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Flexibility is the basis of all movement; without flexibility the muscles cannot work properly to their full range and so mobility is hampered. Flexibility is determined by the shape of the bones and cartilage (that are the foundation of a particular joint) and the length of the muscle that crosses over that joint. It is possibly one of the most overlooked aspects of fitness; it only becomes a concern when the joints start to stiffen and inflexibility causes other musculo-skelteal problems. It must be remembered that the body is a kinetic chain, so shortened hamstrings (the muscles running down the back of the leg) are often the cause of posterior pelvic tilt which in turn can lead to a bad back!
The body adapts to stresses placed upon it. This includes doing nothing! If muscles are unused then they will become efficient at not moving, wasting and shortening. Some sports, like running, football, boxing and hockey only use the muscles through a limited range, causing adaptive shortening.
Muscle shortening can also be the result of poor posture. This can happen in some sports that make one muscle group strong, pulling the opposing group and making them shorter. Age is also a cause of muscle shortening. As we get older we become less flexible.
These inflexible muscles can cause a host of problems, from bad backs, headaches, poor posture to muscle injury. When a tight muscle is suddenly placed under stress and forced past it’s habitual range then injury or tear to the muscle becomes likely. This could be playing sports but might also happen if you slip, reach for something or have to react suddenly.
So, good flexibility, achieved through proper stretching, will lead to an increased range of movement, relaxed muscles (increased physical and mental relaxation), a reduced risk of joint/muscle strains, improved co-ordination and less likelihood of postural problems like bad backs and stiff necks. It also helps you to get fitter and perform better in all aspects of life, as the muscles are using more of their fibres through a greater range.
There is a full list of stretches on the site here. All sessions with a personal trainer in Windsor and Maidenhead include 10 or more minutes of dedicated stretching, mainly passive where the trainer stretches you. The full rock star treatment!
By Robert Atkinson