Flexibility Training for Optimal Performance
Flexibility is an important but often overlooked aspect of training routines. Whether you are training for your next big competition, attempting to build muscle in the offseason, or working out for aesthetic purposes, your efforts can be accelerated by including flexibility training in your regimen. Not convinced yet? Read on to learn about just how flexibility training can enhance your performance and find a great dynamic and static stretching routine that you can begin implementing today.
Let’s start with some quick definitions to make sure we are all on the same page.
Mobility: simply put, mobility means to be capable of moving. To move effectively, you need both passive and active mobility as well as a degree of stability.
Range of Motion (ROM): ROM refers to the joint-specific mobility, or the amount of movement around a particular joint.
Flexibility: flexibility is joint-specific, but it goes a bit farther than just ROM; it also means being able to adapt successfully to all types of changes and challenges, including motor control, strength, balance, and coordination.
Flexibility Training: when training for flexibility, you are lengthening your muscles and fascia (the connective tissues between your muscles) to increase general mobility or specific joint ROM.
Importance of Flexibility Training
Now that we understand the basics of flexibility training, lets talk about why its important. Flexibility training can help to ensure that each and every movement that you make is efficient. In other words, if you do not have appropriate levels of flexibility or mobility, you may have a harder time performing certain movements – depending on where you are lacking flexibility. Improper form can lead to an increased risk for injury and can also mean that you are not performing at optimal levels. And don’t we all want to be the best that we can at our sport?
If you’re like us, you probably strive for maximal performance at everything that you do, but in the case of flexibility, this is not the best approach. It is possible to be hypermobile (too flexible), which can also increase your risk of injury. However, don’t let that scare you; there is an optimal limit of flexibility that you can work towards achieving with an appropriate flexibility training routine.
Dynamic stretching, also referred to as mobility work/drills, is a form of quick, short stretches that occur during movements. When completing dynamic stretching, you are moving in and out of positions that stretch your muscles, but you are not holding the positions for longer than 2-3 seconds.
Dynamic stretching routines should be performed pre-workout and before games or competitions as it can help to warm up your joints, muscles, and fascia. You can also include dynamic stretching throughout your training session if there is a particular movement that feels tight.
When planning your dynamic stretching routine, it is important to perform sport-specific movements that will be required in your training in order to properly prepare your body for it. For example, if your workout will be focusing on barbell back squats, you might want to start your dynamic stretching with mobility exercises for the hips and ankles, such as front, side, and back lunges, to ensure proper mobility. Then, you might want to next move on to bodyweight squats and then squats with just a barbell before adding weight to the movement.
It is also important to think about stretching each of the major muscle groups: quads, hamstrings, adductor and abductor muscles, glutes, lats, biceps, triceps, delts, and trunk muscles. Some examples for some of the major muscle groups are listed below.
Static stretching is when you hold a position that lengthens your muscles for up to 30 seconds. This form of stretching should be performed post-workout and should be slower and longer in duration.
When performing static stretches, inhale to prepare to stretch and then exhale while stretching. Perform 2-3 reps of each stretch and try to progressively increase your ROM with each rep. Because some areas will be tighter than others, they may require more reps in order to reach maximum ROM. Once you have reached the maximum ROM and are no longer seeing increases, you can stop the stretch as there will be no further benefits.
When planning your static stretching routine, follow this pattern:
- Start with your core four muscle groups that affect all movements: glutes, hip flexors, quads, and lats.
- Once you have finished stretching the core four, begin adding in muscles that cross one joint (ex. bent knee hamstring stretch)
- Next, move on to muscles that cross multiple joints (ex. straight leg hamstring stretch)
Below we have included some examples of our favourite stretches for each of the core four muscle groups.
Don’t let tight and sore muscles hold you back from reaching optimal performance. Begin implementing flexibility training into your routine and see numerous benefits, such as improved mobility, better form, and less muscle soreness.