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Components And Parameters of Fitness (Health-Related)

Muscular Flexibility
The overload and specificity of training principles apply to development of
muscular flexibility. To increase the total range of motion of a joint, the
specific muscles surrounding that joint have to be stretched progressively
beyond their accustomed length. The factors of mode, intensity, repetitions,
and frequency of exercise also can be applied to flexibility programs.

Flexibility or limberness refers to the absolute range of

movement in a joint or series of joints, and length in muscles that cross
the joints to induce a bending movement or motion.

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Flexibility is needed to perform everyday activities with relative ease.

To get out of bed, lift children, or sweep the floor, we need flexibility.
Flexibility tends to deteriorate with age, often due to a sedentary
lifestyle. Without adequate flexibility, daily activities become more
difficult to perform. Over time, we create body movements and posture
habits that can lead to reduced mobility of joints and compromised
body positions. Staying active and stretching regularly help prevent
this loss of mobility, which ensures independence as we age. Being
flexible significantly reduces the chance of experiencing occasional and
chronic back pain.

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Quality of life is enhanced by improving and maintaining a good range

of motion in the joints. Overall flexibility should be developed with
specific joint range of motion needs in mind as the individual joints
vary from one to another. Loss of flexibility can be a predisposing
factor for physical issues such as pain syndromes or balance disorders.

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The final measure of fitness is Flexibility. Flexibility is defined as the ability to
move muscles and joints through their full range of motion.
Flexibility is defined by Gummerson as "the absolute range of movement in a
joint or series of joints that is attainable in a momentary effort with the help
of a partner or a piece of equipment." This definition tells us that flexibility is
not something general but is specific to a particular joint or set of joints.
What Are the Benefits of Good Flexibility?
Tight muscles in the back and lower body can cause back pain, and
improving your flexibility can help prevent and treat that pain. Yoga Journal
explains that when the hamstrings are tight, they pull the pelvis down and
create more pressure for the lower back. Plus, there is less stress on the
spine when the hip flexors and pelvic muscles are flexible. Flexibility can also
ease tension and soreness in muscles to relieve pain in the back and other
areas of the body.
If your muscles are tight, they can cause a reduced range of motion
throughout your body. This can give you trouble with everyday activities such
as reaching overhead to take a dish out of the cupboard. Becoming more
flexible can make these types of activities, as well as exercising, easier. It
improves the range of motion throughout the body to help the body move
more easily.
You are more prone to injury of the muscles, as well as tendons and
ligaments, if you are not flexible, explains Yoga Journal. The tendons
around the muscles stiffen when you do not stretch and keep them flexible.
Having tight muscles gives you a reduced range of motion, so it is easier to
go past that range of motion and injure yourself. Likewise, if you improve

your flexibility, you increase your range of motion and lower your risk of an
injury to the muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Tension in the muscles affects circulation, which can prevent nutrients and
oxygen from properly moving through the body. When the muscles are more
flexible, they relax and create improved circulation. The act of stretching also
encourages circulation by helping blood move to the muscles and joints.
Flexibility can improve your posture because tight muscles affect your
spines alignment. Flexible muscles also have less tension, so you can feel
less stress than you would with a tight and tense body, according to the
American Council on Exercise.
Flexibility helps to:
1. Prevent everyday injury including: muscle and disc strains that occur when
turning over in bed or getting out of bed; shoulder tweaks that result from
doing tasks on the job that involve lifting or reaching; back aches due to
transitioning to standing from sitting, bending down to pick something up, or
even walking up and down the stairs
2. Improve your posture
3. Lengthen your muscles for a longer leaner look
4. Make playing with your kids and babies easier and less injurious
(remember that touch football game during which you overstretched you
5. Allow you to feel more free, open, calm, content, and confident from the
inside out
6. Spread prana (life force) into your cells, which invigorates your spirit
7. Make cardio activity a lot lighter and easier
8. Enhance sports performance (i.e. better arm and shoulder extension and
rotation for swimmers and basketball players, longer strides for runners,
deeper knee bends and hip flexion for skiers) as well as to parry blows that
come with strong athletic endeavors

9. Travel more comfortably because of the ability to sit in many different

positions and do things with your body in confined spaces you otherwise
could not do
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According to Gummerson, flexibility (he uses the term mobility) is affected by
the following factors:

Internal influences
o the type of joint (some joints simply aren't meant to be flexible)

the internal resistance within a joint

bony structures which limit movement

the elasticity of muscle tissue (muscle tissue that is scarred due

to a previous injury is not very elastic)

the elasticity of tendons and ligaments (ligaments do not stretch

much and tendons should not stretch at all)

the elasticity of skin (skin actually has some degree of elasticity,

but not much)

the ability of a muscle to relax and contract to achieve the

greatest range of movement

the temperature of the joint and associated tissues (joints and

muscles offer better flexibility at body temperatures that are 1 to
2 degrees higher than normal)

External influences

the temperature of the place where one is training (a warmer

temperature is more conducive to increased flexibility)

the time of day (most people are more flexible in the afternoon
than in the morning, peaking from about 2:30pm-4pm)

the stage in the recovery process of a joint (or muscle) after

injury (injured joints and muscles will usually offer a lesser
degree of flexibility than healthy ones)

age (pre-adolescents are generally more flexible than adults)

gender (females are generally more flexible than males)

one's ability to perform a particular exercise (practice makes


one's commitment to achieving flexibility

the restrictions of any clothing or equipment

Static Stretching
With static stretching or slow-sustained stretching, muscles are
lengthened gradually through a joints complete range of motion and the
final position is held for a few seconds. A slow-sustained stretch causes
the muscles to relax and thereby achieve greater length. This type of
stretch causes little pain and has a low risk for injury. In flexibilitydevelopment programs, slow-sustained stretching exercises are the most
frequently used and recommended.
Although similar to static stretching, in passive stretching, the
muscles are relaxed, that is, they are in a passive state; and an external
force, provided by another person or apparatus is applied to increase
the range of motion.

Ballistic Stretching
Ballistic stretching requires the impetus of a moving body or body
part to force a joint or group of joints beyond the normal range of
motion. This type of stretching requires a fast and repetitive bouncing
motion to achieve a greater degree of stretch. An example would be
repeatedly bouncing down and up to touch the toes. Ballistic stretching
is the least recommended form of stretching. Fitness professionals feel
that it causes muscle soreness and increases the risk of injuries to
muscles and nerves. Limited data, however, are available to corroborate
such effects. This form of stretching should never be performed without
a previous mild aerobic warm-up and only gentle bouncing actions are
recommended for those who wish to use this mode of stretching.
** Increasing Flexibility
Stretching will increase flexibility. It is important that stretching is done
slowly with gradual increases in the range of motion. The stretch should be
sustained from 10 to 30 seconds, and should not cause pain. Stretching
exercises need to be performed at least 3 times a week. It is safer to stretch
muscles that are already warm. Stretching is best performed after the
aerobic phase or between sets of resistance exercises performed in both the
muscular endurance and strength phases of the general fitness exercise
**Additional info

a. Static
Static stretching involves placing a muscle in its most lengthened position
and holding for at least 30 seconds.
Effective static stretching

Do some light aerobic exercise before you start stretching

Breathe normally

Apply each stretch slowly take it to where tension can be felt, but not

Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds

Dont bounce up and down while stretching

Stretch all major muscles, especially those that will have a large
demand placed on them.
If you have been given static stretches by your trainer or physiotherapist for
tight muscles, do the stretches after your aerobic exercise. Static stretches
relax muscles, therefore only stretch the muscles that are tight. Make sure
that you stay warm when doing static stretches. Repeat the stretches after
training and games.
b. Passive
Passive stretching is also referred to as relaxed stretching, and as staticpassive stretching. A passive stretch is one where you assume a position and
hold it with some other part of your body, or with the assistance of a partner
or some other apparatus. For example, bringing your leg up high and then
holding it there with your hand. The splits is an example of a passive stretch
(in this case the floor is the "apparatus" that you use to maintain your
extended position).
Slow, relaxed stretching is useful in relieving spasms in muscles that are
healing after an injury. Obviously, you should check with your doctor first to
see if it is okay to attempt to stretch the injured muscles
c. Ballistic
Ballistic stretching uses the momentum of a moving body or a limb in an
attempt to force it beyond its normal range of motion. This is stretching, or
"warming up", by bouncing into (or out of) a stretched position, using the
stretched muscles as a spring which pulls you out of the stretched position.
(e.g. bouncing down repeatedly to touch your toes.) This type of stretching is
not considered useful and can lead to injury. It does not allow your muscles
to adjust to, and relax in, the stretched position. It may instead cause them
to tighten up by repeatedly activating the stretch reflex

d. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) or active stretch

PNF stretching is currently the fastest and most effective way known to
increase static-passive flexibility. PNF is an acronym for proprioceptive
neuromuscular facilitation. It is not really a type of stretching but is a
technique of combining passive stretching (see section Passive Stretching)
and isometric stretching (see section Isometric Stretching) in order to
achieve maximum static flexibility. Actually, the term PNF stretching is itself
a misnomer. PNF was initially developed as a method of rehabilitating stroke
victims. PNF refers to any of several post-isometric relaxation stretching
techniques in which a muscle group is passively stretched, then contracts
isometrically against resistance while in the stretched position, and then is
passively stretched again through the resulting increased range of motion.
PNF stretching usually employs the use of a partner to provide resistance
against the isometric contraction and then later to passively take the joint
through its increased range of motion. It may be performed, however,
without a partner, although it is usually more effective with a partner's
Most PNF stretching techniques employ isometric agonist
contraction/relaxation where the stretched muscles are contracted
isometrically and then relaxed. Some PNF techniques also employ isometric
antagonist contraction where the antagonists of the stretched muscles are
contracted. In all cases, it is important to note that the stretched muscle
should be rested (and relaxed) for at least 20 seconds before performing
another PNF technique.


Low back pain is a fact of life. Just about everybody will suffer from it sooner
or later. One of the main causes of back pain, whether acute or chronic, is
low back strain.
So what is low back strain? A series of muscles and ligaments in your back
hold the bones of your spinal column in place. You can strain these muscles
by stretching them too far, causing tiny tears in the tissue. The muscles are

then weakened, so they may not be able to hold the bones of your spinal
column in place correctly. The spine becomes less stable, causing low back
And because nerves stretch out from the spinal cord throughout the entire
body, low back strain can cause pain in areas other than your back.
Low back strain can be caused by:

Extreme physical exertion.

Bending or crouching repeatedly.
Lifting heavy objects if you are not in shape.
It can also be caused by emotional stress, improper posture, being
overweight, out of shape, or sitting in the same position for long periods of
time. Even a severe cough can result in low back strain.

Avoid: Toe Touches

Exercise is good for low back pain -- but not all exercises are beneficial. Any
mild discomfort felt at the start of these exercises should disappear as
muscles become stronger. But if pain is more than mild and lasts more than
15 minutes during exercise, patients should stop exercising and contact a
doctor. Some exercises may aggravate pain. Standing toe touches, for
example, put greater stress on the disks and ligaments in your spine. They
can also overstretch lower back muscles and hamstrings.
Try: Partial Crunches
Some exercises can aggravate back pain and should be avoided when you
have acute low back pain. Partial crunches can help strengthen your back
and stomach muscles. Lie with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross
arms over your chest or put hands behind your neck. Tighten stomach
muscles and raise your shoulders off the floor. Breathe out as you raise your
shoulders. Don't lead with your elbows or use arms to pull your neck off the
floor. Hold for a second, then slowly lower back down. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
Proper form prevents excessive stress on your low back. Your feet, tailbone,
and lower back should remain in contact with the mat at all times.

Avoid: Sit-ups
Although you might think sit-ups can strengthen your core or abdominal
muscles, most people tend to use muscles in the hips when doing sit-ups.
Sit-ups may also put a lot of pressure on the discs in your spine.
Try: Hamstring Stretches
Lie on your back and bend one knee. Loop a towel under the ball of your
foot. Straighten your knee and slowly pull back on the towel. You should feel
a gentle stretch down the back of your leg. Hold for at least 15 to 30
seconds. Do 2 to 4 times for each leg.
Avoid: Leg Lifts
Leg lifts are sometimes suggested as an exercise to "strengthen your core"
or abdominal muscles. Exercising to restore strength to your lower back can
be very helpful in relieving pain yet lifting both legs together while lying on
your back can make back pain worse. Instead, try lying on your back with
one leg straight and the other leg bent at the knee. Slowly lift the straight
leg up about 6 inches and hold briefly. Lower leg slowly. Repeat 10 times,
then switch legs.