Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Stretching and Flexibility Training

So everyone's heard over and over again that we need to stretch.  But why is stretching and flexibility so important?  I'm going to go over the importance of stretching/flexibility and also discuss the different types of stretches there are and how the body responds to stretching.

Flexibility- the range of motion within a joint along various planes of motion

Types of flexibility:
Static flexibility is impacted by body core temperature, body structure, connective tissue elasticity, muscle fiber lengths and muscle tendon attachments.  AKA gymnast holding a split demonstrates static flexibility.

Dynamic flexibility involves movement through a range of motion emphasising speed and force while maintaining balance, speed and torque. AKA gymnast peforming a split jump in the air.

Stretching- the process of elongation

Types of stretches:
An elastic stretch is a temporary elongation of tissues that recovers when the tension is removed. AKA holding a stretch for a few seconds is considered an elastic stretch.

A plastic stretch is a permanent elongation in with the deformation to tissue remains after the tension is removed.  AKA holding a stretch for longer than a few seconds.

What is happening to my body when I'm stretching?
When you stretch, you are not actually stretching the muscle itself, but rather the connective tissue framework that surrounds the muscle. 

What is connective tissue?

Is composed of non-elastic collagen fibers and small number of elastic fibers within a protein matrix that creats soft tissue structures like tendons, ligaments and fascia.  Has the ability to support and protect underlying structures from injury.

Reasons to stretch:
1. A flexible joint requires less energy to move through the range of motion

2. Decreased risk of injury

3. Increased blood supply and nutrients to joint structures

4. Improved nutrient exchange

5. Opposing muscle groups work in a more coordinated fashion

6. Improved muscular balance and postural awareness

7. Decreased risk of low-back pain

8. Reduced muscular tension

9. Enhanced enjoyment

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