perform flexibility exercises everyday to help your body feel and perform better. Flexibility is the normal extensibility (capable of being elongated or stretched) of all soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons) that allow the full range of motion of a joint. Flexibility training integrates various stretches in all three planes of motion to produce maximum extensibility of tissues. You may have to undergo some corrective flexibility training based on your postural assessment or based on previous injuries incurred.

 

 

Summary of Benefits of Flexibility Training:


1. Corrects muscle imbalances
2. Increases joint range of motion
2. Relieves joint stress
3. Decreases excessive tension of muscles
4. Maintains the normal functional length of all muscles
5. Helps to achieve optimum neuromuscular efficiency

 

 

Different Types of Stretching:


Static Stretches - Static stretching is generally safe and a good place to start for beginners and sedentary individuals. These stretches are performed without movement. The individual gets into and holds the stretched position for 20-30 seconds. The different types of static stretches are:

1. Passive
2. Active
3. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation(PNF)
4. Isometric

Dynamic Stretches - Dynamic stretches are performed with movement. The individual uses movement to increase range of motion and flexibility.

1. Ballistic
2. Dynamic
3. Active Isolated

 

 

The importance and timing of static and dynamic stretching


When someone says, "You need to stretch out before you workout," what does that mean? Well, you might get five different answers from five people. First, you need to know the different kinds of stretches available to you. Then, depending on your exercise goals, choose the best flexibility program for you. You might need assistance from a fitness professional if you are a beginner or you are rehabilitating an injury. Let's start by defining the different types of stretches:

Static Stretches - Static stretching is generally safe and a good place to start for beginners and sedentary individuals. These stretches are performed without movement. The individual gets into and holds the stretched position for 20-30 seconds. The different types of static stretches are:

1. Passive - This type of stretch requires you to use another person or object to assist you. The person who assists you should be careful when applying the stretch and any object used should be stable. The advantage of this type of stretching technique is that it allows you to reach a greater range of motion. Passive stretching is often used to stretch the chest and shoulders.

2. Active - Active stretching uses opposing muscles (antagonists) to stretch the targeted muscles (agonists or prime movers). The opposing muscle is contracted and the targeted muscle is relaxed and stretched. Lifting your leg straight out and holding that position while standing is an example of an active stretch.

3. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation(PNF) - This type of stretching should be used with great caution. Your partner should also be knowledgeable about PNF stretching techniques. This type of stretching is good for targeting specific muscle groups, increasing range of motion and improving strength. The hamstring stretch is good for applying this stretching technique. While lying on your back, you would contract your hamstrings while your partner holds your leg in place during the stretch. The stretch would last for about 5 seconds. The hamstrings are relaxed, the partner then immediately and safely pushes the muscle group past its normal range of movement for 20-30 seconds. That would be one repetition. Rest for about 30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times.

4. Isometric - This form of stretching is similar to passive and PNF stretching except that the contractions are held longer. Isometric stretching is very demanding and is not recommended for children or adolescents still growing. Only one isometric stretch per muscle group should be performed. An example of an isometric stretch would be to contract the calf muscles for 10-15 seconds during the leaning calf stretch. Relax for 20 seconds and repeat 3-5 times.

Static stretches should be done after your workout to return your muscles to their normal length.

Dynamic Stretches - Dynamic stretches are performed with movement. The individual uses movement to increase range of motion and flexibility. The different types of dynamic stretches are:

1. Ballistic - I do not recommend this type of stretching because it uses rapid bouncing and swinging motions to force the body part past its range of motion. Other forms of stretching are available and less risky.

2. Dynamic - This type of stretching uses controlled movements to increase range of motion. Unlike ballistic stretching, the body part is never forced past the joints normal range of movement. Shuffles, backpedals and running-in-place are exercises that can be used during a dynamic warm-up. Research shows that a dynamic warm-up prepares an athlete's body best for competition.

3. Active Isolated - This type of stretching works by contracting the opposing muscle group which causes the stretched muscle group to relax. The stretch is held for 2 seconds. Repeat the stretch 5-10 times.

 

 

Self myofascial release techniques


When the average person thinks about flexibility and stretching, self myofascial release with foam rolls (SMFR) is not what comes to mind. Basic static stretching will probably be thought of first by most people. As was discussed in part 2 of this series, static stretching has its part in a comprehensive flexibility program. Flexibility is important in order to maintain elasticity in our muscles to help prevent injuries. SMFR should be a part of your flexibility program.

You can increase your elasticity in the muscles by improving your flexibility. This will improve your performance. SMFR is like getting a massage. The foam roller is one of the most effective techniques for releasing tension while improving mobility. Foam rolling exercises will release and organize your muscles, as well as release and align your skeletal system. Muscle injuries such as strains and tears and broken bones can be avoided with proper flexibility and skeletal alignment. You'll immediately feel the effectiveness of SMFR and its something you can do every day at home. You will basically be your own massage therapist. Listed below is a summary of the benefits of SMFR:

1. SMFR releases tension in your muscles due to overuse, tightness and aging.
2. The SMFR process restructures and realigns your skeletal system.
3. The SMFR process improves balance and body awareness.
4. SMFR can be used in the rehabilitation process and massage therapy.
5. SMFR can be used for Pilates exercises.

Here is an example of a SMFR hamstring exercise:

1. Place hamstrings on the roll with your hips unsupported.
2. Crossed your feet to increase leverage.
3. Roll from knee toward posterior hip.
4. If a "tender point" is located, stop rolling, and rest on the tender point until pain decreases by 75%.

 

 

Rehabilitative flexibility

The initial recovery period from a serious injury begins with you working with a physical therapist. This article will primarily cover what you must do to regain the flexibility and strength of the injured area. Keep in mind that the rehabilitation process is a team approach---you, your physical therapist and your personal trainer.

You should rehabilitate the injured area as follows:

1. Restore the range of motion.
2. Restore flexibility and strength of the injured area.
3. Regain balance lost because of the injury.

You should proceed with caution when you begin any exercise. Stop any exercise that causes pain. Continuing an exercise in pain will only set your rehabilitation back.

Restoring the range of motion is critical because it lays the groundwork for future training. Range of motion should be restored in all 3 planes of motion. For example, if you had a knee injury, you might have to begin your exercises with partial range of motion (working towards full range) in one plane. You would gradually work towards including exercises that required sideways, rotating, twisting or turning actions.


Once range of motion is restored, you can then begin to introduce light weight training exercises and stretching exercises to strengthen the injured muscles, tendons and ligaments. It is also important to stretch and strengthen the areas around the injured area. Use of machine weights, isometric exercises (the injured area contracts but doesn't move), resistance bands or bodyweight exercises are all good in the rehabilitation process.

Balance and proprioception (limb position sense in 3D space) must be restored or the injury will probably reoccur. When a part of the body is injured, the nerve cells in that area are also damaged. This affects your control and the stability of the joint structures. Once you have regained some strength and flexibility, you should begin to do balance exercises. You could start with simple exercises like walking in a straight line and progress to one-legged or closed-eyed exercises. You would then gradually progress to stability ball exercises, foam cushion exercises, BOSU exercises, etc.

The rehabilitation process can not be rushed. Trying to come back too fast from an injury will almost certainly lead to reinjury.


 

 

 

About the Author:

Mark Dilworth, BA, PES, CPT is a Certified Personal Trainer and former NCAA Division I athlete. Mark’s Fat Blaster Athletic Training System has been proven to give his clients the fit, sculpted and athletic-type bodies they want. Visit Mark’s sites:

My Fitness Hut http://myfitnesshut.blogspot.com

Her Fitness Hut http://herfitnesshut.com


Sports Fitness Hut http://sportsfitnesshut.blogspot.com



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