Flexibility: Why Missing the Stretch May Sideline Your Workouts
We all know it feels good to stretch, but why is flexibility training so important?
There are three components of fitness: cardiovascular training, strength training and flexibility training. And while many see the importance of cardiovascular and strength exercise, few understand the importance of incorporating flexibility into their workouts.
If you feel stiff in the morning or can’t touch your toes, you might say, “I need to stretch” or “I’m just not that flexible.” But flexibility training is NOT just stretching. Flexibility training focuses on ease of movement and improves the body’s range of motion. It allows you to extend, flex and bend without restriction.
Flexibility training can be divided into two components:
• Lengthening tissue including the muscles and connective tissues such as ligaments, tendons and fascia
• Strengthening the weaker muscles
So why do you need flexibility training?
Flexibility training is essential for maintaining optimal movement, muscle balance and strength. The more ease of movement you have, the more your balance and coordination will improve. Being flexible helps prevent injuries. Tight muscles limit your joint movement and your body’s ability to move in its normal pattern.
If you have never had a full flexibility assessment, here are a few easy movement patterns to check your flexibility.
The Move: Bend forward from the waist and touching the ground
Needs Improvement: Can’t touch the floor with your fingers without bending your knees
Normal: Can touch the floor with your fingers without bending your knees
Injury Potential: Have to bend your knees to bend forward, but many inches from touching the floor
The Move: Turn your head to the side
Needs Improvement: Can’t turn head 90 degrees to both sides, where chin is over shoulder
Normal: Can turn head 90 degrees to both sides, where chin is over shoulder
Injury Potential: Can turn head farther to one side than the other, or neither side turns 90 degrees
The Move: Side bend with fingers sliding down the outer thigh to touch the knee
Needs Improvement: Can’t bend sideways and touch fingers to or past the knees on both sides
Normal: Can bend sideways and touch fingers to or past the knees on both sides
Injury Potential: Can bend sideways, but one side moves farther down than the other or cannot touch one side
These three simple flexibility tests can help alert you to possible neck pain, back pain or even hip pain that may lead to an injury. In the meantime, add some flexibility training to your workout!