How flexible is flexible enough?

How do you know when you’re flexible enough? Is it “mandatory” to be able to touch your toes in the hamstring stretch to develop as a better sprinter?

I’m particularly wondering about the toe touch in the hamstring stretch test because that’s static flexibility, not dynamic, and I’m just wondering also if static flexibility is important at all, or if dynamic is all one really needs?

I think Ian King is correct in his opinion that there has been an overreaction against static stretching. I think both static and dynamic flexibility are important, but I think dynamic flexibility has to be developed on a base of static flexibility. Static flexibility is a good indication of myofascial tension throughout the body, and I certainly would not recommend dynamic stretching if proper alignment and myofascial tension is not in place first. This does not mean you have to have the flexibility of a gymnast before doing dynamic work, but you don’t want to introduce it to tight, restricted muscles, which could cause them to tighten up even more or result in injury.

Regarding the toe touching test, the problem with making blanket recommendations is that there are many factors that affect the execution of that stretch, such as pelvic alignment, lumbar movement, etc. Are you doing the stretch seated or standing? Just as there are different (and often dangerous) ways to execute a squat in order to increase the weight, there are also ways to alter stretching technique in order to increase the range.

I know that’s not the answer you’re looking for, but the problem is that there really is no stock answer because there are too many factors that can change the results.

Here’s a more practical answer. Optimal flexibility is going to be unique to each athlete due to genetic factors such as limb length, muscle attachments, neuromuscular control, etc. Therefore, you can’t really determine what your optimal flexibility is a priori. It’s really a judgment call you have to make with experience.

Having said that, you have to begin by first addressing the obvious tight spots, which should not be too difficult. If you’re using a well rounded stretching program (static and dynamic) you should know where the tightest areas are. The tricky part is knowing when to stop increasing flexibility after the obvious remedial stuff is taken care of. Although it is possible to become too flexible, as a practical matter it’s not very likely for most athletes, especially if their soft tissues are consistently subjected to stresses such as sprinting and weight training.

At some point, you’ll see diminishing returns. In my opinion, for most people optimal flexibility is reach pretty quickly (couple of months) once they incorporate consistent flexbility training into their program (which is the major hurdle for most athletes). Beyond that point, the main benefity from flexibility training is maintenance of ROM and as a recovery technique to restore proper length/tension status in muscles after training sessions.

Great posts man.

How would one go about developing a successful static and dynamic stretching routine? Do you have have keys, tips or starters?

Brilliant posts. Rep points due!

I feel that optimal flexibility is attained once the athlete can acheive and maintain adequet range of movement.

This applies for any explosive activity: as long as the athlete has adequet range of movement, I want them to be as tight and elastic as possible.

As Flash mentioned, sprinting and the training associated with it (gym, plyos, track, ect.) will continually decrease flexibility through stresses placed on the muscle tissue. In this way, stretching and flexibility are an on going process that require continual maintenace and reevaluation. The trick is finding how much work you need to maintain!

Re ‘touching the toes’: this is highly dependent upon technique. Keeping the spine neutral for instance, adds a whole new dimension to the technique. If you are trying to monitor your progress, then set certain guidlines for yourself everytime you perform the stretch. ie. standing, feet 10m apart, neutral spine, etc.

How would you know if you were too flexible? Or can you know? I do a LOT of stretching! :confused:

That question goes back to my first post. This has to be assessed in person. It’s an individual clinical determination.

To be more specific, excess flexibility really refers to joint laxity which is caused by over stretching of the ligaments. This is only a problem if you get into extreme ranges of motion around particular joints, which is not necessary. This is one of the reasons I don’t like a lot of yoga poses. It’s also why I think John Parillo’s version of fascial stretching is unsound. All it does is overstress the joint capsules, and to the extent it does stretch the fascial tissue it just disrupts it, which is not desirable.

If you look at the stretches in the article I linked to above, you’ll notice that the range of motion around the joints associated with the target muscles is fairly modest. This is due to the tension through the fascial chains. This type of stretching will get you very limber without having to get into excessive positions and risk stretching the ligaments.

Thanks Flash, that clears it up for me. I don’t do any extreme stretching, just a fair amount of regular stretching. Very informative thanks!

I’ve nothing to add to the thread, but can say that this rings true for me.

It also depends on how you define dynamic stretching. Most common versions are close to ballistic, despite a lot of lip service about distinguishing between the two. Dynamic stretching does not just mean open chain stretches where the limb is swinging through the air. It can also comprise more conventional stretches wherein the person gently moves in and out of the stretch in a gentle pulsing fashion. I would consider Aaron Mattes’ AIS a dynamic stretching method, since you move into and out of end range with only a second or two hold.

After thinking about my last post, I have to qualify the above statement. That advice applies to more aggressive dynamic methods. Gentle dynamic stretching methods like AIS are actually very good for remedial work on tight muscles (although I think AIS has more of an effect on the neuromuscular system than the myofascial system, despite Aaron Mattes’ claims).

why do you think this Flash?

Because the time for each stretch is low and the myofascial structures have not time for a good/specific lengthening.
Microstretching and static stretching involve myofascial structures.

The problem is the time…

(sorry i’m not Flash :D)

I agree. If you read Mattes’ books, they mention quite a bit about normalizing fascial planes, but to be honest, I’ve never noticed that effect.

Great Thread.

Here are some good references to build your knowledge base about stretching and flexibility. This list is in no way exhaustive.

Science of Flexibility

Facilitated Stretching

Active Isolated Stretching:The Mattes Method

Autostretching (incredibly detailed)

Though not specifically a flexibility text, Supertraining by the late, great Mel Siff has a ton of useful information. Especially helpful is his stretching grid, where he describes the movements that stretch each major muscle. From this grid you can develop your own stretches.

Isn’t each muscle fibre surrounded by Fascia, perhaps this is what he means? just a thought.

Do you mean Parillo? Yes, you are correct in that regard. But the problem is that Parillo’s approach is designed to break down the fascial container of the muscle to allow more room for growth. I think all it does is weaken the fascial structure. And considering fascia is the medium through which force is transmitted, you could have a problem. Then you also have the problem of stress on the joint capsules from the extreme range of motion. Stretching should not hurt. If it does, you’re causing injury.

The fascial restrictions addressed by Voyer’s method involve lesions (bunched up areas) in the fascia caused by collogen cross links, which can cause adjacent fascial sheathes to adhere to each other, restricting proper motion. The theoretical foundation for myofascial stretching is pretty much the same as for myofascial manual release techniques, which can be used in conjunction with the stretching.

I bought a copy of Parillo’s training manual (don’t waste your money) specifically to study his stretching methods. I think there’s some value to his stretching, but it hits me too much as a sledgehammer approach, and I don’t like the extreme end positions.

Does that answer your question?

Is being able to do the splits, both front to back and sideways, excessively flexible for most athletes?