Flexibility workout

Written by: Vojko Strojnik, Ph.D.

Flexibility workout involves various stretching techniques. With the help of a selected exercise, we target those muscle groups we want to stretch. 

Flexibility Workout Objectives:

  • Increased flexibility in joints
  • Relaxation of muscles
  • Increased elasticity of tissues
  • Reduced risk of injuries
  • Faster recovery of muscles
  • Other ...

Methods of muscle stretching include:

  • Dynamic stretching
  • Short stretch
  • Static stretching
  • PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) methods
  • Other ...

The various methods of stretching differ in their effects and appropriate usage. In the introductory part of the training unit, we will therefore prepare the body for the burden of the main part via dynamic stretching. After the main part of the workout unit, we will use static stretching for relaxing and faster regeneration. During the workout we will use static stretching or PNF methods to increase flexibility (as the main workout goal), or a short stretch to lower muscle tone after the most intensive loads, such as in strength workout.

You should implement flexibility workouts regularly and systematically at least twice a week. While implementing, ensure the appropriate intensity (no pain) to avoid damage. Flexibility workout is associated with feeling the muscles, not pulling them violently.

Ensure appropriate conditions for successful stretching. A warmed up muscle is less vulnerable to injuries. Ensure balance to truly relax muscles. If the muscles are actively involved in maintaining balance, they cannot be stretched effectively (safely). The stretching position should be comfortable, otherwise it will be difficult to relax the muscles. Only when the muscles are truly relaxed can we ensure appropriately focused attention on muscle tone, which is one of the principles in determining the intensity of stretching.

Control of muscle length can be easily implemented if we execute movements from the tendon through the joints (through the basic joint planes). It is essential to control the angle in a joint for control of the length of uni-articular muscles, and in two joints at the same time in multi-articular muscles. Returning to the starting position is slow and requires the help of other muscles, because stretched muscles are too sensitive and prone to damage.

We perform exercises in a specific order (either from head to feet or opposite) for better control of the exercises we have already implemented and those we have not. Sequence is more important when we have a combination of uni-articular and multi-articular muscles that go through the same joint. In such cases, always stretch uni-articular first, followed by stretching of the multi-articular muscles (for example, m. soleus first and then m. gastrocnemius, or m. Iliopsoas first and then m. rectus femoris).

We can use flexibility workout for developing perception of the body. Generally, strong signals come from an individual muscle, so it can be spatially defined easily. We control tension in the muscle by increasing amplitude in the joint, which produces a difference in the quality of signals.

The strategy for developing flexibility is to develop and maintain it. Normally, it takes a few weeks to increase flexibility, and then once or twice a week to maintain it. This means that we do a workout unit where stretching only is on the program. For athletes, it is generally also the day of rest.

Do not implement a flexibility workout when muscles are strongly acidified (after a workout for muscle mass or strength endurance, or an intense interval workout) or when muscle glycogen is exhausted (long-term endurance workout), because muscles are more prone to damage. In such cases, wait for the acidity to pass (at least two hours) and for muscle glycogen to begin regeneration. Then, stretch muscles with a delay after the workout unit. Always remember to warm up beforehand.

Certain stretching exercises are considered risky and are not recommended. These include:

  • Hurdle seat
  • Standing forward bent
  • Arches and bridges
  • Ballistic rotation of torso
  • Hanging upside down

In general, all exercises in which ligaments are loaded.