Good flexibility enhances your ability to function during day-to-day tasks. If a joint is flexible, such as your shoulder joint, you can easily move it through its full range of motion without discomfort. The degree of flexibility can be different throughout your body, that is, it is joint specific.
Flexibility of a joint is effected by many factors such as:
- genetics - some individuals are naturally more flexible than others
- age - older individuals tend to be less flexible
- gender - women, in general, are more flexible than men
- activity level- individuals who are physically active tend to have greater flexibility
- skeletal structure of the joint - some joints, such as the shoulder joint, have an inherent greater range of motion than others, such as the elbow joint
- presence of disease - some health conditions, such as arthritis, can limit range of motion
Your flexibility can be improved and maintained by incorporating stretches into your exercise routine. Below are some stretches for your body's core. Proper stretching technique is important to avoid injury. Here are some tips:
- Muscles stretch best when they are warm. Before stretching, perform light-to-moderate aerobic activity, such as walking, for about 5 minutes.
- Stretches should be performed in a slow, controlled fashion. Do not bounce.
- Move the joint through its range of motion to the point of tension, not pain.
Full Body Stretch - stretches entire body, especially the muscles of the shoulders, back, and legs
Technique: Lie on your back. Extend your arms behind your head while straightening your legs and pointing your toes. Reach in the opposite direction, as far as possible, with your arms and legs. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 3-4 times.
Lying Down Hamstrings Stretch - stretches the back, buttocks and hamstrings muscles
: Lie on your back. Raise your left leg, bringing your left knee toward your chest. Keep your right leg as straight as possible on the ground. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Slowly return to starting position. Repeat 3-4 times per leg.
Kneeling Reach Stretch - Stretches back, shoulder, and upper arm muscles
: Kneel on the ground. Place your arms on the ground in front of you and reach forward with your hands while pushing your buttocks toward your feet. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Slowly return to starting position. Repeat 3-4 times.
Cross-legged Forward Reach - stretches the hips, back, and buttocks muscles
: Sit on the ground with your legs crossed. Lean forward at the hips, extending your arms out in front of you on the ground. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 3-4 times.
The "Pretzel" - stretches the back, hip, and buttocks muscles
: Sit on the ground with your left leg extended in front of you. Cross your right leg over your left. Twist your body toward the right while gently pushing your left elbow against the outside of your right knee. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Slowly return to starting position. Repeat 3-4 times per side.
Flexibility exercises should be performed 2-3 times per week. They can be performed as part of your warm-up or cool-down. If performing them as part of your warm-up, do them near the end when the blood flow has been increased to the muscles, warming them.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal, Vol. 12, No. 5, "Flexibility," p. 5, Thompson, D.L.
Labels: flexibility, range of motion, stretching