The Functional Benefits of Flexibility and Stretching

The Functional Benefits of Flexibility and Stretching

When you hear the word flexibility the first thing that most likely pops into your head is stretching. Flexibility and stretching go hand in hand so theconnection is obvious. The truth is, for many of you the last time you preformed or even thought about stretching or flexibility was probably in your highschool gym class! Stretching and more importantly flexibility often gets over looked by everyone from your average Joe to the advanced fitness enthusiast. Anyone who forgets about stretching is making a mistake because there are many benefits to gain from stretching. One of the most important benefits from stretching is improving your ability to perform functional movements.

Functional movements are movements that are multi-planar, multi-joint and usually require an enhanced range of motion. Basically any type of activity that requires you to get off the couch and moving around is considered a functional movement. Just
as functional movement is important for athletes to enhance performance; improving ones functional movement is beneficial in just improving one’s day to day life. To improve functional movement one must improve their flexibility. In the fitness world flexibility is simply defined as the ability of joints to move throughout a full range of motion. So to improve flexibility you have to improve joint mobility in a range of motion. This can be accomplished through two ways, static and dynamic stretching.

Static stretching is the type that most people think of when they think of stretching. Static stretching is done by reaching to a point of muscle tension and holding for an extended period of time. To improve range of motion through static stretching, stretch to the point of mild to moderate discomfort. This type of stretching is best done after muscles have been warmed up. The warm up can be anything from light cardiovascular work to even a warm bath or shower. Body temperature helps to facilitate increases in range of motion; therefore it is important to elevate body temperature before performing static stretches. Contrary to popular belief this style of stretching should not be done before a work out or physical activity even if properly warmed up. Research shows performing static stretching before exercise can cause muscles to tighten, exactly what your do not want before activity. When including static stretching into your routine it is best done either after a workout or at the end of the day. Static stretching can be used as a cool down to physical activity or as a relaxation device before bed.

Sample Hunt Fitness Static Stretching routine (Following workout or at night)

  • Stretches are preformed standing and sitting down
  • Pick 4-5 stretches; perform the desired holds for 2-3 sets

–      Standing toe touch                                                     hold for 15-20 seconds

–      Feet spread apart stretch to the middle          hold for 15-20 seconds

–      Hamstring stretch                                                      hold for 15-20 seconds

–      Standing groin stretch                                           hold for 15-20 seconds

–      Calf stretch                                                                     hold for 15-20 seconds

–      Quad Stretch                                                               hold for 15-20 seconds

–      Posterior shoulder stretch                                     hold for 15-20 seconds

–      Butterfly stretch                                                       hold for 15-20 seconds

–      Hurdlers stretch                                                          hold for 15-20 seconds

–      Sit and reach                                                                hold or 15-20 seconds

–      Seal stretch                                                                 hold for 15-20seconds

 

Although both static and dynamic stretching are important for flexibility, the more beneficial of the two types when the goal is to improve functional movement is dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching uses range of movement, momentum and active muscular effort to create a stretch and improve flexibility. Dynamic stretching usually involves swinging the arm and/or legs in a controlled manner. However, unlike static stretching dynamic stretching does not require you to hold the end position. Dynamic stretching is best preformed as a warm up to activity. It is very important to not use jerky or forced movements to go beyond the range of motion that is comfortable.

 Sample Hunt fitness Dynamic Stretching routine (Before activity)

  • Pick 4-5 dynamic stretches and perform them before your workout or at another time of the day to improve functional
    mobility.

–      20 Arm circles

–      10 Body weight squats

–      10 Body weight lunge

–      20 Trunk rotations

–      5 Power skips

–      10 strides High knees

–      10 strides Butt kicks

–      10 strides Frankenstein march or the Toy Soldier

–      5 each side Scorpion

       Improved flexibility through static and dynamic stretching is a great way to increase one’s functional movement capacity. Adding stretching to your daily routine will not only improve your workout performance but make your daily activities easier.

“One Dream, One Reality”

-Kyle Hunt

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About huntfitness

My name is Kyle Hunt, I have a Bachelor's Degree in Exercise Science and I am a Certified Fitness Trainer and Specialist in Fitness Nutrition. I own the fitness website Hunt Fitness. www.KyleHuntFitness.com

Posted on October 25, 2011, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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