One of the five health-related components of fitness is flexibility. Flexibility relates to the ability to move a joint through its full range of motion (ROM). Developing a complete fitness program requires taking time to emphasize this component by stretching. Unfortunately, as the American Council on Exercise points out, “Most people neglect flexibility training, limiting freedom of movement, physical and mental relaxation, release of muscle tension and soreness, and injury prevention.”1
Perhaps the reason it is so easy for people to overlook flexibility is because its benefits, while significant, are felt more than seen. However, failing to address this component of fitness can have serious consequences, especially as a person ages. Without flexibility, everyday tasks, such as sweeping the floor or even getting out of bed, become difficult. Reduced mobility of joints increases the risk of injury during an exercise routine, as well as the risk of occasional and chronic back pain. This chapter will provide a greater understanding of this vitally important component of a complete fitness program and demonstrate why flexibility shouldn’t be overlooked.
Types of Flexibility
Flexibility is classified into two types: static and dynamic.
1. Static flexibility
This type of flexibility is a measure of the limits of a joint’s overall range of motion. It is measured by stretching and holding a joint in the position of its maximum range while using a measuring instrument to quantify that range. To achieve the maximum range, passive forces, the force generated from an external source, are required.
2. Dynamic flexibility
This type of flexibility is a measure of overall joint stiffness during movement. Unlike static flexibility, dynamic flexibility requires active force production, or your own muscles contracting. Because quantifying “stiffness,” is difficult, dynamic flexibility is measured more subjectively. Assessment is based on how easy or difficult it is to perform certain tasks, such as swinging a tennis racket, climbing steps, or getting in and out of a car.
The aim of any good stretching program is to improve both static and dynamic flexibility so that normal ROM can be achieved. The definition of normal in this context is one developed from population studies that measured various areas of the body and established an average degree of movement for a particular joint.
Dawn Markell & Diane Peterson, Health and Fitness for Life. MHCC Library Press. Sept 4, 2019. https://mhcc.pressbooks.pub/hpe295