Today many people believe that flexibility training is not a valued component of conditioning and is thought to be a complete waste of time. Flexibility is the ability to fully achieve an extended range of motion. However, flexible people are less likely to have sore or injured pain after exercise. Being flexible gives you the upper hand of preventing injury or in some cases even treat injuries. The reason behind this is if a muscle or tendon has a greater range of movement it will be unlikely experience any tears whilst active. On top of that having an increased flexibility around your neck, shoulders and upper back can drastically improve your breathing functions.
There are three different methods of flexibility training which are: static, ballistic and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching. However I am going to focus on one particular method which is static stretching as it is the most effective and safest way of training on your flexibility. The increase in blood flow to muscles helps in the achievement of flexibility gains from stretches and should be done after warm up exercises. Static stretches are executed by slowly moving the joint to its end range of movement and a gentle pull should be felt in the muscle that is targeted. It is recommended that the stretch should be held for 15-20 seconds and should not be stretched to the point where you would feel uncomfortable. To get maximum results out of the regime, one should do 3 to 5 sets of each stretch preferably switching between antagonist and agonists and alternating sides.
Competitive sports can usually have unequal effects on the body. Let’s take football as an example where the athlete normally kicks with his/her stronger foot repeatedly thus placing one side of the body under different types of stress when compared to the other. Therefore following a flexibility training regime could aid in correcting these inequalities thus preventing chronic and over-use injuries. Implementing any of these 3 kinds of stretches will greatly improve your flexibility. Gymnasts usually have great flexibility as they regularly train this specific component which then enhances their flexibility fully around their body so they would be able to perform their skills on the apparatus.
Some basic guidelines to follow whilst performing your training regime:
You should be thoroughly warmed up before performing any stretches
You should not stretch to point where you feel uncomfortable
Breathe in and out whilst stretching and try to avoid holding your breath
Hold each stretch for 15-20 seconds
If you experience any tightness or feel pain immediately stop the stretch
Shake out limbs after each stretch
Perform 3-5 sets of each stretch before moving onto the next
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