Chapter 12 – Flexibility, Body Weight, and Stability Ball Exercises

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Chapter Objectives:

  • Know the benefits of flexibility training program participation.
  • Describe the factors affecting flexibility.
  • Describe the value of warming up before flexibility training.
  • List and talk about the various flexibility training types.
  • Understand a flexibility training program that combines dynamic and static stretching.
  • Know the exercises using bodyweight and stability balls.

Defining Flexibility

Flexibility is defined as the range of motion of a joint or series of joints. This is important for people that want to reduce their injury chances and move through a full range of motion without pain.

Flexibility Training as Part of the Total Exercise Program 

Each training session should contain a warm-up that is designed to elevate core temperature.

After warming up, clients don’t necessarily need to start flexibility training.

If doing a dynamic activity, like playing football, it is important to have some flexibility training, and with less dynamic activity, training can be later after the workout.

Benefits of Flexibility Training

Eliminates awkward and inefficient movements by giving joints more free motion through the full range of motion.

Resistance to muscular injuries is increased from flexibility training.

You may be able to perform more advanced skills that require high levels of flexibility.

Flexibility aims not to achieve an unlimited range of motion but a combination of strength and flexibility for optimal movement.

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Factors Affecting Flexibility

Joint Structure

The structure of the joint itself tends to be the main factor that limits movement. These structures are different for every person, and trainers must recognize this.

Some joints are more flexible than others. It isn’t uncommon to see a joint in one person be hyperflexible, and then another joint near it will have very low flexibility.

Muscle and Connective Tissue

These are the main focus when training flexibility, as these play the biggest role in limiting flexibility under a few circumstances. These tissues all have elastic properties and attach across the joints. 

When stretched for a time period, muscles relax instead of resisting.

Hyperlaxity

Hyperlaxity is what occurs in some people where the tissue structure makes joints of the body able to exceed what we consider a normal range of motion.

Age

In early childhood, we see the most range of motion, with a low point around the age of 10 – 12. This decrease occurs with losses in the elasticity of muscles. We see flexibility gradually improve after these ages.

Sex

Females have greater flexibility on average than males. This occurs due to variations in the anatomical structure. The biggest differences are seen in the trunk, hips, and ankles.

Temperature

The range of motion is affected positively by increases in core body temperature. This is one reason we warm-up before exercise or stretching. More will be added later in the chapter to this point.

Activity Level

Physically active people are typically more flexible than people who aren’t. This occurs in less active people because the tissues become less pliable.

Resistance Training

Programs that utilize the full range of motion will increase flexibility, but programs that put high loads with less than a full range of motion will decrease the active range of motion for a joint.

Elasticity and Plasticity

Elasticity is the ability for something to return to its original length after it goes through a passive stretch.

Plasticity is the tendency for something to assume new and greater lengths after passive stretching or removing a load.

Muscles are elastic only, but the tendons and ligaments have the properties of both elasticity and plasticity.

If we are looking to increase long term range of motion emphasizing stretch for plasticity would be the objective.

Types of Flexibility Training

Correct performance of exercises and the utilization of full ranges of motion during regular exercise are the priorities when we are training.

Ballistic Stretching

This is defined as a bouncy and rapid uncontrolled movement. 

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The body’s movements will take a body part through its full range of motion.

It is no longer an acceptable type of stretching.

One reason for the lack of use of this stretch is the movements being performed at high speeds means there is less control and thus more danger.

The other reason, which relates to the first, is that there is more risk of injury when performing these stretches. This becomes truer when a previous muscle or connective tissue injury occurs.

Static Stretching

This is the most common form of stretching. This uses a constant sow speed in which you hold a position for 30 seconds or so. It involves relaxing the muscle while also lengthening it.

This does not activate the stretch reflex of the muscles due to the speed of the stretch.

This stretching has a much lower risk of injury, but when done before dynamic activities, it has been shown through research actually to decrease performance.

These stretches should be done to the point of only minor discomfort.

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation

Also called PNF stretching, this type of stretching was made for relaxing muscles that increase tone or activity.

This is a widely accepted way to increase the Range of motion.

The most common method is known as the hold-relax method. Here we take a muscle or joint into the desired position and keep the muscle relaxed. After a 10 second static stretch, we 6 seconds of a strong isometric contraction against some fixed object. We rest 1 – 2 seconds and then hold a static stretch for 30 seconds with a most likely increased range of motion over the past one.

Dynamic Stretching

This is like ballistic stretching, except it does not use any bouncing. Instead, these movements focus on the sport or activity and its associated movement patterns. This could be like a lunge walk with exaggerated movements to stretch actively. 

Dynamic stretching might be the most appropriate type of flexibility training that we can do to improve our capabilities before a workout. If there is a need for more flexible work, it is best to do static stretches following the workout.

Recommended Flexibility Routine and Guidelines

Dynamic flexibility, while most commonly suggested for athletes, is incredibly successful with the nonathletic population. The recommendations are that people do dynamic flexibility before a workout always. Then if they desire more flexibility work for increases in range of motion long term, they should perform static stretches after working out.

Warm-Up

Warming up is the activity of raising your overall body temperature and the temperature of your muscles so the body is prepared to work more vigorously. 

Getting warmed up both physically and mentally for workouts is a key training aspect for achieving optimal results. 

During a warmup, these three things should occur:

Temperature increases in muscles recruited in the warmup lead to strength and speed enhancements.

Blood temperature increases, and the amount of oxygen to be held increases.

The joint range of motions increases.

Types of Warm-up

Passive Warm-Up

This uses methods like hot showers, massages, or heating pads to warm up the body.

A lot of research shows that this actually does help, and an advantage is that there is no fatigue in the body.

General Warm-up

This is essentially doing movements with the major muscle groups of the body. Something basic like jumping rope or running.

This increases the body temperature and prepares the muscles but does not focus on one body part.

Specific Warm-up

These are movements typically done after a general warm-up, and they apply to the workout or sport that will be performed. 

This is desirable before dynamic activities.

Warm-up Guidelines

Warming up should typically increase as you become more conditioned and should always go to the point of breaking a light sweat.

Body Weight and Stability Ball Exercises

Body Weight Training

This resistance training method uses the body as the weight instead of some machine or free weights. 

Maximal strength development is limited with this form of training as the amount of resistance and the person’s weight limits such. 

Emphasis should be on slow controlled movements with perfect technique.

If you want assistance wrapping your head around this material, make sure to check out Trainer Academy for some awesome NSCA study materials. They have Practice tests, flashcards, and a fantastic study guide. They even offer an exam pass guarantee.

NSCA CPT Chapter 12 – Flexibility, Body Weight, and Stability Ball Exercises 4
NSCA CPT Chapter 12 – Flexibility, Body Weight, and Stability Ball Exercises 5
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Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read


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