Increasing overall Flexibility
muscles and ligaments
flexible is important because
muscles can cause chronic pain.
Flexibility training helps balance muscle
groups that might be overused during exercise or physical activity or as a
result of bad posture.
Muscular imbalance brought about by unhealthy lifestyle can make the joint
weaker, as parts of the bone bare more weight than they should. In many cases,
back pain is caused by tight
hamstrings which "cause the hips and pelvis to
rotate back, flattening the lower back and causing back problems.
A little stretching can go a long way to enhance your overall fitness.
When stretching for the purpose of increasing overall flexibility, a stretching
routine should accomplish, these goals:
To train your stretch receptors to become accustomed to greater muscle
length. The nerve endings that relay all the information about the
musculoskeletal system to the central nervous system are called proprioceptors. Proprioceptors (also called mechanoreceptors) are the source
of all proprioception: the perception of one's own body position and
movement. Muscle spindles, or stretch receptors, are the primary
proprioceptors in the muscle. The muscle spindle contains two different
types of fibers (or stretch receptors) which are sensitive to the change in
muscle length and the rate of change in muscle length.
To reduce the resistance of connective tissues to muscle elongation. The
resistance to lengthening that is offered by a muscle is dependent upon its
connective tissues: When the muscle elongates, the surrounding connective
tissues (located all around the muscle and its fibers) become more taut.
Also, inactivity of certain muscles or joints can cause chemical
connective tissue which restrict flexibility. When connective tissue is
overused, the tissue becomes fatigued and may tear, which also
flexibility. When connective tissue is unused or under used, it provides
significant resistance and limits flexibility. The elastin begins to fray
and loses some of its elasticity, and the collagen increases in stiffness
and in density. Aging has some of the same effects on connective tissue that
lack of use has.
Strengthen the muscles responsible for holding the stretched limbs in
their extended positions.
Strength training and flexibility should go
together as these enhance one another. If you are attempting to increase
active flexibility, you should also strengthen the muscles responsible for
holding the stretched limbs in their extended positions. One of the best
times to stretch is right after a strength workout - this will help increase
flexibility, promote muscle growth and decrease the level of post-exercise
If you are very serious about increasing overall flexibility, then I recommend
religiously dhering to the following guidelines:
Warm-up properly before any and all athletic activities. Make sure to
give yourself ample time to perform the complete warm-up. Greater
flexibility will be maintained if the tissues are stretched while they are
warm and then held in a stretched position as the muscles and tendons cool
down. Steady breathing, in and out, should also be maintained as one holds
Cool-down properly after any and all athletic activities.
Always make sure your muscles are warmed-up before you stretch!
PNF stretching every other day, and static stretching on the off
days (if you are overzealous, you can try
static stretching every day, in
addition to PNF stretching every other day).
Overall, you should expect to increase flexibility gradually. However, If
you really commit to doing the above, you should achieve maximal upper-body
flexibility within one month and maximal lower-body flexibility within two
months. If you are older or more inflexible than most people, it will take
longer than this.
Don't try to increase flexibility too quickly by forcing yourself. Stretch
no further than the muscles will go without pain.
Aging Vs Flexibility
There are some physical changes attributed to aging and flexibility:
An increased amount of calcium deposits, adhesions, and cross-links
in the body. The
calcium loss can begin as early as 30 years, and in
women the process accelerates for some 5 years around the
An increase in the level of fragmentation and dehydration
Changes in the chemical structure of the tissues. The elasticity
of tendons, ligaments and joint capsules is decreased as
cross-linkages develop between adjacent fibrils of collagen. Over
the span of working life, adults lose some 8-10 cm of
hip flexibility. The restriction in the range of movement at the
major joints becomes yet more pronounced during retirement, and
eventually, independence is threatened because the subject cannot
climb into a car or a normal bath, ascend a small step, or complete
the movements required for dressing and combing the hair.
Loss of "suppleness" due to the replacement of muscle fibers with
fatty, collagenous fibers. Strength peaks around 25 years of age,
plateaus through 35 or
40 years of age, and then shows an
accelerating decline, with 25% loss of peak force by the age of 65
years. Muscle mass decreases, apparently with a selective loss in
the cross-section if not the numbers of type II fibers.