The Importance of Flexibility in Athletes

One of the aspects of training that often gets pushed to the wayside is flexibility.  When we are in a crunch for time, the first thing that gets removed from the workout is stretching.  Unfortunately, that is an important aspect!  Stretching improves and maintains range of motion, reduces stiffness in your joints, reduces soreness, reduces the risk of injury, improves mobility, and performance.  So many great results come from stretching consistently.  I train my athletes to stretch before and after a workout.  While they do an array of different stretches, they all ultimately provide the same purpose: to increase mobility.

The pre-workout flexibility consists of a dynamic warm up, which increases blood flow, heart rate, and body temperature.  The dynamic warm up is just that, dynamic.  It requires us to move in a controlled manner in order to get that blood flowing to our muscles and prepare our bodies for the work we are about to perform.  Examples of exercises in a dynamic warm up are: butt kicks, skips, frankenstein kicks, lateral lunges, lunge and reach, cariokas, shuffles, figure 4 hold.

The post workout flexibility consists of slow static stretching, which decreases heart rate and body temperature, increases joint mobility, and breaks down lactic acid.  It allows our body’s to recover from the workout and calm down by holding stretches for a period of 30 seconds -1 minute.  It helps break down the lactic acid which makes us feel “sore” after a workout.  Examples of static stretches are: pigeon pose, downward dog, hamstring, quadriceps, figure four, hip flexor, etc.

Athletes are working out almost everyday so they must stretch everyday, in order to keep a leg up on the competition.  Flexibility can occur not just through stretching but also in foam rolling, tennis ball rolling, and body work (massage therapy).  Stretching elongates the muscles making the joints more flexible.  To really breakdown the muscles and build them up stronger and longer than before.  Athletes should be incorporating foam rolling/ tennis ball rolling/ body work into their workout routines.

As females, we have a tendency to be more flexible than males.  However, we also have tighter hips, quads, ankles, hamstrings, and gluts.  To maintain that balance we need to keep stretching and strengthening the appropriate muscle groups.  So, stretch it out girls!

Cara Regas earned her bachelor’s degree is Psychology from University of California, Santa Barbara. She also holds a Master of Arts degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Sport Psychology from San Diego State University. At UCSB, Cara was an athletic training student for intercollegiate athletics and has since become a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC).  She worked with all team sports and traveled specifically with Track and Field/ Cross-Country, Women’s Softball, and Women’s Soccer.

About the Author

Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS, is an internationally-recognized performance trainer, bodyworker, speaker, author, and owner of award-winning gym Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, CA (one of the Top 10 Gyms in the U.S.). His outstanding team of 38 professionals deliver extraordinary service in personal training, sports performance training, massage/bodywork, Pilates, yoga, physical therapy and chiropractic. Todd is the Lead Training Advisor for Under Armour, regular contributor to Men’s Health, and author of The IMPACT! Body Plan.

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