As a definition, Flexibility is an ability of a joint to change position. Furthermore flexibility is the motor ability that determines the capacity of a joint to move various positions.
ROM – range of motion, is the most common way to inform the changes in flexibility but it is important to acknowledge that ROM is not a synonym for flexibility.
Other factors that measure improvements of the flexibility
- less resistance in the stretch
- ability to contract the lengthened muscle more
- reduced mechanical tension(does muscle feel tight or loose)
- increased joint strength(less need for muscles to contract)
Four different types of Flexibility
Static Passive Flexibility (SPF)
When people are referring to stretching, they usually mean static passive stretching. This means there is no activation of the muscles and there is no movement. This is sometimes called relaxed stretching etc.
Passive tension of the muscle-tendon unit is the main limiter of movement at the extreme limits of joint range of motion. The primary goal of flexibility training is to create change in passive tension by altering the stiffness of the muscle (its intrinsic resistance to stretch), increasing fascicle length, or improving one’s ability to tolerate higher levels of passive tension.
Static passive stretching effectively reduces musculotendinous stiffness.
Dynamic Passive Flexibility (DPF)
This is the other form of passive flexibility, where limbs(or other body parts) are moving without any voluntary muscle contraction. This usually requires another person to do the job and this is something you have probably experienced when you were treated by some sort of therapist. We do not focus too much on this but bear in mind that any movement can include any of the four types of flexibility.
Dynamic Active Flexibility (DAF)
Dynamic active movement is the type of movement that we incorporate into our daily lives most often. This type of flexibility training has become pretty popular these days because it will bring many benefits along with improvement of flexibility.
Many of the Movement Stick movement drills are some kind of dynamic active movements and if we use full ranges, then as an end result we end up improving Dynamic Active Flexibility.
Flexibility is very much ROM and speed specific and an extreme version of DAF is sometimes called ballistic stretching.
Compared to other methods of flexibility training, for most of us, ballistic stretching is an inefficient approach to increasing the range of motion. It also carries a higher risk of tissue damage, which may announce itself as the soreness of the muscles and other tissues.
Ballistic stretching has some benefits during activities that incorporate rapid stretch-shortening cycles. This is more common in some sports such as martial arts.
Static Active Flexibility (SAF)
The last of the four forms of flexibility is an isometric version of flexibility.
Static Active Flexibility is divided into two different forms: agonist and antagonist.
In static active stretching, the joint is not moving and the muscles on either side of the joint are contracting.
The terms agonist and antagonist refer to the contracting muscles. The antagonist is always the muscle group that is being stretched, regardless of which side of the joint is active!
The fastest way to improve flexibility
So what kind of stretching to choose?
In a nutshell, we should have all four types of stretching but the amount of each of them is out for debate. Our recommendation is to use them as a combination where you for example add static passive + static active + dynamic active(eccentric part).
We also recommend using Dynamic Active Stretching as a part of your overall movement practice and use this kind of activity daily with light intensity.
Stretching and relaxing
One of the reasons we stretch is to reduce tension. Static passive stretching incorporated with breathing is probably one of the best ways to relax your body and this way maximizes recovery. So even if you feel “relaxed stretching” is useless, we recommend using them for relaxation.
Flexibility is probably the most important motor ability, because it unites other motor abilities together – thus influencing the overall movement quality(also known as Mobility, which we will discuss later).
Want to learn more? This and much more are covered in full depth at Movement Stick Coach -course.