How Flexibility Affects Strength (& Vice Versa)
Flexibility is one of the most important factors when it comes to your health. You don’t want to have any limitations in this area because they could cause you problems later on. If you are already doing some sort of exercise or stretching routine, then chances are that you might be getting stronger and gaining muscle mass.
However, if you aren’t doing anything at all, then what’s going on? What exactly is happening with your body? Is it just you being lazy?
Or maybe there is something else going on here that you need to take into consideration.
In order to answer these questions, let us first look at the anatomy of the human body. There are three major parts: the skeleton, muscles and tendons. These three parts work together in order to provide our bodies with its various functions such as movement, breathing and digestion. Let us now see how flexibility affects each of these three areas.
Your skeletal structure determines the size, shape and position of your bones and organs. Your skeleton is made up of several different bones which are connected to each other through joints called vertebrae. The main purpose of the skeleton is to support your weight while moving around. If you were not able to move around, then you would probably fall over due to lack of balance.
Your muscles allow you to be able to move around. Being strong not only guarantees that you can lift heavy objects, it also helps you in many other ways especially in your day to day life. You can perform physical labor more easily or even play with your kids.
Connecting your muscles to your bones are tendons which allow you to perform various movements such as climbing stairs or lifting objects. Your muscles contract and allow you to move around or perform a particular activity.
How does flexibility affect skeletal, muscular and tendons?
By being flexible, it means that your body is able to move in such a way that your limbs can extend or stretch without any limitations. Stretching increases the length of your muscles and connective tissues enabling you to achieve greater lengths than you normally would be able to do so.
In addition to that, stretching also improves the range of motion in your joints allowing you to bend and turn more easily. The stretching action also helps to boost your performance especially if you are involved in physical sports or activities. For example, having flexible hamstrings can help improve your sprinting speed.
The importance of flexibility for your skeletal system
As mentioned earlier, your skeletal system gives your body its overall shape and enables you to move around. Skeletal flexibility can give you the ability to perform splits or even touch your toes. This type of flexibility is mostly seen in dancers or people who practice martial arts.
A flexible skeleton allows your body to have a lower center of gravity, making it more stable and able to withstand greater forces without breaking. For example, professional ballet dancers have flexible joints which allow them to perform difficult movements seamlessly.
However, an inflexible skeleton can allow your body to be more resistant towards potential physical damage such as a broken bones. This type of inflexibility is seen in sportsmen who need to have strong bones in order to withstand high impacts when playing their sports.
The importance of flexibility for your muscular system
Muscles are responsible for giving your body the ability to move. They contract and allow you to be able to perform various activities. For example, you would not be able to sit up from a lying position without your muscles being able to contract and pull your body upwards.
Being more flexible allows muscles to stretch past their normal resting length. Muscles contract easier and also relax easier when they are in a stretched state. For example, a ballet dancer can take their leg behind their head because their muscles are in a habit of stretching beyond what is normally seen.
Muscular inflexibility can be seen in athletes who require lots of power. For example, bodybuilders who have a high amount of strength and power in their muscles do not have flexible muscles. This enables them to be stronger and more powerful when lifting heavy objects or doing strong athletic moves.
The importance of flexibility for your tendons
Your tendons are rope-like structures of collagen that connect your muscles to your bones. When your muscles contract, the tendons also contract enabling your bones to move. For example, if you want to lift up your arm, a chain of events will occur. Your brain will send a signal down your nerves that will cause your muscles to contract.
This will pull on the tendons which will cause your arm to lift up. Since tendons are made of collagen, they are more resistant to stretching and not as flexible as muscles and skin. However, your tendons do still stretch but only to a certain degree.
For example, professional basketball players have very tight tendons in their fingers this allows them to be able to grip the basketball better. However, if their fingers are too tight, they might have trouble shaking other people’s hands because their tendons prevents them from opening their hands wide enough.
A professional athlete that has inflexible tendons might find it difficult to walk if their Achilles tendon is too tight. On the other hand, an older adult might find it difficult to stand up from a crouching position if their tendons are too loose.
Some activities can increase or decrease the flexibility of your tendons. For example, people who do yoga are able to stretch their tendons further than regular people. This is because of the many stretching exercises involved in yoga.
Some sports like swimming can make your muscles and tendons more flexible. This is because of the resistance encountered when pushing through the water. In contrast, sports that involve a lot of power like weightlifting can make your muscles and tendons less flexible. This is because of the short bursts of explosive activity involved in the sport.
Benefits of being flexible
There are many benefits to having flexible muscles and tendons. Sports and other physical activities become easier when you have flexible muscles and tendons. For example, a gymnast requires a high degree of flexibility in their muscles and tendons in order to perform their routines.
In addition, flexible tendons increase the range of motions that your joints can experience. Having flexible muscles can also help to decrease your risk of getting injured while doing physical activity because the muscles will be able to handle the stress better when they are elongated.
Types of stretching
There are various types of stretching you can do in order to increase the flexibility of your muscles and tendons. Most stretches involve you pushing or pulling on your muscles and tendons in order to force them to lengthen. Here are some examples.
• Passive Stretching: This type of stretching is also called relaxed stretching. For this type of stretch, you hold your body part firmly with one hand or use a stationary object to prevent it from moving. Then using your other body part, you stretch the muscle or tendon as far as it can go. Once you reach the limit of your stretch, hold that position for 10 to 30 seconds. After holding the stretch for the desired amount of time, slowly release and move back to the starting position.
For example, if you want to stretch your hamstrings (the muscles behind your thighs), then you would hold on to a chair to keep your body from moving. Then using your legs, push your heels as far back as you can. Hold that position for 10 to 30 seconds. Then slowly release and bend your knees and roll them forward.
It is very important to check with a doctor before starting any new exercise program or if you have any ongoing medical conditions.
• Active Stretching: This type of stretching is also called dynamic stretching. For this type of stretching, you use the momentum created by your own movement in order to stretch a muscle or tendon. Moving slowly and gently past the normal range of motion, you gradually move into the area you want to stretch.
Make sure not to bounce or force your body past its normal limits when stretching with this method. That can cause more harm than good. Always stretch under the pretense that you are trying to accomplish something and that something is just out of your reach. As such, you are carefully and slowly reaching for it.
For example, if you want to stretch your calves (the muscles behind your lower legs), then you would push your heels as far back as you can first using your leg muscles. Then as you stretch them even further, you could bend your knees slightly and then spring up and down very gently.
In order to stretch your hands and wrists, you can try bending your arms at the elbows and gently pulling your arms away from your body. You can also interlock your fingers and gently pull your hands away from each other.
Before doing any of these stretches, it is important to warm-up first. Warming up involves getting your muscles and tendons ready for the activity that you are going to do. Without warming up, you can cause yourself more harm than good and risk injury. In order to warm up, first gently move your body around. You can jog in place or jump up and down.
Second, you can do a set of minor stretches that will prepare your muscles and tendons for the activity that is to come. In order to avoid bouncing and forcing your body in any particular direction when doing these stretches, you should hold each stretch for about 10 to 30 seconds.
In the next section, you will learn the different types of stretches that you can do.
• Static Stretching: Also called Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (P.N.F), this is the most basic form of stretching and involves stretching a muscle or tendon without any movement or momentum involved. Typically you would hold your stretch for about 30 seconds.
Sources & references used in this article:
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