Flexibility- The Missing Link
by Jerry Konrad
Physical fitness is defined as the ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and respond to emergencies. The components of physical fitness are divided into to two categories:
Health Related components: Those factors that are related to how well the systems of your body work
Flexibility is fundamental to virtually all physical movement. It is just as important as aerobic and muscular fitness and the key to maintaining optimal functionality and therefore quality of life. A “healthy” balance between these three components is what needs to be achieved so that the human body is given the best opportunity to function properly.
In its purest form, flexibility or joint range of motion (ROM) is defined as the ability to move your body’s joints and articulations through their full range of motion, pain free. Everyone needs a degree of flexibility to be able to cope with their daily lives and activities. Human movement is especially enjoyable and rewarding when the body is flexible and capable of free and easy mobility without restriction.
For years, many experts have advocated that stretches should last up to 60 seconds or more. This prolonged static stretching technique was the gold standard for years. However, prolonged static stretching actually decreases the blood flow within the tissue creating localized ischemia and lactic acid buildup. This can potentially cause irritation or injury of local muscular, tendinous, lymphatic, as well as neural tissues, similar to the effects and consequences of trauma and overuse syndromes.
Today, there is a new type of stretching exercise that is used to promote physical fitness and athletic performance by stretching the muscles and improving flexibility, strength, and coordination. This program differs from conventional stretching exercises in that the techniques used:
Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) centers on physiological principles of specific muscle lengthening, increased circulation and oxygen to the tissues and lengthening of the superficial and deep fascia. Active Isolated Stretching uses active movement and reciprocal inhibition to achieve optimal flexibility. Using a 1.5 to 2.0 second stretch has proven to be the key in avoiding reflexive contraction of the (antagonistic) muscle being stretched. Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) facilitated stretching of major muscle groups, but more importantly, AIS provides functional and physiological restoration of superficial and deep fascial planes. The main benefits of AIS include the following:
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