Flexibility seems to be an afterthought for many guys who shift iron on a weekly basis, the token stretch against the power rack before bench pressing kilos of metal is about as far as it goes. Why not? Does it really matter? No study exists which demonstrates consistently that stretching before exercise reduces the risk of injury, directly that is. In our opinion flexibility is something you really should give more attention to, it will reward in the short and long term. Let’s hear why!
As muscles become more used, particularly within activities such as weight lifting they can become very tight. One would be forgiven for thinking that the resistance pulling against the muscle would stretch it, increasing flexibility but the opposite happens. The tenser the muscle becomes (tight) the less fluidity you are able to enjoy during any form of movement, including lifting weights or playing sport. As a result your performance is almost certainly going to become impaired, to a degree. The ability to generate power through speed may be compromised as well as the ability to move through optimum plans of motion.
From a postural point of view poor flexibility or excess levels of tension within a muscle can cause issues. When you consider that muscle groups work antagonistically in order to maintain balance, it stands to reason that too much tension in one group could affect your posture. Going back to injury prevention, this is when a lack of flexibility can cause injuries – a by-product of poor flexibility if you will. Constantly sitting in awkward positions with tight muscles will inevitably lead to pain within given areas. More than this the individual can experience spasms within the areas affected due to the tension. All of these issues can be combatted, to a degree by working on your flexibility. There are several forms of stretching – dynamic, PNF and static. Which is best? This partly comes down to your goal and current training style.
Static is always going to have its place for most athletes, it is effective and it works however it requires a lot of repetition, frequently – several times a day typically.
PNF is more extreme so the frequency required is less, having said that in order for the results to remain you must apply the stretching regularly.
Dynamic stretching is used a lot of the time before exercise as a means to help ‘’wake up’’ the muscles which are about to be worked. Again, this has its place and can be a very good addition to your programme.
All stretching requires repetition and consistent application, but by doing so the opportunity to increase power and strength is there – longevity is another huge part of training and staying flexible certainly helps!