Flexibility is important because it has to do with your joints. Being flexible means you can move your joints through their full range of motion. Stretching your muscles will help to get your joints into their full range of motion. If you are someone who wants a life of fitness, it is very important to know how flexible you are because it will affect the exercises you do. For example: if you are not flexible in your ankle joints, your knee joints, or your hip joints, then you will not perform the squat exercise very well because you will not be able to squat to full depth. Your leg muscles will not work with full range of motion and it can lead to injury over time. On the other side of the coin, if you are flexible in the ankle, knee, and hip joints then you will be able to perform the squat exercise correctly by being able to squat with full depth and allowing your leg muscles to work in their full range of motion as well, thus resulting in gains and not in injury. If you are not capable of squatting to full depth, one reason may be that your joints are not flexible enough. So where do you start with this? How do you know if you are flexible or not? Below are some flexibility tests that involve stretching in order for you to see how you are in flexibility:
- THE SIT AND REACH TEST – Sit on the floor with your legs both together and straight out. Lean forward with your arms stretched out and touch your toes. You want to see how far you can get your arms. Can you touch your toes? If you can reach past your toes, then play the song “I Got The Power” by Snap. This test is meant to test your hip and spine flexibility as well as the the flexion (bendiness) of your trunk. I cover what the trunk is during the last test.
- THE HAMSTRING TEST – Lie down on your back with your legs both together and straight out. Lift one leg up to a vertical position while keeping the other leg on the floor. Both of your legs are straight the entire time. They’re kinda like scissors. Can you get the leg you’ve lifted all the way vertical? Is it straight up and down? Now try the other leg. This test is important because your hamstrings are the limiting factor for the previous test involving how far forward you can bend your trunk. The more flexible your hammies are, the easier it is to sit and touch your toes.
- THE HIPS TEST – This one is for your hips. Kneel down on one knee and one foot, similar to proposing marriage……and guys, you may not want to practice this in front of your girlfriend. She may misunderstand what you are trying to do. Anyways……the aim here is to push the rear hip down toward the floor. Viewed from the side, your front leg, hip, and back leg should form the letter ‘Z,’ except with a straight line…..not a slanted one. Can you push the rear hip down so that it is straight?
- THE SHOULDER TEST – Lie face-up and straight on a flat surface. Extend your arms overhead, keeping them extended and hands close together. You should be capable of resting your entire arm against the flat surface. Do all of this without arching your back. Also, try doing this same test, but while standing against a flat wall. In both cases, can you bring your arms back all the way overhead and touch the flat surface?
- THE TRUNK EXTENSION TEST – The trunk of your body is the chest, the back, and the abs. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT the backside area of your body where junk accumulates. Anyway…..Lie face-down on the floor. Put your arms in the position like you are about to do a pushup straight off of the floor. While still flat on the floor, raise only your trunk off the floor by pushing your arms up. It’s very important to keep your pelvis flat on the floor. How far up can you raise your trunk?
I hope these tests are helpful for you to determine some of your flexibility. I personally struggle with “the hamstring test.” I just see it as something to work at. I know as I work at it over time, I will be more flexible in that area. Each of these tests can be used as stretches at the end of your workouts as well. I plan on talking about stretching in more detail next week, so in the meantime,STAY TUNED