Why Do Athletes Need Flexibility?

Ben Emanuel II

Complete physical fitness can be attributed to five different components including cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, body composition, and flexibility. Of the five components mentioned, flexibility is usually overlooked by a lot of people.

Complete physical fitness can be attributed to five different components including cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, body composition, and flexibility. Of the five components mentioned, flexibility is usually overlooked by a lot of people.

Flexibility is the person’s ability to move a joint based on its complete range of motion. It isn’t surprising why elite athletes are considered flexible. But why do athletes need flexibility?

What Affects Flexibility?

Before going deeper into the benefits of being flexible, what makes a person flexible? Muscle elasticity, muscle length, joint structure, and nervous system, are things that can affect your flexibility. Though some are born flexible with a gifted joint structure, the other factors that affect your flexibility can be affected by doing flexibility training.

Benefit of Flexibility

Flexibility is important for our daily activities. Whether you are picking your grocery bags and you need to lean or you are about to tie your shoes, these are things that will require some level of flexibility. But for athletes, their flexibility is beneficial to them in more ways than just completing day to day tasks.

1. Prevents Injuries

A lot of athletes end their careers with different injuries here and there. A lot of professional players end up losing their source of income because of injuries. Is there a relationship between stretching and injury prevention?

Even experts haven't concluded that there is a relationship between stretching and injury prevention. However, there are recent studies that have pointed out that stretching programs can influence the viscosity of the tendon and make it more compliant, thus it can help prevent injuries.

Experts can agree that flexibility allows the body to withstand more physical stress. And also, stretching can help prevent injuries by stretching the overactive or the tight muscles that cause an imbalance to the body.

2. Relieve Post Workout Pain and Better Recovery

It is normal to feel aches and pains when you finish a workout. Athletes are most likely experiencing this daily especially after a hard training. But when you have muscles that are not tense, you get to experience fewer aches along the way. This can also help lessen the chances of having muscle cramps.

Stretching is ideal for athletes, especially after training. Muscle aches such as lower back pain could come from overused muscle groups that can cause discomfort in other parts of the body. For instance, overworked hip muscles and hamstring can easily lead to lower back pain. Apart from relaxing the tight muscles and relieving pain, stretching can also increase the blood flow into the muscle groups allowing faster recovery.

3. Improved Range of Motion

Ever wondered why some athletes tend to do some things that seem impossible? Perhaps, how Michael Jordan was able to contort his body mid-air just to make that impossible winning shot? Or how some boxer adjusts to move away from his opponent's punches?

Flexibility allows athletes to have a better range of motion. And with this comes overall improvement in their ability to perform in their respective sports.

4. Proper Posture

Posture is important for athletes. Correct posture allows efficient movements and allows better execution of moves that are relevant to his or her sports. Stretching loosens up the tight muscles that could be causing bad posture. It can even encourage proper alignment of the bones which can lead to less pain and proper posture.

Adding Flexibility

You often hear from people that they are not born limber or flexible. But what they don’t know is that flexibility is something that can be improved with proper training.

There are two popular stretches that you can do if you wish to add flexibility. You can do static or dynamic stretching. Static stretching is suggested after finishing a workout. This involves holding the position for 20 to 60 seconds. As the name suggests, you don’t move as you stretch.

On the other hand, dynamic stretching is a type of stretching that comes with active movements. Muscles along with your joints do the movements. For athletes who are about to perform in their sport, they'd typically do dynamic stretching with movements that are relevant to the activity. Runners for instance will jog in place and then stretch out their hamstring by touching the toes with their hand.

The Bottom Line

Whether it’s performing in their sport or prolonging their careers, flexibility is something that can be considered an advantage for every athlete. But is it just for athletes? Flexibility is something that you shouldn’t overlook even if you are just an average Joe. Being flexible has practical value in your daily life. From scratching your back to reaching something that fell on the ground, flexibility matters.

The good thing about flexibility is that it can be improved with the right approach. Just start slow and progress at your own pace. You also don’t need to stretch to the point where it becomes painful.