If touching your toes is a stretch, then you need to know more about flexibility.
Flexibility Training 101
You can bend over and reach for your toes all you want, but until you stretch, strengthen and circulate the muscles around this movement, you will never be able to touch your toes. How many people do you know ( maybe including yourself) have said “I’m just not flexible.” ?
Everyone can increase their flexibility. Flexibility is based on strength. The strength of the muscles surrounding the joints determine the range of motion your body will allow. Flexibility is based on your body’s sense to keep the joints and vertebras in a safe position. Flexibility is the range of motion for any given joint: your knee, your shoulder, your hip, your neck.
There are three keys to increasing your flexibility:
Stretching, Strengthening and Circulating the muscles.
Technical: Moving the muscles in a lengthened position to “re-set” the tension length relationship in the muscles surrounding the joint.
What it means: Lengthening the muscle through its movement patterns.
Types of Stretching: Dynamic and Static
Dynamic stretching is moving throughout the range of motion, i.e. swinging your leg front to back to “stretch the hamstrings”. A great warm up activity and way to increase flexibility. Dynamic stretching may reduce the risk of injury prior to movement.
Static stretching is holding a particular range of motion in a fixed position for 10 seconds to 2 minutes, ie putting your foot up on a block and leaning over the straight leg. This type of stretching is best as a post workout activity as opposed to pre-workout due to the delay in contractile speed in muscle contractions. Static stretching does not decrease the risk of injury prior to movement.
When one muscle group gets stronger than the opposing muscle group around the joint, flexibility is limited. Hence, touching toes may be difficult when hip flexors (front of thighs) are stronger than glutes and hamstrings (the back side muscles). When there is a muscle imbalance the weaker muscles will shorten to keep the joint in a fixed position. Adding strength to these muscles ( the hamstrings in the case above) will allow for a greater range of motion in the joint. Simple leg lifts to the back can strengthen the glutes and hamstrings.
It is important to provide an increase in blood flow which will aid in nutrients to the muscles as well as rid waste products to promote healing, changes in length and tension to the muscles as well as connective tissue changes in the fascia network. Foam rolling, massage, acupuncture, and other modalities are ways to circulate the blood.
For more information on increasing your flexibility or improving your overall posture, pick up a copy Andrea Metcalf’s, Naked Fitness. A new approach to evaluating the overall flexibility of the body to lead to a healthy lifestyle and weight loss program.