My FRC training really opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking, all based on science.
Mobility & Flexibility. These words get interchanged regularly. There is a difference.
Flexibility is: the amount something can bend without breaking. More specific to the body flexibility is defined as: The ability to reach the end ranges of motion passively. e.g. someone taking your leg and pressing it towards your chest.
Mobility is the ability to control through the range of motion and the extended ranges. e.g. Without using your arms lift your leg up straight to your chest using your strength and neurological control.
For most people flexibility commonly seems to be the goal. They want to stretch and stretch and stretch. They want to be able to touch their toes, or go into crazy yoga poses. And we have been told for a long time that it will help our decrease incidence of injuries and help them recover, and make us less "stiff".
However flexibility does not necessarily decrease incidence on injury. Accessing those end ranges of motion without control can put excess stress on the joints and surrounding structures. Because flexibility is often passive, it also does not always transfer sporting or training situations where the body is moving through ranges.
When your nervous system and tissues surrounding a joint are working to control the movement through the range in a joint, you have mobility through the range you are accessing the ranges in a safer way. These ranges can then be used in functional movement patters.
Good News is if you have Mobility you will have Flexibility!
What is happening when you stretch....
Contrary to most beliefs (and what a lot of health professionals say, including me before I was really educated in the body).
You aren't changing the length of your muscles.
Muscles and have viscoelastic properties. They have ability to change shape when when force is applied - viscous, and can return to the original shape once the force is released - elastic. When muscles are stretched or force is applied viscous component will allow a change in shape. However this is temporary. The elastic portion of the muscle bring it back to its original position. Read more about it here and here.
So what are you doing and why should you do it?
You are trying to increase your stretch tolerance. (weather you know it or not)
When there is a force placed on the body, like a stretch, the tissues sense a force and send information to the central nervous system. There nervous system reacts to governs the amount the tissues will stretch. This is the stretch reflex. Read more about it here.
The ranges of motion your nervous system allows you to have are determined by your previous experiences and the ability to for your body to function in particular positions.
Therefore to increase your stretch tolerance you need to:
1. Regularly and consistently use your full ranges of motion or reintroduce the ranges you are no longer using.
2. Make positions active, control through the ranges, activate surrounding tissues, to convince your nervous system that you have control.
If you can stay consistent and increase your control your nervous system will gradually allow you more range, in active and passive positions <Flexibility.
There are no quick fixes. But if you work on increasing your mobility you will see improvements in every other aspect of your training.
Daily Controlled Articular Rotations is a great place to start exploring your active ranges.
If you want to know more contact me.