Any gymnast will tell you the two keys to their power and movement come from Strength vs Flexibility. But no matter how hard you train, your body is not designed to reach maximum potential on both fronts. At some point your flexibility will reach its limit when there is too much muscle mass in the way. And likewise when you are lean and super flexible, you have to give up some strength.
Men’s Fitness defines it this way, “A person with great mobility is able to perform functional movement patterns with no restrictions in the range of motion (ROM) of those movements. A flexible person may or may not have the core strength, balance, or coordination to perform the same functional movements as the person with great mobility. There are a host of possible muscle imbalances that cause this, but these problems can be fixed with a combination of what I call the three S’s—soft-tissue work (foam roll), stretch, and strengthen. It’s important to recognize that flexibility is a component of mobility, but extreme flexibility usually isn’t necessary to perform functional movements.”
The areas that are most important to focus on to achieve your best balance of strength and flexibility are posture in the neck, mid back, lower back, hip flexors, hamstrings, and calf muscles. Three must-do exercises to address this would be overhead squats, the prayer stretch (elbows on a bench from your knees, let the chest sink down), and knee-to-elbow bird dogs. Don’t forget to foam roll, which might be the most important component of all. That’s what lengthens the muscle and lean muscles are flexible muscles that still maintain your power.
Working with a trainer on your strength and flexibility goals will help you get where you want to be – whether that’s a pro athlete, a gymnast, or a fit mom or dad. The reality is that the more muscle you gain the less flexible you will become if you do not keep trying to maintain or increase your flexibility. Flexibility is not just about tendons and ligaments and abdominal stretching, but also about nerves gliding smoothly throughout them all and when there is literally more Muscle Tissue pressing against the nerves, it limits your flexibility. Flexibility is not an issue of muscle length but more so all about the nervous system. Now, does that mean that a bodybuilder cannot get flexible? Of course not! They could get flexible! It’ll just take time because there is literally so much more muscle tissue to soften. Compare that to a lanky 100 pound girl with absolutely minimal muscle tissue. It’s a no brainer to realize why she’s SO flexible.
Contact a trainer at myTRAINER to get a fitness evaluation and a free starter workout to learn some new stretches and exercises to reach your goals. Your fitness is our business. See you at the gym!
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