Why do you need to make time for both strength and flexibility?
There is no doubt that mobility is important and there is certainly no denying that strength is essential as well, but how many of us have too much of one and not enough of the other? How much time do you spend taking care of your flexibility and maintaining your strength? Just like putting healthy food in our bodies and drinking plenty of water, stretching and strength training is crucial to our well being.
In some sports it is essential to be strong in certain movements and in others it’s required to flexible. This becomes an issue when you have one without the other. In the case of being extremely flexible, our joints are put into very vulnerable positions. Without the stability and strength at your end range, these positions can put you at high risk for serious injury.
Joints and the impact of strength and flexibility
The further a joint is from its neutral position the less safe it is. When a joint is in neutral, the tissues that hold it in place are loose and not in any danger of lengthening beyond their capacity. The joint is supported and capable of absorbing outside forces while the muscles are in a mechanically advantageous position to create or prevent movements. All these factors are opposite when the joint is at its end range; the muscle is fully stretched, the joint is tight in the socket, and it has no more room to rotate or extend. From this spot, any further movement can cause damage, which is why it is so important for us to be strong and stable in these positions.
You may feel comfortable in your end ranges of motion if you were standing with your feet apart, but you would not want to land in that position. Another example of this is if you were stretching your shoulder to its max, you’d be very cautious someone isn’t about to run into you.
When you become more flexible it’s very important to maintain strength at your end range to ensure that your muscles have the appropriate amount of tension to support you in your movements.
Flexibility for strong joints to prevent injury
Being strong and not flexible has its downfalls as well. A lot of us say that we don’t have time after our workout to stretch. But it is time to start making time.
In order to maintain proper joint health, it’s important for our joints to move through their full range of motion. Same goes for muscles, the less range of motion they have the easier they fatigue. Think about how much more energy it takes to move a squeaky, worn out machine vs a well-oiled machine that runs smoothly. This can lead to injury because you then start compensating to get your arm or leg to where it needs to go. Just a friendly reminder that there is more to stretching than just being flexible.
Benefits of a regular stretching routine:
- Enhanced performance
- Decreased risk of injury
- Increased blood supply and nutrients to joint structures
- Increased quantity of synovial joint fluid
- Increased neuromuscular coordination
- Reduced muscular tightness and increased joint mobility
- Modifying blood pooling, re-circulation
How to improve your flexibility
Just like gaining strength, flexibility takes time and dedication. It’s important to stretch dynamically before exercise to reduce the chance of injury. Static stretching afterwards is where flexibility will start to build. In order to gain flexibility you are going to work your way to 2 minutes per body part. Start by feeling a gentle pull and some resistance in the muscle, after a few moments (10-20 seconds) when the muscle relaxes, gradually increase the stretch until you feel resistance again. Repeat this for up to two minutes. If you look at athletes such as gymnasts, they gain flexibility and maintain flexibility by stretching 3-4 times per week. It’s important to try to get to at least the same depth of stretch each time you stretch (unless there’s a recent injury) to continue advancing the length of your muscles.
Why do I feel stiff and sore the day after a stretch session?
If you are trying to increase your flexibility you will be making tiny micro-tears. This creates inflammation. It’s important to stretch the day after if you are feeling a little bit stiff and have those tiny micro-tears because you want your muscles to heal in the lengthened position, and not go back to their original length.
Ready to get stretching and strengthening? Talk to one of our practitioners about how they can support you in a tailored plan to build both strength and flexibility.