5 Quick Keys to Gaining Flexibility

stretching for gymnastics and dance

1.  Flexibility is unachievable with muscular imbalances and compensations

Often time’s people complain about feeling tight and thus they try and stretch. This tightness most often comes from a muscular imbalance. In my office I deal with muscle imbalances in every visit, often testing over 60 muscles to determine which muscles are out of balance and more importantly which muscles are just compensating and hiding the real problem. Compensations can occur for many reasons, but commonly they begin from avoiding pain or a previous injury.  Finding a qualified manual muscle testing practitioner is essential.

2.  Flexibility is limited when you are unhealthy (stress, allergies, poor diet, etc.)

Many people don’t know but stress, allergies, poor diet and other lifestyle factors have effects on your flexibility. Regularly eating a food you are sensitive or allergic too for example, can tire out the adrenal glands and cause a dysregulation of the electrolytes and other processes in your body. When electrolytes and other basic biochemical processes are out of balance, your muscles can’t perform optimally. You may have seen LeBron James cramp up in the 2014 NBA Finals; this is an example of dysregulation affecting muscle function.  Trying to figure out food sensitivities, improving your diet and decreasing stress will all improve your flexibility.

3.  True flexibility is ultimately being STRONG in end ranges of motion

The muscles give feedback to the brain at all times, essentially letting the brain know how “safe” it is for the joint or limb to move in any given direction. In general, the greater the angle of the joint, the more susceptible to damage the muscle is. When you reach these greater joint angles, the muscle gives feedback to the brain that you are nearing a dangerous situation as the strength the muscle can provide to the joint is getting limited.

By strengthening the muscle in the end range of motion, the situation then becomes “safer” and the muscle sends feedback to the brain that there is less danger and the brain allows the joint angle to increase which means you get more flexible.

Most injuries occur in end ranges of motion due to the muscles inability to support the joint.  Gaining flexibility by static stretching without gaining the requisite strength puts you at more danger than if you were not flexible at all.

4.  Flexibility is controlled by your nervous system

Ultimately your nervous system controls the ability of your muscles to relax and contract. While the muscles give feedback as to the joint and muscles status, the brain ultimately gives most of the commands. The healthier your nervous system is, especially its ability to relax, the more flexibility you will have.

A good indication of this is by paying attention to your bowel movements. If you are constipated all the time, need a laxative or your morning coffee to help you “go,” this is a sign you are already too ramped up or stressed out and that you have difficulty relaxing, which means your flexibility will suffer.

5.  Flexibility is largely determined by your training

Your training should include as much of a variety of movements as possible.

If you are a runner and all you do is run, then eventually you will lose flexibility and your ability to squat for example. If you are a bodybuilder and you constantly focus on the maximum contraction of your muscles during each rep, then you will lose the ability to relax the muscle completely because of your focus on the contraction. Each sport specialty will have its movement limitations and thus compensations but by adding in variety of movements you can avoid getting overtight and limiting your ranges of motion.

I personally recommend MovNat training for any time you are not focusing on your specialty in order to maintain flexibility and increase overall power and strength.

Dr. Anderson works with many competitive gymnasts and competitive dancers working on the above mentioned items as well as improving their flexibility the right way, strengthening muscles in the lengthened position, preventing injury and rehabbing injury as well.  Please contact the office for a free consultation.