Definitions (types) of flexibility
Anatomical limitations of flexibility
- static flexibility is
defined as "the range of motion about a joint."
dynamic flexibility is
defined as "the resistance of a joint to motion."
- bony structures
- soft tissue structures
When muscle strength is obtained trough resistance exercises that do not use
the full range of motion, the muscle tissue shortens and limits flexibility.
basis of flexibility
- adipose tissue (fat)
Stretch (myotic) reflex
The myotic reflex is a
direct result of stimulation of the muscle spindle, which sends
information to the central nervous system concerning the degree of
stretch upon the involved muscle and the exact number of motor units
needed to contract in order to overcome stretch. When a muscle is
ballistically stretched, it responds with a contraction whose amount and
rate vary directly with those of the causative stretch. When a muscle is
statically stretched, this reflex is inhibited. This inhibition is
initiated by the Golgi Tendon Organ, as a protective mechanism to avoid
This is a neuromuscular function that inhibits (relaxes) one set of muscles
when the antagonist (opposing muscles) are contracting (proprioceptive neuromuscular
facilitation--P.N.F--is based on this function). When this mechanism dysfunctions,
with both agonists and antagonists contracting simultaneously a muscle strain
(torn fibers and spasm) result.
Specificity of flexibility
considerably between articulations within the same joint (articulations
are the different movements of the joint: flexion, extension, adduction,
c. Continuous participation in a particular activity will result in a unique pattern
of flexibility, due to the mechanics of joint and tissue stress inherent
in the activity. In other words, most goalies or most defenders (etc.)
will tend to be flexible in the same ways.
- Flexibility varies
considerably between the different joints of the body.
Benefits of flexibility
Age -- decrease in
the extensibility of soft tissue with aging is related to diminished
range of movement as we grow older, independent of gender (decrease in
flexibility can be significantly slowed down if we keep active).
- Gender -- females exhibit a greater range of movement, independent
- Activity -- active
individuals exhibit a greater range of movement than sedentary
individuals (so keep active!). Also, inactivity is strongly associated
with increased adipose tissue which decreases flexibility.
- Internal Tissue
Temperature -- changes in internal muscular temperature may increase
or decrease the range of motion by as much as 20 percent (so always "warm-up"
- Heredity --
appears to be joint specific (this notion needs more scientific proof,
- Injury -- scar
tissue resulting from injury hinders the range of motion in a joint.
- Pain -- as pain increases, muscle spasm results and, therefore, flexibility is
decreased. * Strength training does not decrease flexibility unless you
do the exercise unproperly and not in the full range of motion.
of Excessive Flexibility
- Maintenance of range of motion prevents or relieves
joint pain which accompany aging.
- A greater range of
motion prevents injury and saves energy.
- Flexibility permits
ease and grace in movement.
has been shown to predispose an individual to a number of
musculoskeletal injuries. Therefore, it is imperative that adequate
muscular strength be developed in conjunction with flexibility.
and Guidelines for Soccer Flexibility
Types of Stretching Exercises
Implementation of Flexibility Training for Soccer
Static or slow-sustained stretching -- a steady position which elongates, muscles,
tendons, ligaments, and fasciae.
- Dynamic or
ballistic stretching -- a bobbing, bouncing movement, involving muscular
contraction, which moves into and out of an elongated position.
neuromuscular facilitation (P.N.F.) a maximal contraction of the muscles
to be stretched followed by relaxation of that same muscle and
progressive stretching of it. The maximal isometric contraction helps in
the relaxation of the muscle to be stretched which allows for more
lengthening of the muscle. While the P.N.F. is believed to be the most
effective flexibility development method, its drawbacks are a need of a
helper, a longer period of time, and a higher degree of pain for
stretching is preferable to ballistic (dynamic) stretching because:
It is generally
recommended that each flexibility exercise be repeated four to six times
and that the stretched position be held at least 10 seconds and no
longer than 60 seconds. For maximum results flexibility exercises should
be held daily for six to eight weeks at the initial stage of a
flexibility program. A certain level of achieved flexibility may be
maintained with as little as two or three weekly sessions using three to
four repetitions of 10-30 seconds each. Stretching regimes designed to
enhance specific movement patterns should be comprises of similar
movement patterns. In order words, stretch the muscles in the position
you will be performing and stressing them.
In ballistic movement, there is a danger of exceeding the extensibility limits of
involved tissue, thereby causing injury.
- Static stretching promotes muscle relaxation by reducing sensory activity and
muscle spindle tension.
- Ballistic stretching tends to elicit pain and soreness both during and after
- Static stretching is just as effective as ballistic stretching in producing
gains in range of motion.
- Ballistic stretching elicits the stretch reflex, which contracts the muscle. SO
DON'T BOUNCE--JUST "HANG" AND RELAX IN A STRETCHED POSITION.
Alter, M.J. (1988). The
science of stretching. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Allsen, P.E., Harrison, J.M., &
Vance, B. (1989). Fitness for life: An individualized approach.
Dubuque, IA: Wm. C. Brown.
Corbin, C.B. & Noble, L.
(1980). Flexibility--A major component of physical fitness, JOPER,
June, pp. 23-27.
Cornelius, L.W. (1981). Two
effective flexibility methods, Athletic Training, Spring, pp.
Fahey, T.D., Insel, P.M., &
Roth, W.T. (1997). Fit & well: Core concepts and labs in
physical fitness and wellness (2nd ed.). Mountain View, CA:
Hoeger, W.W.K., & Hoeger, S.A.
(1995). Physical fitness & wellness: A personalized program (4th
ed.). Englewood, CO: Morton.
Knott M., & Voss, P.
(1985). Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (3rd ed.). New
York, NY: Harper & Row.
Nieman, D.C. (1990). Fitness
and sports medicine: An introduction. Palo Alto, CA: Bull.
Prentice, W. (1994). Fitness
for college and life (4th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby.
Daniel Frankl, Ph.D.
comments; thank you!
Goal Setting Guidelines
Last Modified: Sep. 01, 2001