Flexibility

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Flexibility

Static flexibility -the maximum range of motion a muscle or connective tissue will allow with an external force, not taking into account the speed of the movement.

Dynamic flexibility -the range of motion which takes into account the speed of movement and reflects the joints resistance to movement e.g. a straddle jump.

Benefits of flexibility training:

  • Reduced risk of injury
  • Improved posture, alignment and ergonomics
  • Reduction of DOMS
  • Performance enchancement due to an improve RoM normally and when applying a force, therefore making movements more efficient.
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Flexibility Factors

Factors affecting flexibility:

  • The type of joint - a ball and socket has a full range of motion whereas a hinge joint only allows flexion or extension.
  • Joint shape - the shoulder joint has increased RoM due to its shallow joint cavity compared to the hip's deeper cavity.
  • Length/elasticity of connective tissues - tendons, ligaments and the joint capsule all limit RoM
  • Muscle length/elasticity - the muscle spindles activation point before it initiates the stretch reflex
  • Gender - females are generally more flexible than men
  • Age - flexibility is greater in children and decreases as a person gets older due to decreased elasicity
  • Elasticity - the suppleness of skin and adipose tissue
  • Temperature - elasticity is increased as temperature increased by 1-2 degress Celsius
  • Muscle mass - excess muscle mass around a joint restricts RoM
  • Nerves - nerves pass through joints, so the more present the nerves, the smaller the RoM
  • Training - stretching within a training programme may maintain/increase RoM
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Measuring Flexibility

Sit and Reach Test -

Using a sit and reach box, with shoes removed, the subject places their feet against the box with legs straight. The subject then reaches forward and over the box, pushing a straight object (ruler) as far as possible along the scale on the box with extended fingertips. This position is held for 2-3 seconds and a score is recorded.

Goniometry -

Goniometyr uses a double-armed goniometer to measure the number of degrees from a neutral starting position to the position at the end of the full RoM. For example for hip flexion:

Lay flat on your back, keeping your left leg straight and flat on the ground, Move the opposite leg as close as possible to your chest while flexing the knee.

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Static Stretching

  • Static active stretches are unassisted, voluntary static contractions of the agonist muscle to create a force to stretch the antagonist,
  • Static passive stretches are assisted by an external force, for example gravity or a partner, to help move the joint just beyond its end point to stretch the muscle/connective tissues.
  • Static stretching has long been thought to be the safest method and, despite being the slowest, the most effective form of stretching to increase the length of muscle.connective tissues.
  • On the other hand, static stretching fails to prepare the joints for the more dynamic/powerful range of motions that are involved in actual activity.
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Ballistic Stretching

  • Involved the use of momentum to move a joint forcibly through to its extreme end of point of resistance.
  • It involved fast, swinging, active or bouncing movements.
  • Long been thought as the least effective as it fails to allow adequate time for the tissues to adapt.
  • Therefore it carries a gretaer risk of muscle soreness/injury so should only be performed by athletes with a good flexibility.
  • Ballistic stretching is thought to produce limited long-term adaptations.
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Dynamic Stretching

  • Dynamic stretching is a more controlled version of ballistic stretching.
  • It takes the msucles through a joint's full RoM, with the muscle but with the entry and exit under more control and therefore not the extreme end point of resistance as with ballistic stretching.
  • Dynamic stretching can be performed both actively and passively.
  • As with ballistic stretching, dynamic stretching should only be performed by athletes who already have a good range of flexibility in the muscle/connective tissues being stretched.
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Proprioreceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)

Until recent arguments in favour of dynamic, PNF was thought the most effective, and also the most complex, type of stretching.

  • PNF attempts to inhibit the stretch reflex mechanism to increase flexibility by allowing a greater stretch of the muscle/connective tissues.
  • It usually consists of three stages:
    • Static - muscle stretched just beyod point of resistance
    • Contract - isometric muscle contraction held for a minimum of 10 seconds
    • Relax - muscle relaxed and sequence repeated at least 3 times
  • The isometric contraction inhibits the stretch reflex, allowing the muscle to be stretched further in each consecutive PNF stretch.
  • Although PNF is a more complex technique, requiring more time to learn and to tolerate the greater discomfort and therefore risks, most research has shown PNF to produce quicker and better flexibility gains.
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Flexibility Training Adaptations

  • Increased elasticity/length of muscle/connective tissues.
  • Increased resting length of muscle/connective tissues.
  • Muscle spindles adapt to the increased length reducing the stimulus to the stretch reflex.
  • Increased RoM at a joint before the stretch reflex is initiated.
  • Increased potential for static and dynamic flexibility (RoM).
  • Increased distance and efficiency for muscles to create force and acceleration.
  • Increased RoM reduces potential for injury to muscle/connective tissues during dynamic sports movements.
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