By Kassia Portas, Sports Rehabilitation Therapist
Becoming strong and flexible is a hugely important part of reducing your risk of injury, within sport and day to day life. This means building muscular strength alongside flexibility.
What is flexibility? I hear you ask! Flexibility is a component of fitness that describes the movement at one or more joints. The easiest, and most popular method, to measure flexibility being the measurement of someone’s range of motion – how far you can stretch. Flexibility is just one of the components of fitness that can be performed by the human body. The other components are strength, endurance, speed, coordination, and agility. These all contribute to the overall movement of the human body.
There are 4 types of flexibility:
- Dynamic Active
Moving through your available range by your own voluntary effort. This is the one we will focus on in today’s article.
- Dynamic Passive
Being moved through range by someone else, whilst you are relaxed, for example by a therapist or stretch partner.
- Static Active
Engaging a muscle in your end range of movement, without movement occurring.
- Static Passive
Being held in your end range of movement by yourself or someone else, whilst you are relaxed.
During injury therapy, practitioners are often looking for areas that contribute to injuries. A high percentage of that involves finding weak and/or short (inflexible) muscles. A great way to improve both these areas in an efficient way is to work on ‘Dynamic Active’ flexibility, number 1 on the list above! This type of flexibility is something that can be completed by any person and can be amended to benefit any fitness or flexibility level.
Strength exercises can become flexibility exercises by moving in to your ‘end range’, this means that you go into the farthest point of a movement, making sure to do this in a safe and controlled manner. Examples of exercises that can be amended to work on dynamic active flexibility are squats and lunges, oblique crunches, and overhead press. These are all movements that you can amend to increase your individual flexibility level. By performing the movement into your end range, this might be making a movement deeper, you’ll improve your flexibility.
This type of training not only helps improve your flexibility but will also help increase strength into those end range positions. This is massively important for sports that require any level of flexibility. For example, a footballer will swing their leg into hip extension before kicking a ball. If that person’s hip flexibility is restricted, then they’re more likely to pull the stretched muscle. If the muscles around the area aren’t strong enough to control that large range of movement, again that person is more at risk of injury.
Additionally, tightness can occur in muscles due to weakness. I know this sounds counter intuitive but hear me out… If you imagine a weak muscle working as hard as it can to perform movements, even though it’s not as strong as it could be, that muscle will eventually become shorter to try and stay in an engaged state to make the action easier. Passive stretching alone will not help this issue as it’s desperately trying to do its job. By increasing the strength, it will allow the muscle to be able to lengthen again and therefore, be more susceptible to increasing flexibility.
The most common reasons I hear from clients for not working on flexibility is lack of enjoyment and/or lack of time. This version of flexibility training combines both strength and flexibility which, for some, is a more interesting way of increasing flexibility. By amending exercises to focus on both strength and flexibility, you can save time and we could all do with more of that!
If you would like to know more about increasing flexibility and would like any help or advice from our physiotherapists or sports injury therapists, why not book online at our Thornbury, Thornbury Active or Yate clinics.