Increasing Your Flexibility
Flexibility is one of the most important training components athletes should consider, as part of their sports training. It is also something school children, teenagers and people recovering from injury or hospital treatment need to be aware of.
However, it is also one of the most overlooked aspects of sports training and fitness. The more flexible you are, the faster you can run and you have less risk of injuries.
If you have poor flexibility, or there is a flexibility imbalance in your legs, the risk of injury is increased. Back pain, hamstring, calf and groin injuries are more likely.
For example, the main reason athletes injure their hamstring is because of an imbalance between their quad muscles and hamstring muscles. Many have strong quads and weak hamstrings muscles, increasing the likelyhood of injury.
Flexibility In Children And Teenagers
Children are most flexible from 0 to 11. From 11 to 13 years old, they are at their most inflexible. However, there is a window of opportunity where they can start doing flexibility exercises to avoid becoming inflexible from the age of 11 years old. Females are more flexible at this age, so males require more training in this area.
Identifying this problem and doing the correct exercises can help avoid many health problems in the future including Back pain, Hamstring, calf and groin injuries.
If children grow up flexible there is a greater chance they will live a healthier life. This results in them continuing to participate in sports and remain fit and healthy.
“Weak muscles and lack of flexibility are primary causes of knee injuries.”
- Mayo Clinic
In the United States, athletes cannot compete unless they have a flexibility reading of at least 80 degrees. Average measurements in Ireland and the UK are much less than this.
Flexibility Recommendations In The United States:
- An angle below 80 degrees is recorded as ’unacceptable’
- A minimum angle of 80 degrees is ’acceptable’
- An angle of 90 degrees is desirable (Howley and Franks 2003)
- Extension of 90-135 degrees is the normative range provided by the ’American College of Sports Medicine 7th Edition of Guidelines for Executive Testing and Prescription’.
“Short hamstrings lead to short stride length, which in turn limits speed. The other problem is the potential for injuries like strains, because of the imbalance that tight hamstrings can cause. Regarding ROM, 90 degrees is a good starting point.”
– Brad Walker, The Stretching Institute(tm)
Lack Of Flexibility Reduces Speed
Less flexibility leads to a shorter stride. This means you could be running slower because of this. For example, if it takes you 20 steps to run 40 yards, and each stride is 2 inches shorter than it should be, you could be losing 40 inches over that short distance.
Now, If you were to run a more ‘flexible’ version of yourself, you’re flexible version would win by over a yard.