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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 emphasizes a combination of 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 type of 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.

    The goal of flexibility is not to achieve an unlimited range of motion, but a combination of strength and flexibility for optimal movement.

    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 it is important for trainers to 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.

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    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 improves 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 prior to 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 full ranges of motion will increase flexibility, but programs that put high loads with less than a full range of motion will actually decrease the active range of motion for a joint.

    Elasticity and Plasticity

    Elasticity is the ability for something to return to the 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 the removal of a load.

    Muscle 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. 

    The movements of the body 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 us 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 there was a previous injury to the muscle or connective tissue.

    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 stretch.

    This stretching has a much lower risk of injury, but when done prior to dynamic activities, it has been shown through research to actually 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 to relax muscles that have increases in tone or activity.

    This is a widely accepted way to increase 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 for 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 flexibility work, it is best to do static stretches following the workout.

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    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 prior to a workout always, and then if they desire more flexibility work for increases in range of motion long term, then 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 the 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 increase.

    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 to 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 is not focusing on any 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 such is limited by the person’s weight. 

    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 1
    NSCA CPT Chapter 12 – Flexibility, Body Weight, and Stability Ball Exercises 2
    NSCA CPT Chapter 12 – Flexibility, Body Weight, and Stability Ball Exercises 3

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