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So you wanna…Get Flexible!

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It’s an age old question, “How can I get more flexible?” In fact, even the experts debate the topic. The common questions related to “How to get flexible” can be answered with applied science and good old common sense.

Get Well

Being flexible is more than just about being able to touch your toes. The benefits of increased flexibility have been linked with improved range of motion, functional ability, posture, and circulation. Some claim that improved flexibility not only helps to decrease stress and tension but it can reduce your chances of injury, pain and dysfunction. That said, it is important to know that flexibility is only one part of the fitness and wellness continuum. Research has shown that preventing injury takes more than just stretching. Muscular strength and balance, cardiovascular endurance, proper hydration, good nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle are related factors that will allow you to maximize the benefits of good flexibility.

Get an Idea

The key to success is to get an idea about what type of flexibility is necessary for you. Flexibility refers to the ability move through a range of motion without injury or trauma. It’s determined by the elasticity of surrounding muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other structures. There are three types of flexibility. Static Flexibility is the ability to assume and maintain a specific range of motion for a particular joint. Dynamic Flexibility is the ability to perform movement throughout a range of motion at various speeds and across multiple joints. Ballistic Flexibility involves movement performed throughout a range of motion at high speeds and involves an explosive generation of momentum across multiple joints.

Most people need both static and dynamic flexibility for everyday and recreational activities. If the primary goal is to be able to tie your shoes and perform activities of daily living, then you should focus on static stretches and only key dynamic stretches. If you are a kicker for a professional football team, or participate in martial arts, you should incorporate ballistic stretching into your program.

Goal Activities Type of Stretching
Activities of daily living Tying your shoes, stair climbing, leisurely walks Focus on static with some dynamic stretches
Recreational sports and endurance activities Fitness programs, running, biking, recreational sports Equal static and dynamic stretches with some ballistic stretches
Explosive, high impact sports and activities Martial arts, football (kicking), soccer, rugby Equal static, dynamic, and ballistic stretches

Get off to a good start

Warm up first with low level aerobic activities. For a lasting effect, stretch after vigorous activity and allow your muscles to cool down in the “stretched” position. Most people should stretch at least three times a week.

Get it in gear

Static Stretching

  • Do…
    • Start slowly. Stretching doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Start with holding a stretch for 10 seconds, increase to 20 then 30 second stretches as you improve. Stretches can be held for 1-2 minutes. Try to match the duration of the stretch to the activity it is intended for.
    • Understand the purpose of the stretch
    • Use good technique
    • Relax and breath easy
  • Don’t…
    • Twist
    • Bounce
    • Stretch to pain

Dynamic Stretching

  • Do…
    • Take up the stretch position and hold.
    • Move only one joint motion at a time.
    • Move the joint slowly and smoothly through the range of motion.
  • Don’t…
    • Force the stretch
    • Hold your breath
    • Stretch to pain

Ballistic Stretching

  • Do…
    • Make sure you warm up with static and dynamic stretches
    • Start the stretch at medium speeds within your range of motion
    • Progress the stretch by increasing the speed and range of the stretch
  • Don’t…
    • Force the stretch
    • Hold your breath
    • Stretch to pain

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