How To Gain Flexibility

by Robert Laudani

Flexibility is the range of motion (ROM) around a specific joint. The ability to move a joint freely and without pain is important for daily life, as well as general physical activity and sports performance. If a person experiences tightness or stiffness in their muscles or joints their ability to perform specific movements will be restricted.

Flexibility training or stretching can be performed to enhance or maintain adequate ROM. Here are four types of stretching techniques:

1. Static

This involves passively stretching a muscle to the point of mild discomfort by holding it in a maximal stretch for an extended period of time. Generally, the stretch should be held between 10 – 60 seconds. Static stretching is known to be the most popular, safest and relatively effective form of stretching.

2. Ballistic

This is referred to as bouncing or a series of quick bounces in and out of a person’s joint mobility or ROM. It is deemed as an inappropriate form of stretching as it induces muscle contraction, instead of muscle relaxation and stretching.

3. Dynamic

Involving a gradual transition from one body position to another and a progressive increase in reach and ROM as the movement is repeated several times. E.g. this technique incorporates sport specific movements that are exaggerated but controlled such as high knees, lunges and variations of run throughs during a warm-up.

4. PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation)

This method involves an isometric contraction of the selected muscle group followed by static stretching of the same group. Generally, this technique involves a partner actively stretching the participant, which involves a 10 second push phase followed by a 10 second relaxation phase and is repeated. PNF may produce greater flexibility benefits than other techniques, however there is a tendency to overstretch.

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Image credit: Polar Australia, Running Bare, 2XU