What Is Flexibility Training And Why Is It Important?

Dos and Don’ts of Flexibility Training

Although people often confuse the two, flexibility training is more than just stretching. This is the difference between a perfect squat and one that will damage your back over time. This habit will keep you active and pain-free for years to come.

“In multi-joint movements like squats, if you lack mobility in your hips, that mobility is taken over by your back. This puts additional unnecessary load on the lower back and increases the risk of injury,” says Calum Fraser, physiotherapist and owner of Wilston Physio.
What Is Flexibility Training And Why Is It Important?

What is flexibility training and why is it important?
The Oxford Dictionary defines mobility as “the ability to move or be moved freely and easily” – and that’s exactly what mobility training is all about. It involves improving and optimizing your range of motion while performing various movements.

Yes, it involves stretching, but stretching alone only lengthens your muscles, while flexibility training also focuses on your joints. It can include exercises to develop your flexibility, agility, strength and balance. Some moves will have you isolating an area around a key joint, others will target multiple joints at once.

One of the most common examples of mobility training is dynamic stretching, a form of stretching that incorporates movement rather than static holds. You'll often see fitness enthusiasts performing mobility exercises (a series of dynamic stretches) as a warm-up. This prepares the body for activities like lifting weights.

"One of the primary benefits of mobility training is its ability to prevent injury and improve performance, both in daily activities and athletic performance," says board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert McLaughlin.

Remember, you don't need to be a serious athlete to benefit from flexibility training. It can also help with existing problems, such as chronic knee and shoulder pain, as it increases flexibility and joint stability.

"Regular mobility training can reduce degenerative joint pain caused by stiffness," adds McLaughlin. It can even help combat the effects of sitting in front of a computer for long periods of time.

Precautions For Mobility Training

In other words, mobility training is good for you, and if you don't prioritize it, you should. However, just because something is beneficial doesn't mean it doesn't have risks. For best results, consider the following considerations.

Take It Easy

The key to flexibility training is control, so you need to perform each movement slowly. Frazier recommends taking a few minutes to jog or walk before you start: "This will help warm up your muscles and tendons, allowing you to move better." This is especially important if you plan on doing more intense mobility training.

Flexibility Exercises Before Exercise

Speaking of exercises, make sure you do them before you work out. "They allow you to check in with your body and see how you're moving. If you're particularly restricted on a day, that might not be the best time to try for a personal record," Fraser says.

What Is Flexibility Training And Why Is It Important?

Be Consistent

Consistency is key with any form of exercise, but even more so with flexibility training. To reap its benefits, incorporate it into your daily routine at least a few times a week—don't expect to see results overnight.
What Is Flexibility Training And Why Is It Important?

Fraser adds: "Someone who still trains a few times a week for three months will perform better than someone who trains every day for two weeks and then stops."

Establish A Comprehensive Routine

McLaughlin recommends incorporating a variety of exercises for different joints and muscle groups into your workout routine. This will prevent you from neglecting certain parts of your body.
What Is Flexibility Training And Why Is It Important?

"For example, neglecting shoulder mobility can lead to impingement syndrome, a condition I see frequently in my patients, which can seriously impact their quality of life," McLaughlin said. Therefore, pursue diversity and a systemic approach.

Don't Endure The Pain

You can try different activity training plans. Whatever you do, never endure pain. As Frazier said, harder doesn't mean better. You may feel slight discomfort as you move in new ways, but you shouldn't feel extreme soreness the next day.

Overstretching can lead to injuries that negate the point of doing flexibility training in the first place.

Don't Improvise

Don't go to the gym just for flexibility training—take it as seriously as you would a strength training or marathon training program.
What Is Flexibility Training And Why Is It Important?

Consider working with a professional such as a personal trainer or physical therapist to develop a customized plan, especially if you have an injury. There are also plenty of resources on online mobile training to help you get started.

Set moving goals and track your progress. This will help you get into the habit of prioritizing mobility training—your body will thank you for it.