Ok, I need to call foul on myself, I kind of sorta put the cart before the horse sort of speak. By talking about strength training, cardiovascular training and even posting a workout before I discussed anything about warming up or stretching. So shame on me…if you haven’t guessed from the title, I’m going to be talking about flexibility today. Most of my material is going to be coming from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) because I liked how they categorized everything and made it easier to organize it. Also, it’s fits into my training philosophy and beliefs. Also, I just took my exam last Friday to be a certified personal trainer under that organization and I pass!!
NASM describes Flexibility as the ability to move a joint through it’s complete range of motion dictated by the normal extensibility ( capability to be elongated or stretched) of all soft tissues surrounding it. Now grant it I do have a picture of a friend of mine pulling off a full split in the middle of a underground solo jazz competition but really utilizing flexibility training as a means to improve overall movement and Neuromuscular efficiency or the ability of the nervous system to recruit the correct muscles to produce force, reduce force and dynamically stabilize the body’s structure in all three planes of motion. In normal speak your body functions properly to control itself on the dance floor, which is huge for proper technique, learning moves, floorcraft and overall injury prevention.
Ok, to be able to put flexibility in a manner that can be progressed and really cover all the aspects of it in regards to fitness and overall well being, I’m going to go over the flexibility continuum. This is NASM’s progressive approach to flexibility and in a way how I like to approach it. There are many other ways I just choose this one. Flexibility is divided into 3 phases Corrective Flexibility, Active Flexibility and Functional flexibility all of these utilize different techniques to improve neuromuscular function in hopes of improving muscle imbalances and improving motor neuron function.
This is designed to increase joint range of motion (ROM), Improve muscle imbalances and correct altered joint patterns. These can result to lack of movement or repeated patterns (pattern overload). This can result in altered patterns of body movement as trigger points develop in soft tissue known as fascia resulting in one muscle that is overactive (tight) and a under active muscle (weak).Which can create altered movements that can result in injuries and chronic pain. So corrective flexibility uses Foam rolling or self myofascial release covered in the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UQMLGvgf-0 this utilizes autogenic inhibition to cause muscle relaxation. Another technique used in corrective flexibility is static stretching and this is the type of stretching that is more commonly known as to holding out a stretch for like 10-20 seconds. Static stretching helps to lengthen shortened muscles to allow them to have better ROM and function. Many people should start here because it’s important to deal with any areas of chronic pain and loosening the muscles that are tight to alleviate that pain before really progressing in their training.
The next step of flexibility is the active portion just like corrective you’ll be utilizing myofascial release aka foam rolling. Straight form NASM’s Essentials of personal training which is available on Amazon. Active-isolated stretching is designed to improve the extensibility of soft tissue and increase neuromuscular efficiency by using reciprocal inhibition. This allows for the agonist and synergist muscles to move a limb through a full ROM while the functional antagonists are being stretched http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1gk_tHVxn4. Do This is good before dancing because it increases motorneuron excitability which is good when you’re about to be pulsing around the dance floor.
Last but not least is functional flexibility here we’re still utilizing foam rolling on common areas that tend to get tight for us but we go into utilizing dynamic stretching to get the muscles prepared for movement. Dynamic stretching requires integrated, multiplanar soft tissue extensibility, with optimal neuromuscular control, through the full range of motion. or essentially movement without compensations. Also, known as movement prep dynamic stretching is utilized before athletic competitions. My partner and I have a warm up routine to music that we use to get ready for practice. It get’s our bodies going in all the different directions we could hit on the floor and also gets us pulsing warming up our ankles, knees and hips. Here’s an example warm up that’s not geared towards Lindy hoppers but it is dance minded http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUqWuFCOMMc. Remember if you have any compensations with any of these movements you MUST regress back to active stretching or corrective stretching because all that’ll happen warming up compensated movements is you getting injured.
So there we have it flexibility and it’s importance. As you noticed I didn’t address this subject till my 5th post, which shows how this can be easily overlooked. I’m going to be really getting serious about my own flexibility routine and will document the improvements I have utilizing it. Feel free to ask me any if not many questions. Love ya’ll and Good bless
Photo credit to Alex Buchalter photography Video Credits to OSR Physical Therapy, Dr. Mark Cheng, Running Times Magazine
Website resource: FreeDictionary.com and National Academy of Sports Medicine Essential of Personal Fitness Training.