Just How Important is Flexibility Training?

Individuals who want to stay fit and healthy have been incorporating physical activities like cardiovascular training and weightlifting into their fitness routines, almost making exercise the center of their lifestyle. These people are often in a hurry to improve their physique or level of physical fitness that they have forgotten the importance of flexibility training.

The definition of flexibility is the ability to move a joint through a desired range of motion. Flexibility is dependent upon genetics, musculature, limb length, tendon attachment sites and flexibility training. This kind of training is probably one of the most underrated and undervalued component of conditioning and physical fitness. Think about it; what good does it do you to be single digit body fat percentages, look great have amazing cardiorespiratory conditioning, yet you are unable to bend over to tie your shoes, or you are unable to scratch your own back. When we are committed to honoring God through changing our bodies, we MUST remember that we must be able to function in our daily lives in order to be an effective witness for Christ.

Flexibility training increases the body’s range of motion. With flexibility, a person’s athletic performance is enhanced, with the risk of acquiring injuries greatly reduced. Stretching also speeds up metabolism. These benefits are achieved by improving blood flow into the different internal organs and muscles. Flexibility training helps lengthen the muscle fibers, facilitate ease of movement, while improving muscle recovery and strength. Flexibility training may also reduce muscle soreness, lower back pain, improve coordination and posture, and ease stress and anxiety in one’s life. In addition to these health benefits, various medical studies suggest that regular stretching enables the body’s internal organs to function properly because of improved blood flow.

However, the benefits of flexibility can only be enjoyed if proper training is done. Individuals who fail to perform proper flexibility training may develop injuries and hamper their workout goals. People who want to engage in flexibility training should include the following:

Before stretching, individuals should remember to perform warm-up exercises. These exercises may loosen up the muscle, improve blood flow, and prepare them for flexibility training. Remember you do not stretch to warm up; you warm up so you are able to stretch a warm muscle by increasing blood flow. It is virtually impossible to stretch a cold muscle (it would be much akin to taking a rubber band out of the freezer and pulling it to its extremes….yes, that loud pop you just heard was both the rubber band snapping and your hamstring pulling.)
Do not bounce (ballistic stretching) when performing static stretches. Medical experts suggest that ballistic stretching may cause immediate and residual pain. In the long run, it may lead to serious muscle damage.
Try to hold for at least 15-30 seconds to achieve long term flexibility benefits.

Perform flexibility and cool down exercises after workout to return the muscles to their resting stage.
Stretch gradually. Stretch only to the point where mild muscle tension is felt. If there is pain, then you might be doing it wrong. Move into each pose gradually and exhale while doing it.
Warming-up exercises may also bring the following health benefits:

1. Increase the heart and respiratory rate
2. Boost the amount of nutrients and oxygen delivered to the muscles
3. Prepare the body for a more strenuous workout
4. Make it easier to burn more calories
5. Extend one’s workout routine

A well-planned flexibility training program which includes warm-up exercises may improve fitness and overall health, regardless of age. Physical activities and workouts should not be done hastily. People who want to lose weight or improve their fitness level should remember that there are no shortcuts to physical fitness. Proper training may prevent injuries that may hamper one’s workout program. Individuals who want to engage in flexibility training should seek the approval of doctors and other health professionals. Some medical conditions may prevent certain individuals from performing flexibility poses and stretches.

We are striving to achieve a state of holistic fitness. While we do want to decrease body fat and increase lean muscle tissue, we need to be functioning and physically capable of being a good witness for the good news of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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