Flexibility-Important for Injury Prevention and Maximum Performance

Posted: December 3, 2010 in Training Tips
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Flexibility refers to the ability to move limbs around a joint and through the full range of motion. When stretching, the muscle fibers elongate to their maximum length. Once this occurs, the stretching force begins to work on the connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, and facial sheaths) surrounding the muscles. Flexibility is important for injury prevention and maximum athletic performance.

Even though the athlete may feel that stretching and warm up is a waste of time, lack of flexibility can cause a number of problems including but not limited to the following.

  1. When running, stride lengths are less optimal, which causes the muscles to have to work harder during each stride. This effect reduces overall speed
  2. The athlete must work harder to move through the full ranges of motion during activity, which causes fatigue faster than normal.
  3. Injuries can also occur from a sudden amount of stress placed on the fatigue or tight muscle.

Stretching routines can be categorized as dynamic, static or ballistic.

  • Dynamic Stretching – the latest research indicates that dynamic stretching is the best way to get ready for an intense activity. It involves raising your body temperature, then performing a series of exercises they get the joints moving and muscles contracting.
  • Static Stretching – the more traditional form of stretching involved locking the body into a certain position, then stretching the muscle while remaining relatively still. Unlike dynamic stretching, there is very little body movement while elongating the muscle fibers. Static stretching is best performed after cool down.  If you want to static stretch before your activity, then it should be performed after going through the dynamic of stretching phase.
  • Ballistic Stretching – this type of stretch involves the athlete performing a static stretch exercise then adding a bounce for an additional pull on the muscle. Ballistic stretching is dangerous and the latest research indicates that it should not be a part of any flexibility routine.

Important Notes on Stretching

  • If an athlete is injured, always check with the trainer, coach and or doctor before stretching the injured area. Some injuries benefit from stretching and some are made worse. Only someone responsible for the athlete’s direct medical care can tell how to treat an injury.
  • Stretching is not a competitive sport. Flexibility can be very different among individual athletes. An athlete should never try to compare their flexibility with another.
  • Do not hold your breath while stretching. Make sure it your breathing is slow, regular, and relaxing.

The Four Phases of Stretching – Maintaining and increasing flexibility requires that the athlete follows a stretching routine before and after every workout. This routine can be broken up into three phases.  The first two are performed before exercise in the last is done after the workout.

Phase One: Warm Up (Pre Exercise) – during this phase the athlete wants to perform light activity for about five to ten minutes in order to break a sweat and increased the body’s core temperature. Examples  include:

  • Light-to-moderate jog
  • Jog in place and perform some of grass drills

Phase Two: Dynamic Stretching (Pre Exercise)

  • Shoulder Circles
  • Hip Circles
  • Arm Circles
  • Leg Swings
  • Calf Raises
  • Squats Lunges
  • Neck Stretch

Phase 3: Cool Down (Post Exercise) – during this phase the athlete wants to perform a light activity for about five to ten minutes after completing an intense activity. This helps get the body’s metabolism get back to a normal state.  The best exercises during this phase are light to moderate jogging or fast pace walking.

Phase 4: Static Stretching (Post Exercise) – each of the static stretches below involves two levels:

  • Level 1 – the athlete pulls and their muscles to the point where they feel tension, but not pain, then stops. Holds this position for ten seconds while being relaxed and breathing normally. After this time the tension will let up.
  • Level 2 – the athletes slowly pulls the stretch a little tighter until they feel tension. This level has held for another fifteen to twenty seconds.

In general, a stretch and last twenty to 30 seconds and should be repeated two to three times.  Types of phase four Static stretches include:

  • Achilles’ a stretch
  • One knee down
  • Ankle Hip Stretch
  • Lying Torso Stretch
  • Quad Stretch
  • Seated Torso Stretch
  • Chest to Ground
  • Triceps Stretch
  • Knee to Chest.
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Comments
  1. Ezzy says:

    Hi,
    Thank you for the ping backs for my blog! I appreciate it immensely.
    Great post and very insightful about flexibility prevention for injuries and how to achieve maximum performance in sport or just working out.

    Well Done! 🙂
    All the Best Ezzy

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