Stretching Facts and Fallacies of Fitness Part 1

Published: 03rd March 2010
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Research and experience have established beyond a shadow of doubt that flexibility is an essential component of all sporting fitness. Most training programmes begin with a warmup and stretching phase before progressing to the main training exercises. Stretch and tone classes have become popular in aerobics. Numerous books have been written on stretching and stretching exercises. Rehabilitation of muscular injuries often includes stretching exercises. This universality of stretching would imply that it is a separate, specialised form of physical conditioning and is quite distinct from other forms of training.



It is almost heretical to question this stretching doctrine, yet it is important to disclose that there is no research which proves categorically that there is any need for separate stretching sessions, phases or exercises to be conducted to improve performance or safety. To appreciate this fact, it is useful to return to one of the clinical definitions of flexibility, namely that flexibility refers to the range of movement of a specific joint or group of anatomical tissues. Moreover, flexibility cannot be considered separate from other fitness factors such as strength and stamina.



Flexibility is an integral part of all training. No movement is possible without a certain degree of flexibility. Movement constantly restricted to a particular range produces a specific range of movement for the relevant joint. Increase in training range results in increased flexibility. In other words, the normal range of movement regularly used in normal training sessions will produce its own characteristic range of flexibility.



One of the fundamental principles of physiotherapeutic PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) is that appropriate, effective physical conditioning depends on developing an optimal balance between mobility and stability . Excessive flexibility can result in reduction of stability; inadequate flexibility often characterises a state of high stability, but low mobility. A fully functional range of static and dynamic flexibility is what is necessary for all physical activity, where functionality depends on the amount of useful strength which may be produced from beginning to end of range.



Extract from Facts and Fallacies of Fitness by Dr Mel Siff

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