The Science of Flexibility

Within a given sport or dance form, flexibility is specific to the demands of the profession and particular patterns of flexibility are related to frequent or unique joint movements.

Julia Lipari

In these fields, successes and failures are visible for all to see. In a dance context, one can do little to hide a poor arabesque or failed grande jete.  According to the Michael J. Alter, the author of Science of Flexibility, the word flexibility can be defined in several different ways depending on the discipline or the nature of the research. In physical education, sports medicine and allied health sciences, the simplest definition of flexibility is the range of motion (ROM) available in a joint or group of joints.  Many researchers and clinical investigations of flexibility use the maximal joint range of motion (ROM) as the dependent variable to measure flexibility.

Alter's research is a great reference, providing a well-rounded understanding of all aspects of stretching and flexibility.  Here are some key points from his study that will give you a better understanding on the actual science behind functional flexibility and training: 

  1. Functional flexibility is unique to each sport or dance style: The ability to use the full range of motion within a joint at normal or rapid speed in high performance physical activity refers to "functional flexibility."
  2. There is a distinct difference between fast and slow functional flexibilities: An example of slow functional flexibility in ballet is the ability of the dancer to raise and hold the leg at extremes height. Conversely, an example of fast functional flexibility is a grande jete or split jump.
  3. Flexibility training programs are necessary. They help you to maintain a healthy ROM and allow the body to move freely within the movement patterns that are asked of it.
  4. Stretching and ROM exercises are not the same. Stretching takes soft tissue structures beyond their available length to increase ROM. ROM exercises are used to work within the limits in order to maintain the available length of tissue.

The potential benefits of a flexibility training program for your functional needs are limitless. Set your goals and grab your Flexistretcher.