After completing this chapter, you should be able to do the following:
Define flexibility and describe its importance as a health-related component of fitness.
Identify factors that limit flexibility.
Differentiate between active and passive range of motion.
Explain the difference between dynamic, static, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching.
Describe stretching exercises that may be used to improve flexibility at specific joints throughout the body.
Discuss Pilates and yoga as two alternative stretching techniques.
Why Is It Important to Have Good Flexibility?
Flexibility may best be defined as the range of motion possible about a given joint or series of joints. Flexibility can be discussed in relation to movement involving only one joint, such as the knee, or movement involving a whole series of joints, such as the spinal vertebral joints, which must all move together to allow smooth bending, or rotation, of the trunk. Flexibility is specific to a given joint or movement. A person may have good range of motion in the ankles, knees, hips, back, and one shoulder joint. However, if the other shoulder joint lacks normal movement, then a problem exists that needs to be corrected before that person can function normally.
flexibility: the range of motion possible about a given joint or series of joints
Flexibility was identified in Chapter 1 as a health-related as opposed to performance-related component of fitness, although for most of us it may be considered important for both. The ability to move a joint or series of joints smoothly and easily throughout a full range of motion is certainly essential to healthy living. The arthritic person who suffers from degeneration in one or more joints loses the capacity of painless, nonrestricted motion and is hampered in the performance of daily acts of healthful living. Lack of flexibility may result in uncoordinated or awkward movements and may predispose a person to muscle strain. Low back pain is frequently associated with tightness of the musculature in the lower spine and also of the hamstring muscles.
If you are physically active, a lack of flexibility will likely impair your performance. For example, if you are a power walker with tight, inelastic hamstring muscles, you may have a problem walking at a fast pace because tight hamstrings restrict your ability to flex the hip joint, thus shortening your stride length. Most activities you engage in require relatively "normal" amounts of flexibility. However, some activities, such as ballet, karate, tai chi, yoga, and gymnastics, require increased flexibility for superior performance (Fig. 6-1). Increased flexibility may increase one's performance through improved balance and reaction time. Experts in the field of training and conditioning and developing physical fitness ...