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Flexibility Training Is Essential for a Safe and Effective Workout

Mar 22, 2008
Flexibility training involves maximizing the range of motion and stability of your muscles by performing a series of exercises. You can receive the benefits of improved blood flow in your muscles and have a lower risk of injury when working out or moving heavy objects.

There are three main types of stretching exercises that help accomplish these goals: static, dynamic, and Isometric/PNF.

Static stretches are the most traditional type of stretching exercises; these usually consist of the "pull to maximum end point, hold for 5-10 seconds, then release" types of exercises.

Static stretches should always be included in your 10-minute warm-up routine, as this will give every major muscle group a gentle pull, hold, and relax routine. This will help improve circulation and ready the muscles for more vigorous activity that you will perform in your workouts, while also decreasing the chances for tearing or tendon stretching.

Dynamic or ballistic stretches are more controversial because they involve stretching with added momentum or even stretching with weights. These types of stretches can be potentially harmful, which is why they are controversial. Before engaging in these types of stretches, you should ask a professional fitness expert about them.

One example of a dynamic stretch includes resting one knee on a ball and slowly rotating the ball away from your body, giving a very moderate bounce at the maximum point. Another example of a dynamic stretch is a lunge, which is putting one foot ahead, while kneeling slightly with the back straight and bouncing gently.

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) involves a combination of passive and isometric exercise. This type of stretching has several useful features that individuals should check out to see how it can benefit them.

Under the guidance of a professional fitness expert or a very devoted amateur, PNF can help to maximize the range of movement and best prepare the body for the more strenuous exercise of a workout.

Several PNF exercises are done with a partner. The muscle group you wish to address is stretched under tension, then contracted for several seconds. Your partner applies resistance to inhibit movement, making the stretch that much more effective.

One example of a PNF exercise is to stretch your arms out and slowly move them behind you, then contract your biceps, triceps, and shoulders. Your partner will gently pull your hands together a little past the 180-degree mark as you attempt to pull your arms back to 180 degrees.

Another example of a PNF exercise is to lie on your back on a comfortable surface. Raise one leg vertically; have your partner grab your foot and press your foot gently backward until you feel tension on your hamstring, or the muscle on the rear of your thigh. As you move your leg back down, you'll feel your leg muscles contracting, especially since your partner will continue resisting the movement as you do it.

PNF exercises should only be attempted after you have received proper, hands-on training. Doing them incorrectly can lead to muscle sprains or joint damage.

Whichever stretching exercises you decide to do in your warm-up routine, make sure to do some before beginning your workout routine, as this will help to maximize the performance and benefits you'll receive from your workout, as your muscles will be more fluid and you'll be less likely to suffer an injury.
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