Flexibility explained: 3 types of flexibility
There is serious confusion out there when it comes to stretching, flexibility and mobility training. Today we're going to tackle the "types" of flexibility.
There are really on three types of flexibility. As in, you can only be flexible 3 different ways. Anyone who claims there are more, are talking about techniques or types of exercises but not flexibility itself.
The 3 types of flexibility
- Dynamic flexibility
- Active flexibility
- Static/passive flexibility
Research has shown that individual joints as well as the entire body, work optimally when all 3 types of flexibility are achieved equally. Or as equal as possible.
Now let's define the three different types of flexibility and provide examples.
Defining the 3 types of flexibility (with examples)
is the ability to move through a joints range of motion.
Example: Standing brushes (the leg is capable of moving through the hip joints' range of motion)
is the ability to hold a position, mostly near an end-range of motion of a joint by contracting the muscles of the agonist and synergists and allowing the antagonist(s) to relax and stretch*.
Example: Side lunge stretch (the glutes and quadriceps hold the body in the position while relaxing and elongating the hamstrings and adductor muscles.
Static or passive flexibility
is the ability to hold a position, mostly near an end-range of motion of a joint using external forces.
Example: Seated butterfly stretch (the weight of the arms and gravity help push the knees towards the floor which stretches the adductor muscles)
*the muscle(s) does end up in an elongated position but the point is not to maintain the elongated muscle(s) length but to improve stretch tolerance.
Why it's important to have all 3 versions of flexibility
Because it's difficult to achieve active and passive flexibility without dynamic flexibility. Dynamic flexibility allows your muscles, connective tissue and nervous system to learn to accept the range of motion. Static flexibility allows you to get comfortable in the range of motion. And active flexibility allows you to reinforce and maintain the range of motion by adding a strengthening element. The 3 work together to achieve optimal flexibility, which means you'll be flexible while you move, while you're stationary and while you're relaxed.
Let's recap using the hip joint as an example
Dynamic flexibility means you can swing your legs through your hips' range of motion.
Active flexibility means you can use your quadriceps and glutes to relax and stretch your hamstrings.
Static/passive flexibility means you can sit cross legged without stiffness or pain.
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