Sports and Other Activities that Require Flexibility
What type of training comes to mind when you think of athletics? Most people assume activities that focus on improving strength and endurance are all you need to perform your best during sports. While this is true, one of the most overlooked activities can actually make or break your performance: flexibility training.
Are you wondering why an athlete needs to be flexible to play their best? Let’s go over what flexibility means in sports and why it’s essential. We’ll also list some sports and other physical activities that require a good amount of flexibility for optimal performance.
What Does it Mean to Be Flexible as an Athlete?
Having flexibility means you can move your joints or group of muscles through their complete range of motion without discomfort or restrictions. People often perform full-body stretches before and after physical activity to improve flexibility. It’s essential to warm up before working out or playing a sport because your increased heart rate delivers more blood to your muscles. This ensures that they can move the way they’re supposed to and help you retain flexibility.
The Importance of Flexibility and Sports
Flexibility is necessary for athletes because it helps boost their performance. It improves posture, allowing for more efficient movement while preventing body misalignments. Not only that but being flexible can also help athletes maintain appropriate muscle mass balance and length. Muscles that are too tight can hinder proper form during a sport or physical activity.
This doesn’t mean all athletes are supposed to be contortionists, though! Ultimately, you’re less likely to perform at your best when you lack a decent amount of flexibility and range of motion.
Ten Common Activities Requiring Good Flexibility
All activities require some degree of flexibility to perform them correctly and comfortably, though it’s a bit more crucial for certain sports and other physical activities. Lacking these elements can prevent you from safely moving through your complete range of motion and can impact your performance.
Besides reducing the risk of an injury, here are some reasons why having flexibility is important for these sports and other physical activities:
Yoga typically combines gentle stretching and strengthening exercises to promote relaxation and control of the mind and body. It requires work from all parts of the body, including the arms, legs, glutes, and back. Having optimal flexibility in those areas can allow you to get into certain yoga positions and experience their benefits.
Even if you aren’t that flexible, it can certainly improve the more you practice yoga.
It goes without saying that gymnastics requires some serious flexibility, particularly in the hips and shoulders. If a gymnast doesn’t have flexibility, agility, or strength, they won’t have the full range of motion to successfully perform their stunts. That can impact your score greatly if you’re competing!
Common moves performed in gymnastics that rely on optimal flexibility are:
- Back handsprings
A good diver knows they should have good flexibility in the shoulders and upper back. Diving positions fold your body in all sorts of different shapes. For example, the tuck position has your knees touching your chest. The pike position also requires the diver’s body to be bent at the waist with their legs remaining straight and their toes pointed for the duration of the move.
This one may come as a surprise to most people but having flexibility while you surf is pretty important. It allows you to bend freely, so you can easily turn the surfboard to maneuver through the waves on the water. Surfing requires a lot of work from the hips, shoulders, and neck.
Building flexibility and strength in those joints will help you become a better surfer by preparing your body for high-stress scenarios.
To be successful in combat sports, you should have good posture and quick reflexes. Being flexible is important for your posture and allows your joints to be in the correct positions to stretch and contract during swift motions. Fighters want to keep all the major muscle groups and joints throughout their bodies nice and limber so they can move easily.
A few examples of combat sports where flexibility is necessary include:
- Martial arts
Figure skaters are sort of like gymnasts but on ice. They tend to position their bodies at extreme lengths to achieve those graceful moves during their show. Being flexible can help improve endurance and skating performance. It also allows skaters to do stunts like spirals and split jumps with ease.
Have you ever noticed how dancers move effortlessly and elongate their limbs during a choreographed performance? This is because their loosened and flexible muscles help them move better. Since stretching also increases blood circulation and gives you energy, it allows dancers to perform longer without feeling fatigued.
Flexibility is vital for all dance styles, including:
- Belly dancing
- Break dancing
- Tap dancing
It’s hard to be peppy and root for your team when you have tight muscles! It takes a decent amount of flexibility for cheerleaders to perform their stunts and dance moves without hurting themselves. Cheerleading is the most dangerous sport for women, and injuries are more likely to occur from a lack of proper training and flexibility.
Flexibility is imperative for pole vaulters because a proper technique requires a good stretch reflex. When you push off the ground to jump, it produces a stretch in the hips and quads. Your shoulders also go through a stretch reflex when you push the pole into the box. Good flexibility in those areas helps with the stretch reflex and provides a more powerful technique.
Flexibility helps you have a better range of motion, which is something that’s necessary when you’re skiing. It helps you maneuver while going at a fast pace, and it allows you to achieve higher jumps to perform stunts.
Skiers also need optimal flexibility in their calves since ski boots tend to make you hinge at the heel. This stretches the calf and Achilles in each leg, and your chances of injuring these areas are greater if they’re tight.
Weightlifting or other strength training activities also require some flexibility. This can help ensure all the different parts of your body work together for optimal performance. Believe it or not, good flexibility allows you to lift better by not restricting how the major muscles in your arms and legs move.
What is Flexibility Training?
Flexibility training aims to stretch your muscles so you can feel limber. It involves several activities that provide you with more freedom of movement to perform physical activities better. These exercises are often low-intensity, as the goal is more focused on increasing flexibility and range of motion rather than strength. Incorporating flexibility training for athletes is essential so they can perform their best without getting injured.
Should Non-Athletes Try to Improve Flexibility?
Absolutely! In fact, we encourage non-athletes to work on improving their flexibility since it’s just as useful for everyday activities. People with limited flexibility and range of motion might find it more difficult to do certain activities without feeling aches, including:
- Walking up or down the stairs
These aches occur because those who lack decent flexibility will experience uncomfortable knots in their muscles and tissues. When non-athletes work on improving flexibility with certain exercises and stretching, it breaks up those knots, so the muscles have less restriction.
Frequently Asked Questions About Stretching and Improving Flexibility
If you’re new to stretching and flexibility training, you might have some questions to ensure you’re doing everything correctly. Here are some of the commonly asked questions people may ask about this topic, along with the answers:
How Long Does It Take to Improve Flexibility?
With regular stretching, you may begin to notice an improvement in your flexibility in about a month. Of course, several factors can also determine how much flexibility a person has. For example, women are typically more flexible than men because of their genetic makeup. Your exercise history can also contribute to your level of flexibility.
Can a Person Improve Flexibility at Any Age?
You’re never too old or young to begin flexibility training to improve your range of motion. As you age, your flexibility naturally declines, sometimes by up to 50% in certain joints! You can maintain that flexibility and range of motion with regular stretching from a younger age.
This means fewer aching joints and more energy to do the things you enjoy!
Is There a Way to Increase Flexibility Quicker?
Increasing flexibility is a slow and steady process that you cannot speed up. You shouldn’t overdo it or push your body past its comfort zone, as this can open the door for injuries. If you want to see results fast, make sure to remain consistent with your stretching and flexibility training.
Can Flexibility Make You Stronger?
Yes and no. While you won’t become bulky from stretching alone, it can lengthen your muscle tissue and increase flexibility. These factors help you perform strength-building moves with the right amount of tension and range of motion. Flexibility simply ensures that your muscles are strong enough to support you and your movements during strength training, which can help improve your physical fitness.
Basically, a limited range of motion will prevent you from performing your best, which then minimizes the strength you’d gain if you did the exercises more effectively. This is also why both strength training and flexibility training are equally important for athletes and bodybuilders.
Is There Such Thing as Being Too Flexible?
When someone is “too flexible,” it’s known as hypermobility. Some people are born with hypermobile joints, which is often referred to as being double-jointed. Other times, people can overdo it during an activity or exercise and overstretch. When this happens, your muscles will appear lax, and your joints are more likely to become hyperextended.
Overstretched muscles can cause other issues, such as microscopic tears and instability within the joints. Injuries become more likely after overstretching your muscles, so don’t think that looser is better.
Here are some helpful tips to prevent overstretching:
- Properly warming up
- Practicing proper form
- Staying hydrated
- Stop if it hurts
How Often Should I Stretch?
Most health professionals recommend gentle stretching every day or every other day. Longer stretch sessions with a professional stretch practitioner can be done at least three times a week. This combination can ensure your body is healthy and can move the way it’s supposed to without any discomfort.
How the Stretch Zone Method Helps Flexibility
Stretch Zone has been helping all kinds of athletes improve their performance through practitioner-assisted stretching. We use a specific method that adheres to the concept of reciprocal innervation, which describes when a muscle relaxes on one side of the body to accommodate the contraction on the other side. This neuromuscular behavior allows us to help build a person’s stretch tolerance.
Our stretch practitioners achieve this by continuously moving your muscles just to the point of resistance before releasing them to a neutral position. It re-educates the nervous system to tolerate greater muscle extension without sending pain signals to the area. The more you keep up with this, the more likely you will build that stretch tolerance.
The Stretch Zone method does more than make people flexible. It improves several other factors that allow you to perform sports and other daily activities with ease. Some of the benefits athletes can experience during a stretching session at Stretch Zone include:
- Enhances athletic and physical skills
- Relieves stiffness and soreness
- Reduces stress
- Corrects muscle imbalances
- Increases and maintains range of motion
Let the Stretch Zone Team Help You During Your Flexibility Training
Professional athletes have depended on Stretch Zone and our method to help them achieve peak performance during their games. We want to do the same for you! No matter what sport you play or your current fitness level, achieving and maintaining flexibility is vital for good performance.
Are you looking for a professional and friendly team to help you with your flexibility training? We encourage you to find a Stretch Zone location near you and schedule a 30-minute stretching session with one of our professionals. Your first session is free, and you will notice the difference it makes to your physical performance.