Being flexible is one great way to add multiple advantages to our physical performance!! The question that I hear the most is usually why stretching and flexibility training are important. To respond to this, I usually list a large number of benefits that flexibility training provides to those who practice it, and it usually goes something like this:
• Improve posture
• Increase ROM (range of motion) at a given joint
• Improve functional flexibility
• Increase nutrition to the joints
• Prevent injuries
• Reduce muscle soreness
• Reduce stress
• Increase personal enjoyment
• Enhance relaxation
Now so that all of you can further understand a little bit of how each of these benefits is obtained, I will explain each of them in further detail.
Flexibility training can help improve and realign skeletal structures that have adapted and become accustomed to incorrect posture and poor exercise technique. With continued flexibility training, people will find it easier to maintain proper posture and coupled with improved muscular balance through resistance training, the efforts of daily activities will become less strenuous and much more efficient.
Increased ROM at a joint
Flexibility training can also help improve your Range Of Motion at a given joint. To reiterate from earlier, Range Of Motion refers to the area of movement available at a given joint. An increase of range of motion at a joint can help provide you with an increased mechanical efficiency and result in safer and more effective movements. To break it down a little, a mobile or flexible joint moves much easier through a range of motion and requires less energy.
Improvement of Functional Flexibility
Functional or “useable” flexibility refers specifically to a given joints movement capabilities and their relation to every day activities. So to improve functional flexibility, ROM should be challenged in a way that closely mimics or relates to daily movement. The same principle is applied to sport specific resistance training when an athlete is attempting to improve a specific skill within their sport.
Increased Joint Nutrition
Increased joint nutrition refers mainly to an increase in blood supply, nutrient delivery and joint synovial fluid. Combining an adequate warm-up along with the popular hold and release method of stretching, helps to increase or elevate the temperature of tissues which in turn increases circulation and the delivery of nutrients through the blood. Also, regular stretching helps to decrease the thickness of synovial fluid which makes it easier for nutrients to travel to and reach cartilage. It can also possibly lead to an increase in movement efficiency within the joint and aid in lessening the degeneration of a joint.
The theory behind flexibility and injury prevention is that a greater ROM makes tissues, such as connective tissues, less resistant to stretch. Therefore, athletes and people who practice flexibility are less prone to injury due to their tissues being able to move through a greater range of motion. Also, because of the greater range of motion, their tissues are less prone to soft tissue damage. Let it be known however that strength and stability training should be present as well to further enhance resistance to injury.
Reduce Muscle Soreness
The role of flexibility in the reduction of muscle soreness can play a large part. Although the physiological reason for how stretching enhances recovery is unknown, apparently research has indicated that slow or static stretching done after exercise can reduce or prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and enhance recovery from exercise. I believe that flexibility aids in recovery after exercise due to the fact that alternating tension and release experienced in the tissues through stretching will promote an increase in tissue temperature, which will then lead to an increase in blood circulation and supply, carrying with it nutrients to be delivered to the tissues. With the nutrients needed for healing and repair quickly delivered, the healing process is underway much sooner and the potential is there for the tissues to be worked again sooner. Additionally, stretching can help to limit post-exercise muscle spasms that could contribute to muscle soreness.
Enhanced Relaxation, Personal Enjoyment & Reduced Stress
Flexibility training helps to reduce and release tension and stress in the muscles. Why do you think Yoga is so popular? When performed in the right atmosphere or the right environment and with the proper technique, stretching can help reduce mental and muscular stress and induce feelings of personal enjoyment. I know that when I finish a session of flexibility training, I feel refreshed and I attribute it to the release of tension from my muscles.
So now that you have a little knowledge on the benefits of stretching and flexibility, hopefully this will prompt you, if you don’t already, to start implementing flexibility training into your workouts.
It's painful at start, but when you regularly do it, you'll found it very exciting and fun!!