Flexibility training

Flexibility training is often the most overlooked and underused aspect of training programs. Often just a 30 second afterthought as we make our way to the changing rooms, a quick flailing of limbs, we don't expect it to contribute much to the achievement of our fitness goals. Indeed it won't if that is the extent of your flexibility regime. But could we be sabotaging our efforts in the gym by neglecting what many now consider a very important fitness tool?

Flexibility training

First of all let us define flexibility. It is the range of movement in a joint or series of joints that is attainable in a momentary effort.

So now that we know what it is what are the benefits of flexibility training?

For anyone involved in sports an increased range of movement will help generate more power for any type of movement for example throwing or kicking.

Good flexibility allows for easier movement around the playing field or court. Flexibility training can help to balance out an unbalanced body. Chronic overuse of a muscle group can lead to injuries if the muscle is not stretched out properly and regularly. Regular stretching can decrease the risk of injury as the greater your range of movement the less risk of muscle strain.

Flexibility training allows for better posture. There are several types of stretching.

The most common type is static. This is where you take a muscle to its outer range, where you feel the stretch, and then hold it, typically for at least 20 seconds.

Another type of stretching is dynamic stretching. Sometimes known as active stretching, it replicates the kind of movements common in sports. Dynamic stretching involves taking a muscle through its entire range of motion starting with a small movement and gradually increasing range and speed.

PNF is another popular type of flexibility training. It is commonly used by physiotherapists and other sport injury professionals. It consists of a muscle being passively stretched, then contracted isometrically through resistance, and then being passively stretched again through the resulting increased range of motion. It requires the use of a partner to provide resistance through the isometric contraction and then to take the muscle to its new range of motion.

So now we know the why we should stretch and how we can stretch, when should we stretch? The best time to stretch is when your muscles are warmed up. You can stretch immediately after a cardiovascular workout. If you are not doing a cardio workout that day and just want to do flexibility training make sure that you do some brief aerobic activity especially if you are feeling stiff or if the weather is cold. Do not stretch immediately after resistance training. Resistance training creates micro tears in the muscle fibres and if you stretch immediately this will cause further tears which will be counterproductive. The optimal time to stretch following resistance training is 4 hours later when the repair process has already started.

Flexibility training

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