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Flexibility Training

Flexibility Training: Finding Your Best Range of Motion

Reading Time: 5 minutes 30 seconds


DATE: 2024-02-29

Flexibility training falls into the same category as flossing every day, eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, and not putting anything smaller than your elbow into your ear. We know the advice is sound. But many of us, for no legitimate reason, find ourselves not following it.

Flexibility training is the overlooked aspect of weight training and fitness. This is unfortunate because the benefits are real. In addition, the possible negative impact of not following a regular flexibility routine can lead to serious issues.

Importance of Flexibility Training

The term “flexibility” refers to the range of motion (ROM) around a joint. Thus, flexibility training basically involves stretching muscles, such as the hamstrings, hips, and lower back to improve ROM in these areas. It is performed before undertaking a workout or another form of physical activity.

All personal training clients, from professional athletes to senior citizens, can benefit from flexibility training. Flexibility training is the basis for good posture. It reduces the possibility of muscle tension and soreness, also aiding in injury prevention. 

Also known as mobility training, this pre-workout routine enhances athletic performance by allowing joints and muscles to work at optimal levels. Research supports this. According to one review of the literature, stretching impacts performance by positively affecting one’s power and force. 

Conversely, inadequate flexibility can lead to poor posture. It also prohibits normal muscle function. This can lead to increased aches and pain. For example, a lack of quadricep or hamstring flexibility can lead to pain in the lower back. 

Factors that Affect a Person’s Flexibility

Genetics play a role in flexibility. So, some of your clients will be naturally more flexible than others. The structure and shape of the joint have a direct effect on the amount of flexibility in that joint. 

Most people also tend to lose flexibility as they pass middle age. This is due in part to inactivity. When not in use, the connective tissue in the joint becomes shortened. Regular exercise and dynamic and static stretching can help maintain the full ROM.

Past injuries can affect flexibility as well. Additionally, women are often considered to be more flexible than men. But the opportunity exists for all to improve their flexibility.

2 Types of Stretching Exercise: Dynamic Stretching and Static Stretching

“Stretching” and “warming up” often are used interchangeably but they are not the same thing. A proper warm-up, which could include 10 minutes of walking, jogging, or biking, should be done before performing stretching exercises. Stretching while the body is cold can lead to injury. Plus, an increased body temperature helps increase the joint's ROM.

There are two types of stretching: static stretching and dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretches should be done before a workout and static stretches after the workout.

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching calls for using momentum to propel the muscle into an extended ROM without holding the position at the end. In most cases, these movements mirror those that will be performed during the ensuing workout or sport.

The movements should be controlled in order to prevent injury. No longer than 10 to 15 minutes is needed for your clients to properly prepare for a workout or physical activity, and it should be considered time well spent. Stretching should be done to the point of mild discomfort in order to increase ROM. Remind your clients to continue to breathe normally during the stretching to enhance relaxation.

If you're training athletes, you can customize stretching and flexibility training to fit their sport. Do this by focusing on the muscles and joints that are most often used while participating. Any movements that are common while competing should get the most attention. The idea is to perform the movements at a low level and gradually increase the intensity and speed as the body warms up.

Static Stretching

Static stretching, again, should be done after physical activity. This stretching method involves holding a position from 10 to 30 seconds. 

All strength training workouts should be followed by a few minutes of static stretching. Static stretching exercise allows the involved joints to regain their full ROM. Stretching after strength exercises also helps reduce muscle soreness. In addition, muscles will remain in balance, which promotes good posture.

Muscles tend to become less elastic once the body cools down after a workout. So, stretching immediately after the workout maximizes muscle length and ROM. Healthy muscle tissue can be stretched to approximately twice its resting length.

Flexibility Assessment Exercises

As with any personal training program, it’s important to know where you or your client are in terms of flexibility as a starting point. Doing an assessment helps highlight potential range of motion issues. This provides guidance as to what type of flexibility exercise to include in the training or areas to target.

Conducting regular assessments also helps identify whether the training program is effective. Improved flexibility is a clear sign that you’re on the right path. But if muscle tightness is still occurring, different stretching exercises may provide better results. 

The following stretching exercises can be used to assess flexibility or range of motion:

  • Sit and reach. This stretch helps assess flexibility in the back and legs. To do it, sit on the floor with legs parallel to each other. Lean forward while reaching the fingers toward the toes. Notice whether the fingertips can touch the toes. If they can’t, how close can they get? Also pay attention to whether either knee is raised during this exercise. There is a tendency to lift the knee if tight muscles are preventing a full stretch.

  • Hip flexor extension. Tight hip flexor muscles can lead to pain in the lower back. This stretch helps identify hip flexor muscle flexibility. For the stretch, kneel so the left knee rests on the ground. The top of the left foot should be flat on the ground. Keep the knee of the right leg at a 90-degree angle. Push the rear hip toward the floor, aligning the pelvis between both knees. How far into the stretch can you or the client go? Do the same exercise on the opposite leg—kneel on the right knee (right foot flat on the ground) while bending the knee of the left leg, then pushing the rear hip forward. Consider whether the movement pattern changes from one side to the other.

  • Shoulder flexibility stretch. Limited flexibility in the shoulders can make everyday activities such as reaching up more difficult. To text shoulder flexibility, lie face-up on a table or bench with the lower legs hanging off the end. Extend the arms overhead with the hands close together. Attempt to rest the entire arm on the table or bench without arching the back. If this isn’t possible, it could be a sign of shoulder range of motion issues. 

  • Trunk lift. This exercise is not only good for assessing flexibility. It also helps measure muscle strength. To do it, lie face-down on the floor, like at the start of a push-up. Lift the upper body off the floor with arms out at the side. Take note of the height of the chin from the floor. The greater the height, the greater the flexibility (and strength).

Tips to Maximize Flexibility Training

No matter the starting point, flexibility can be enhanced. Commit to a stretching routine at least three times a week. Intensive stretching should not be done every day. The muscles and connective tissue need time to heal between sessions.

While flexibility is important, so is strengthening the muscles around the joint. This helps prevent injury. There needs to be adequate strength throughout the joint's ROM. Work antagonist muscles so each muscle group increases in strength equally. 

Use light weights and go through the full ROM to promote improved flexibility. As fatigue sets in, ROM decreases. The muscles tighten due to the workload. This makes stretching post-workout essential to maintaining full ROM.

Want to learn more about how to correct muscle-related pain and movement issues? Check out ISSA's Corrective Exercise Specialist online course today.


Opplert, J., Babault, N. Acute Effects of Dynamic Stretching on Muscle Flexibility and Performance: An Analysis of the Current Literature. Sports Med 48, 299–325 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0797-9

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