What is flexibility?
Flexibility is just as important as the strength we acquire from lifting weights. During this “Flexibility Focus” series I will explain why flexibility should be a crucial part of your exercise routine and how to improve the range of motion (ROM), starting from the ground up. This will simply be an overview of the kinetic chain in relation to flexibility. To sum up flexibility in a nutshell, it is the ability to move a joint through a full range of motion.
What is the kinetic chain?
The kinetic chain is made up of multiple parts that all function together as a unit. I always start from the ground when looking at a problem, so naturally the foot/ankle region would be the first thing to observe. Next, we have the knee joints, followed by the hip joints and then the sacroiliac joints. The back portion following the sacroiliac joint would be the thoraco-lumbar spine region and then the cervical spine (neck) region.
Why is it important?
When one of these parts does not function properly it can cause pain in other places. I can use myself as an example. I have poor flexibility in my ankles and that affects my back squats and my traditional deadlifts just to name a few. Because I don’t have the flexibility I need in my ankles, it causes my chest to fall forward when my body hits that point where it can no longer descend through my legs. If my chest falls forward it places unnecessary pressure on other points of the kinetic chain. Getting the picture? Maybe your hips are not level when you walk, that may cause tension in your back and possibly even up to your neck region!
How does the kinetic chain function?
Another way to look at it is from a mobility/stability view. Each point in this kinetic chain has a specific design to help our body move as efficiently as it can. Every other joint is mobile while the next will be a stable joint. The ankles are designed to be a mobile type of joint, the knee joints provide stability, the hip joints are mobility, S-I joint is stability, the thoraco-lumbar spine is mobility and last in the chain is the cervical spine as a stability joint. The pattern of these joints creates an environment that allows our body to be structured but ‘flexible’ at the same time.
How does a person become more flexible?
Stretching! Over the next few weeks I will go in depth on each part of the kinetic chain to help you improve your flexibility. There are different styles and progressions, from static (stationary) stretches to dynamic (moving) types of stretches.
What are the benefits of stretching?
By increasing your joint range of motion you can improve other areas of fitness such as strength, power, and endurance. Increasing ROM can help prevent injuries as well! Improving flexibility can every help with every day tasks.
TYPES OF STRETCHES
Once thought to be a superior type of stretching has lost its edge. This style of stretching requires a bouncing movement, such as touching your toes over and over while getting a nice stretch in the hamstrings. Unfortunately, this stretching style is not used as often due to an increase in injury. The muscle may not be ready to stretch as far and this stretch is not as controllable as any of the others.
This involves reaching the furthest point possible in relation to a joint and holding that position for a short period of time. Example: Sit in the butterfly position with the bottom of your feet together and push knees toward the floor. This will stretch your groin.
This type of stretching involves assuming a position and holding it with only the help of your agonistic (opposite) muscle. This causes the muscle to relax. Example: stretching quad by holding foot, the hamstring is flexed and the quad is extended and relaxed.
Moving parts of your body to warm up. Such movements are increased with speed of movement. Example: prisoner squats
PNF or Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation
Yes, this is a mouthful but most people just use PNF for short. This type of stretching can involve another person aiding the stretch. Lying on your back. The person helping will begin by pushing your [leg] to the furthest point possible (uncomfortable but not painful) and then having you actively push against them for 10 seconds. After pushing for 10 seconds this should allow the hamstring to relax and the person helping you with the stretch will further push your leg and decrease the hip angle, creating an increased stretch to the hamstring.
We are only as strong as the foundation beneath us…
Edwards, K. M. (n.d.). Weak Glutes: You Can Do Sidebends or Situps but Please Don't Lose That Butt!. [Kinetic Chain Image]. Retrieved from http://back2motionpt.com/atl/category/kinetic-chain