The Importance of Flexibility
If you have ever done physical therapy your flexibility has probably been addressed. But what is flexibility and why is it so important?
Flexibility is the amount of movement in a joint. Often times the amount of flexibility can depend on the joint itself. As you have probably noticed some joints have more movement than others. Your shoulder joint (ball and socket joint type) moves in many more directions than your elbow joint (hinge joint type). This can play a role in flexibility. Flexibility is also affected by age, temperature, ability to relax and many others.
But why does flexibility play such an important role in injury prevention and injury healing? How your muscles are able to move helps keep your body in balance. In all of your joints in the body while one muscle is shortening, another is lengthening. Take your knee for example; when you bend your knee, your hamstring (back of leg) is shortening, while your quadriceps (front of leg) are lengthening. What would happen if you didn’t have good flexibility in your hamstrings or your quadriceps? One would move and one wouldn’t move, causing your body to compensate for the action. When you compensate for the action you are using different movements or muscles to assist the non-flexible muscle to complete the action. They may be you land on a different part of your foot, or put more weight on the outside of the knee. These factors can all change your biomechanics, or the way your body moves. If you have altered biomechanics, your body is not aligned how it is meant to be. This can place stress on different muscles, ligaments, joints and tendons which may start to cause pain.
So you know that you need flexibility for injury prevention and to help keep your body in line.
What are some ways you can increase your flexibility?
- Stretch daily
- Drink lots of water
- Breathe deeply and relax
Here are some large muscle group stretches you can do to help increase your flexibility:
Arm Across Body
Take one arm and bring it across the body. Take your other arm and place your palm just above the elbow to assist in the stretch.
Stand next to a wall place your hand on the wall just above shoulder height. Lean forward and allow your chest muscles to stretch.
Take one leg and bring your foot up to your butt, make sure to keep your knees close together. Also, use a piece of furniture or the wall for balance if needed.
With feet wider than hip width apart, bend at your waist keeping your legs straight. Bend straight forward and then alternate going to each side.
Using the wall for support; place the leg you are going to stretch one step behind the other. Put your hands out onto the wall and slowly lean forward, keeping your back leg straight and bending your front leg.
I’d love to hear what types of exercises you find helpful in staying fit and while training. I’d also like to invite the readers to join us at OSI for Sports Performance training to stay on top of your game and to stay off the bench!