Pete’s Blog - #4 “The Importance of Flexibility Training” part 2
Part Two – Mobility vs Flexibility Training
In Part two of my discussion on flexibility, I will explore how to go about improving your flexibility, the difference between flexibility and mobility and why some experts consider flexibility to be the third pillar of fitness, next to strength training and cardiovascular conditioning.
I have included the photo in this article to demonstrate that flexibility is not pre-programmed to decline with age. As with any of the other components of fitness, good flexibility and joint mobility can be maintained as long as you continue to devote some time each week to keep your muscles long and supple. We may not all be as flexible as the lady in this photo but as long as you remain as flexible as your lifestyle dictates, then you will find that everyday activities are much easier and safer to complete, regardless of age.
Before I discuss how to go about improving your flexibility, I want to briefly explain the difference between flexibility and mobility.
In my previous blog entry, I explained that flexibility is defined as the range of motion around each of your joints. Mobility is the capability of the joints to move through a full range of motion. Both are very closely linked, with an improvement in either leading to achieving your goals in the other. The benefit of greater mobility is that it allows for optimal positioning of each joint, which then allows muscles to achieve maximum power output.
For example, if the muscles around the hip joint are very inflexible, you will always have issues trying to squat, lunge, deadlift or even run properly. If you like to play Tennis, Golf, ride a surfboard, go Skiing, having good flexibility and joint mobility will allow you to perform all of these activities with greater ease and will help you to get more our of each of these leisure activities.
How to Improve Flexibility
1. Dynamic warm-up prior to commencing your workout. Simply by adding as little as five minutes (optimally 10 – 15mins) of low intensity dynamic movements such as full range body weight squats, lunges (including side lunges), push ups, skipping or a few minutes on a bike or rower, you will improve the core temperature and elasticity of the muscles and connective tissue.
2. Follow a workout with light static stretching. Holding a stretch for up to 60secs (can be held for longer) can help to lengthen and relax the muscles you have just finished using in your workout. Over time this will allow you to improve both your flexibility and joint mobility.
3. Make sure you always perform each exercise/movement through a full range of movement. While it is tempting to abbreviate certain movements, e.g. Bicep Curls, performing each exercise through the complete range of movement will allow for much better strength and power development as well as assisting with joint mobility and dynamic flexibility.
4. Incorporate Massage into your fitness routine. On a regular basis, I would encourage all of our clients to invest in buying a foam roller. Using the roller on a daily basis allows you achieve a myofascial release in the muscle groups on which you use the roller. This is akin to having a massage and will allow the muscle to stay “loose and supple”. If you have been training or working very hard, then you may need to have a full massage once every two – four weeks.
5. Take time to relax. Using the roller at the end of long day is a good way to help you to relax and unwind.
6. Learn to breathe properly. Learn how to engage your diaphragm properly whilst training.
7. Stay hydrated. In order for muscles to contract and relax properly they need to be well hydrated. Make sure you hydrate properly before you train.
8. When stretching, especially after a workout, or if you are doing a stand-alone flexibility/mobility session, start stretching the bigger, proximal muscle groups first before you move onto the mor distal, smaller muscles. For example, before you stretch your hamstrings, do some exercises for your lower back and hips first.
By including a regular flexibility routine into exercise regime, you will find that your improved movement mechanics will allow you to work harder and get more out of each training session. The quality of your workouts will improve and you will find it easier to achieve all of your fitness and training goals.