Flexibility (flex-ability) is essentially the ability of your joints to flex in various angles. Flexibility is not a matter of how 'stretchy' your muscles are, as it's commonly misunderstood. Flexibility is a function of functional joint mobility, tendon and ligament elasticity, and muscle relaxation or muscle tissue quality.
Modern lifestyles mixed with improper training/exercise has a lot of people feeling stiff, rigid, fragile, and limited to small ranges of motion. A rigid body leads to a rigid mind, and neither a rigid body nor rigid mind are very useful. To function at your best, you need to be strong AND flexible in body and mind.
Flexibility training is a big topic. In this article I will share some basic principles of flexibility training that should be understood and followed if you want positive, sustainable results. Since many people are in pursuit of more flexibility, it would help to understand how to achieve it safely and effectively. There are many different methods and approaches - there is no single best method as it requires context. I will not get into methods here. This is about basic principles. Regardless of which method or approach you use to increase flexibility, there are basic principles that apply to proper flexibility training. Here are four of them:
1. PAIN IS BAD - The old saying 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' doesn't apply to flexibility training. If it hurts, you're making yourself weaker. Do not train through pain, especially when it comes to flexibility training.
2. MAXIMUM RANGE - Whether you want to increase you static or dynamic range of motion, you have to stay (for static) or move (for dynamic) close to your maximum range. You will not increase your flexibility greatly by foam rolling or holding poses at less than your maximum range. That may help to maintain your current flexibility, but not increase it.
3. SRENGTH IS A MUST - Even if you are very flexible, if your muscles aren't strong at your end ranges of motion, then not only is your flexibility not very useful, but you're at a higher risk of getting injured. The last thing you want is lax ligaments and a hyper-mobile body that is weak. Young dancers and gymnasts, especially females, run into this problem frequently due to excessive stretching using poor methods, and inadequate strength training. To strengthen muscles at their full stretch, you must learn to tense them at the end ranges. Strength and flexibility are not mutually exclusive, they enhance each other if you train properly.
4. DISCOMFORT IS BAD - Some discomfort is ok, but if you're constantly working in positions that are so uncomfortable that you're unable to both relax and create tension in your muscles at will, then you will impede your progress. Remember, both relaxation (not laxity) and strength (not rigidity) are necessary to increase flexibility in a safe, useful, and sustainable way.
If nothing else, take away this one thing from this article: pain inhibits movement. If you stubbornly override pain and perform movements in an unnatural way, you will suffer the consequences eventually. The consequences may be irreversible, like a crippling injury. So please take care to train properly, intelligently, and responsibly. Pay attention to your body.
For guidance with an exceptionally balanced and diverse training program, you can take up a Skillz Movement practice. Basic programming is available to any ability level and can be purchased through our new ONLINE STORE. More products/services will be added as they become available.
Lastly, due to a few late / last minute requests to take advantage of the 25% Thanksgiving discount which expired October 31st, I will extend the offer (25% off for the month of November, basic programming) until Nov 5th. To take advantage of the offer, click here to email me before Nov 5th (Friday) with subject line 'November Start' and I will get you set up.
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I hope everyone had a safe and happy Halloween.