Flexibility refers to the range of possible movement about a joint or a sequence of joints. It s the ability to move joints to bend, stretch and twist body parts readily. Flexibility has important implications for injury prevention, freedom of movement and aesthetic appearance.
Flexibility can either be static or dynamic. Dynamic (or active) flexibility is concerned with how easily a limb can be moved through its range of motions when executing a skill - for example, the arm action in backstroke , or the follow through when kicking a ball. Static flexibility is concerned with determining one's ability to move a joint to its maximum range of motions - for example, when doing the splits. The position, once attained, is held static. Both static and dynamic flexibility are most evident in activities such as gymnastics and ballet.
Factors influencing Flexibility
Joint Structure: The more stable the joint, the greater the strength but the less movement or flexibility it allows. The ball-and-socket joint of the hip, for example, is more stable than the shoulder joint but allows less movement.
Joint Capsule: The connective tissue and ligaments surrounding a joint can be stretched to allow greater flexibility (with a corresponding loss of stability).
Length of muscles at rest: Muscles tend to shorten, with a corresponding loss of flexibility about the associated joints, if they are at rest (not exercised) for extended period of time - for example, in people leading a sedentary lifestyle. Excessive strengthening through a limited range of motion can also lead to a reduced resting length of muscles.
Muscle Temperature: A muscle and associated joint will allow a greater range of motion when warmed (ideally to about 37 degrees Celsius). In fact, a thorough warm-up, involving both static and slow, dynamic stretches, is advisable to guard against stiffness and injury.
Age: Almost from birth, and progressively as we age, we lose flexibility.
Sex: Females tend to be more flexible than males due to hormonal differences resulting in, for example, less muscle bulk.
Body Build: Excessive adipose (fat) tissue or muscle bulk may limit an individual's flexibility.
Injury: Muscle tears resulting in scar tissue formation may reduce flexibility. The hamstring flexibility of footballers is often restricted in this way.
Skin Resistance: The ultimate resistance to joint flexibility is that provided by the surrounding skin.
Bone: Bone provides structural resistance in some joints.
Disease: Diseases such as arthritis, resulting in either prolonged inactivity or malformed bones and joints, cause reduced flexibility.
A certain degree of flexibility is desirable; however, the degree is dependent on the type of activity undertaken. Swimmers, for example, require a level of flexibility in the wrist and ankle joints that could prove undesirable for a footballer, who needs stable wrist and ankle joints. Flexibility, along with body composition and strength, is one of the most readily modified components of fitness.
(Malpeli, Horton, Davey, Telford, 2006).
Sit and Reach Test: This test involves sitting on the floor with legs stretched out straight ahead. Shoes should be removed. The soles of the feet are placed flat against the box. Both knees should be locked and pressed flat to the floor - the tester may assist by holding them down. With the palms facing downwards, and the hands on top of each other or side by side, the subject reaches forward along the measuring line as far as possible. Ensure that the hands remain at the same level, not one reaching further forward than the other. After some practice reaches, the subject reaches out and holds that position for at one-two seconds while the distance is recorded. Make sure there are no jerky movements.The score is recorded to the nearest centimetre or half inch as the distance reached by the hand. This test is testing the flexibility of the hamstrings and lower back.
(Wells & Dillon,1952).
Groin Flexibility Test: Sit on the floor with your knees bent, and your feet flat on the floor and legs together. Let your knees drop sideways as far as possible keeping your feet together. The soles of your feet should be together and facing each other. Grab hold on to your ankles with both hands, and pull them as close to your body as possible. Measure the distance from your heels to your groin.
Use the table below to convert the score measurement to a rating. The smaller the score, the better your flexibility.
Ratings Score Excellent 5 cm Very Good 10 cm Good 15 cm Fair 20 cm Poor 25 cm