Few would argue against the
fact that flexibility is an important component of fitness and a critical
factor in achieving peak physical potential. However, flexibility is
often overlooked or misused. Many people emphasize their
cardiovascular or strength training, and pay little attention to their
flexibility. Flexibility training contributes to enhanced muscular
relaxation, improved range of motion within joints, improved muscular
balance, enhanced speed of movement, reduced injury occurrence for certain
activities, and improved performance of certain sport-related activities.
It is important to include flexibility training in all your fitness
programs, especially since research suggests that injuries do occur as a
result of tight or stiff muscles.
Flexibility is the range of
motion within a joint along the various planes of motion. There
are a number of factors that can limit joint mobility including: genetic
inheritance; the joint itself; connective tissue elasticity within the
muscles, tendons, or skin surrounding a joint; strength of the opposing
muscle group; and neuromuscular coordination. Flexibility training
minimizes the factors that limit flexibility to help balance muscle groups
that might be overused during physical training sessions or as a result of
There are two basic types of
flexibility: static and dynamic. Static flexibility involves
a slow, gradual, and controlled elongation through a full range of motion.
Dynamic flexibility involves movement through a range of motion
with an emphasis on maintaining both speed and force. Many trainers
feel dynamic (or ballistic) stretching is a higher risk technique and
should be avoided unless specifically needed to prepare for a ballistic
The benefits from flexibility
Increased physical efficiency
Decreased risk of injury.
Increased blood supply and
nutrients to joint structures.
Improved nutrient exchange.
Improved muscular balance and
Decreased risk of low-back
Reduced muscular tension.
Enhanced enjoyment of the
physical training program.
Flexibility training should be
incorporated into both your pre-session warm up and post-session cool
Your warm-up is
the key to unlocking tight muscles, which is the cause of injury. Hold each stretch for
a minimum of 10-20 seconds, breathing slowly through your nose, aiming to
exhale out through your mouth as you ease into the stretch.
Once you have finished any form of physical activity,
they cool down will help you to
gradually allow your heart rate and breathing to lower to a comfortable level,
where talking can be performed with ease. Light aerobic exercise such as walking
or easy indoor cycling are good, as both of these will allow you to hydrate
yourself and also put on warm clothing. Hold each stretch for a minimum
of 10-20 seconds, breath comfortably, with deep breathes through your nose, and
out via your mouth.
A good practice to get into that will assist you in remembering your
flexibility exercises is to start at the top of your body and work
down (neck, shoulders, arms, trunk, abs, hips, thighs, calves).
You should choose 1-2 exercises per muscle group and ensure that you
are getting an adequate stretch to increase your range of motion
without overdoing it. Check out the
flexibility exercise library for a
list of stretches that can be incorporated into your program.
Pain in the...
We don’t think very much about
our backs—that is, until they start to hurt. And many of us are hurting as
back pain is now one of the most common medical complaints in the U.S. The
good news is that, in many cases, back pain can be prevented. Here are the
American Council on Exercise’s Top 10 ways to maintain a healthy back.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Strengthen the abdominal and back muscles.
- Lift items properly.
- Strengthen the leg muscles.
- Stay flexible.
- Maintain good posture.
- Buy a comfortable mattress.
- Reduce stress.
- Warm up before activity.
- Support the lower back when sitting.
Studies have shown that exercise can reduce back
pain temporarily, as well as to prevent further risk of injury through
flexibility and strength training (more).
A physician should always be consulted for persistent chronic pain or
diagnosis of injury.
Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!
1 Leg Step-Up
If you are looking for a good exercise to work both your
thighs and your butt, try a simple step up. There are a
variety of ways of doing this exercise (depending on your
level of fitness and leg strength) and they can be performed
just about anywhere. Beginners can start utilizing both
legs with an up-up-down-down stepping motion. The 1 Leg
Step-Up pictured above resembles a one legged squat.
With the 1 Leg Step-Up, the focus is on the one leg while the
other leg barely makes contact with the ground. Complete
the desired number of repetitions and repeat with the other
Butt (quadriceps, gluteus, hamstrings)
Description: Starting position standing on one leg
on a chair or bench. Lower your other leg to the floor and barely
touch with your toes before pressing back up to the starting
position. Repeat for an entire set with one leg before switching
to the other leg.
You should be
Bike to the Bay is an annual goal that
I set for myself. In addition to the accomplishment of the ride itself,
this goal motivates me to train for the ride and continue to maintain a
good cardiovascular program throughout the summer. What's your goal?
Try to find something that drives you to adhere to improved fitness.
Whether it is fitting into smaller sized clothes, decreasing your blood
pressure, or participating in an event... if you focus on something
measurable that also has a target date, it will help you to plan your
exercise accordingly to meet that goal.
One of my
college buddies, Frank O'Brien, recently set a goal to complete an
Triathlon. For those of you that are not familiar with the Ironman, it
is a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, followed by a 26
mile run... basically 3 different marathons back to back (kinda makes my
little Bike to the Bay look like a ride around the block)! After a
rigorous training regime, with months of hard work, time, and
sacrifice... Frank completed the Lake Placid Ironman this past summer
and will forever be known as an Ironman! During his training period,
one thing that was evident to all of us was Frank's level of commitment
to his goal. Your commitment to reaching your goals is what motivates
you to keep going when the temptation to take it easy presents itself.
A side effect of personal goal attainment is the inspiration that you
provide to those around you.
==> Goal Setting ==> Motivation ==> Action ==> Goal Attainment ==>
So if everyone
got inspired, set goals, became motivated, reached their goals, and
inspired others... we wouldn't have the record setting inactivity and
obesity related issues that we have in America now!
Frank... Great Job!
Whew... I just completed my
9th annual participation in the Bike to the Bay for Multiple
Sclerosis. 75 miles on that little bike seat can wear on
you after a while! Thanks to all of you that sponsored me
for the ride.. the funds will go to a worthy cause in
support of finding a cure for this debilitating disease.
Complete exercise programs should incorporate flexibility
training along with cardiovascular and resistance training.
When time is short, flexibility training is typically the
first piece that is discarded. This is not such a wise
choice and can often increase risk of injury as well as post
workout discomfort. Lack of flexibility of the hamstrings
and hips can also often lead to lower back pain. If
you are going to be smart about your workouts, be sure to
maintain a good balance of cardiovascular, resistance, and
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"Adversity causes some men to break, others to break
records. - William A. Ward"