WHAT IS FLEXIBILITY?
by Federico Romaniello
If you ask to google ‘what is Flexibility’ the answer it gives you will be “the quality of bending easily without breaking.” (Oxford languages, 2020). If you ask me the same question, the answer is not going to be so simple.
First of all, we need to understand how a muscle works. Muscle can be seen as a rope that gets shorter when activated by an electric signal. When we exercise, we can change the size and the shape of that rope; however, different types of training modify our muscles in different ways. I do not want to make it complicated so I am just going to say that a muscle can increase in length and thickness. When you go to the gym, and you have a weight session, your muscle will get thicker, when you have a stretch session your muscle will get longer.
GUIDANCE ON STRETCHING
TAKE HOME MESSAGES
Besides, flexibility reduces your risk of injury, I do not want to make this too hard to understand, but it is good to know that with a wider ROM you can prevent some minor muscle injuries. How much and how are you supposed to stretch? This is a topic I could talk about for hours without getting interrupted as it depends on what your goal is, and I will probably write another article on this topic.
However, if you are going to have a heavyweight session, you should probably include dynamic stretching in your warm-up, that will increase your blood flow in your muscles and will unlock your full ROM. At the end of your session, you should include some static stretching in your cool down: What I suggest is 20 to 30 seconds each muscle group you have been using. This is not enough stretching to increase your flexibility but just enough to reduce DOMS and avoid injuries.
How much should you stretch to improve your flexibility then?
Well, that will be the next Pill of Flexibility.
Oxford Langages (2020) Definition of Flexibility. Available from: https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en [last accessed: 23.09.2020]
Mansfield P. and Neumann D. (2019) Essentials of Kinesiology for the Physical Therapist Assistant – Chapter 3. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-323-54498-6.00003-5
Healthy Lifestyle Fitness (2020) Stretching: focus on flexibility. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org [last accessed 20.09.2020]
Picture 1 – Available at http://humanbiologylab.pbworks.com/w/page/76683452/How%20muscles%20contract%20by%20Eskinder%20Demeke
Picture 2 by Lemuel Aaron – Available at https://lemuelaaron.pb.gallery