Definition, Purpose, and Duration
Flexibility training is focused on increasing the joint mobility, the flexibility of muscles, and reduction of the muscular tension. When performed as a segment of a class, it usually takes place in conjunction with a post-aerobic cool-down, or the final relaxation segment. Some common flexibility-based classes include fitness stretching and yoga. Some classes, such as yoga, promote a blend or combination of muscular strength and flexibility.
Flexibility training is very efficient in improving joint mobility. If you have adequate as well as balanced flexibility it can lead to reduction of the the risk of injuries and may also help in enhancing the physical performance.
The amount of lime spent focusing on flexibility training will be dependent upon the focus and goals of the class. The time allotment may vary from as few as 8-10 minutes (near the end of a cardiorespiratory training session) to an entire 60-minute stretching class.
Common Methods of Stretching
Static stretching involves placing the targeted muscle or muscles in an elongated position and holding on to that position. Individuals are recommended to perform 1-4 repetitions for each stretch holding for 20-55 seconds. In a group exercise setting I repetition may be appropriate, due to time allocation, to target all the major muscle and tendon groups.
Dynamic Stretching/Full Range of Motion
Dynamic stretching involves stretching with full movement. These stretches range in intensity from limbering and a controlled movement to a forceful one. For the purposes of group exercise, the focus should be on multiple repetitions of a controlled movement, ideally contracting the antagonistic muscle while slowly moving through the end range of motion.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) Stretches
PNF stretches involve active contraction of the muscle before stretch (often referred to as the contract/release method). PNF stretching has been shown to be as effective or more effective than static stretching. To properly perform most PNF stretches, outside assistance is needed. Some stretches can be achieved with the use of a towel or stretching strap, but in most cases a trained assistant or physical therapist is needed. For this reason, PNF stretching is not often used in the group exercise environment.
Stretch to the end of the range of motion or to the point of tension. Never stretch past the point of discomfort or to. the point of pain, which may result in microscopic tears in the stretching muscle.
Speed and Control
Dynamic stretches, when performed too forcefully or quickly, become ballistic. This type of movement may induce the stretch reflex mechanism that shortens rather than lengthens the muscle to be stretched. In addition, ballistic stretches increase the risk of injury and should be avoided for the general fitness population. However, ballistic stretching may be more appropriate for individuals who are participating in sports involving ballistic movements.
Range of Motion
Stretch a muscle through its available range of motion. Stretching beyond the muscle’s current range of motion can result in injury to the connective tissue and supporting structures.
Ideally, there should be a noticeable increase in muscle or body core temperature, whether induced by previously performed exercises or external factors (e.g., clothing or room temperature), prior to performing flexibility work.
sample stretching exercises
Common Upper Body Stretches
• Pectorals/ Anterior Deltoids
Level l: Standing-hands behind head
Level II: Seated-hands behind back
• Upper Back/Mid-Trapezius/Rhomboids/Posterior Deltoids
Level l: Standing-upper back stretch
Level II: Seated-hug knees
Level I: Standing-support hand is in front of body
Level II: Seated-hand behind head
Level I: Standing-ear to shoulder
Level II: Seated-ear to shoulder, opposite arm extended down Common Middle Body Stretches
• Low Back
Level I: Standing-spinal flexion with hands supporting
Level II All-fours position-cat stretch
• Latissimus Dorsi
Level I: Standing-one arm overhead
Level II: Kneeling-extended seal
Level I: Standing-single arm overhead reach
Level II: Supine-spinal rotation
• Rectus Abdominis
Level I: Standing-both arms overhead reach
Level II: Prone-modified cobra
Common Lower Body Stretches
Level I: Standing-single leg sit back
Level II: Supine-single leg lift
Level I: Standing-modified lunge
Level II: Standing-bent knee hand holds foot
• Hip Abductors
Level I: Standing-leg crosses behind
Level II: Seated-bent knee cross
• Hip Adductors
Level I: Standing-side lunge
Level II: Seated-bent knee butterfly