I find this fact very relevant when it comes to flexibility. Firstly, most people mistake mobility and flexibility as being one and the same. The common perception being that if you’re flexible you also have a good range of motion and vice versa. However, this is incorrect.
Mobility refers to how a joint moves (the range of motion), whereas the term flexibility typically refers to the elasticity of muscles. A flexible muscle doesn’t necessarily equate to an increase in range of motion at joints, which is the functional representation of the common term flexibility.
The important principle when aiming for increased range of motion is that “joints act and muscles react”. Secondly, what if a muscle isn’t inflexible but in spasm or overactive? More often than not due to our immobile and static lives (sitting and single plane movement) muscles go into protective mode having to continually contract to maintain function. This is not good, as that continual contraction leads to spasm and knotting.
Stretching a muscle that is in spasm only makes that muscle want to grip even more to further protect an imbalance or postural defect. A lot of people are stretching muscles that are actually in spasm, which creates a lot of pain and no or very minimal improvements in flexibility.
Every type of training should aim to achieve better performance and overall human movement. It is important to understand that flexibility is a component of mobility but extreme flexibility is not required to perform functional movements.
Conventional stretching is not a great way to improve mobility. However, Fascial Stretching (FS) has been proven to be effective at improving range of motion at joints and therefore allowing people to function better.
FS is a type of stretching that targets not only the muscles, but the fascia (the connective tissue that surrounds muscles), bones and joints. FS also targets the entire joint and joint capsule, using traction to remove restrictions from movement and to stimulate lubrication. There is no pain, not even discomfort.
Instead, the gentle movement stimulates and relaxes at the same time. As the joint acts through a wide range, the muscles and connective tissue react and release tension, becoming more supple. Conventional stretching focuses on one muscle group and does not consider the connective tissue, nerves or joint capsule.
After exercise, people generally run through the usual stretches, maybe paying extra attention to their tight muscles, sometimes pushing through some pain to get that final stretch. Sadly, this type of stretching is not effective and may even be causing more tightness and inflexibility. This is because when you cause pain with stretching, your muscles respond to protect themselves, tightening up in a rebound-type effect.
Mobility training avoids this pain and allows muscles to react to the movement pattern and range therefore releasing tension and gaining greater range of motion.
Here are 10 benefits of fascial stretching:
1) Increased range of motion
2) Muscular balance and symmetry
3) Improved performance
4) Reduced pain
5) Reduced risk of injury
6) Improved posture
7) Improved muscle function
8) Improved circulation
9) Decreased compression and impingement in the joints
10) Improved energy
The important take-home question is: Are you inflexible or are your muscles in spasm? You need to choose the correct techniques to improve your range of motion and therefore improve your functional movement.