Flexibility | Sports Medicine | UC Davis Health (2024)

Inadequate flexibility will have a negative effect on the body in 3 significant ways:

  1. Joints require movement through a full range of motion to maintain the health of cartilage and other structures within the joint with increased blood supply and nutrients to joint structures with increased quantity of synovial joint fluid (oil in the crank case). This effect can be particularly noticeable in weight bearing joints such as the hips and knees.
  2. Muscles that are inflexible tire more quickly, causing opposing muscle groups to work harder. Muscle fatigue can lead to muscular injuries and the inability of the muscles to protect joints from more severe injuries. For example, the hamstrings play a role in stabilizing the knee and preventing ACL tears.
  3. Decreased flexibility may also lead to abnormal stress on structures and tissues distant from the initial site of inflexibility. One example of this is that tendonitis in the knee can be related to calf tightness.

Additional benefits of a regular stretching routine:

The range of motion of a joint is often measured with devices such as a goniometer or inclinometer. These devices allow range of motion to be measured in degrees and then compared to accepted normal values. Flexibility can also be measured with functional tests. These tests allow the measurement of joint range of motion within the context of common patterns of movement. Using range of motion testing, areas of inflexibility can be identified and addressed.

  • Increased neuromuscular coordination
  • Return of muscle to natural resting state
  • Modifying blood pooling, recirculation

Typical areas of assessment include hamstrings, lower back, iliotibial band (IT band) and hip. In order to realize the benefits of stretching, a regular stretching routine must be incorporated into your normal training program. Also, it is important to remember that gaining flexibility takes time and dedication. It may take several weeks of consistent, daily stretching to notice improvement. Stretch after each training session with stretches that will target the largest joints in your body. Stretching for a continuous amount of time (20+ minutes), not just after each training session several times per week, can also be very beneficial. Once these have been performed, move on to stretches that will more specifically address your areas of inflexibility. There are an unlimited number of stretches that can be performed to address all of the body’s joints, but there are specific guidelines that should be followed for all stretches:

  • Maintain the stretch position for 30 seconds to begin but 1-2 minutes is ideal. Stretching should be completed statically. Static stretching calls for gradually stretching through a muscle’s full range of motion until you feel resistance or mild discomfort. Gradually release the stretch
  • Repeat Frequency: Daily

A stretching routine should cover all the major muscle groups of the body as well as any specific muscle groups that are being utilized in a sport or activity. The movement of other areas of the body, other than the muscle group being stretched, should be minimized. Maintain a regular breathing pattern when stretching. Stretching will not head off delayed-onset muscle soreness - the kind that generally occurs the day after unaccustomed The debate as to when to perform a stretching routine is controversial. It is generally agreed upon that stretching at the end of an exercise session will greatly benefit you. Stretching before an exercise session though is generally not recommended unless it is preceded by a 5-minute cardiovascular warm-up. Warming up before stretching increases the blood flow and temperature of the muscles, ligaments and tendons, improving the elasticity and optimal functioning of the muscles and connective tissue. Stretching when muscles are cold could lead to a strain or pull. Begin each stretch slowly and gently – Stretch to the point of tightness and then just beyond. You should feel pulling or tightness, but not pain. Stay relaxed and do not bounce.

Stretching is most often thought of as a way to loosen muscles, but it is also effective in increasing the mobility of all soft tissues that restrict flexibility. Stretching will not head off delayed-onset muscle soreness - the kind that generally occurs the day after unaccustomed strenuous exercise.

8 benefits of a regular stretching routine:

  1. Enhanced performance
  2. Decreased risk of injury
  3. Increased blood supply and nutrients to joint structures
  4. Increased quantity of synovial joint fluid (oil in the crank case)
  5. Increased neuromuscular coordination
  6. Reduced muscular tightness and increased joint mobility
  7. Return of muscle to natural resting state
  8. Modifying blood pooling, re-circulation
Flexibility | Sports Medicine | UC Davis Health (2024)


What is the basic flexibility test? ›

Sit-and-reach and other similar tests that require a person to flex the hip to touch the toes are the most common field tests of flexibility. Such tests are designed to assess low-back and upper hamstring (complex of three posterior thigh muscles) flexibility.

How long does it take to improve flexibility? ›

So, how long does it take to get more flexible? In conclusion, the timeline for improving flexibility varies from person to person, but typically we'll notice improved flexibility within the first 2-3 weeks of consistent flexibility training. With time and effort, the muscles and joints will respond.

Can I stretch 3 times a day? ›

How often should you stretch? As long as you're not overdoing it, the more regularly you stretch, the better it is for your body. It's better to stretch for a short time every day or almost every day instead of stretching for a longer time a few times per week.

How long should you hold a stretch to increase flexibility? ›

Breathe normally and hold each stretch for about 30 seconds; in problem areas, you may need to hold for around 60 seconds. Don't aim for pain. Expect to feel tension while you're stretching, not pain.

What is the gold standard test for flexibility? ›

The sit and reach test (SR) is a widely used flexibility assessment that coaches, scientists, fitness professionals and teachers can use to evaluate the degree of movement available at both the hamstring and lower back in members of the public or athletes.

What is a good flexibility score? ›

Sit and Reach Test Scores
Adult MenAdult WomenResult
28 to 33cm33 to 36cmAbove average
23 to 27cm29 to 32cmAverage
16 to 22cm23 to 28cmBelow average
Below 16cmBelow 23cmPoor
1 more row
Oct 4, 2022

What is the fastest way to regain flexibility? ›

6 Simple Ways to Increase Your Flexibility
  1. Consider foam rolling. ...
  2. Perform dynamic rather than static stretching prior to activity. ...
  3. Perform static stretching after activity. ...
  4. Target your stretches to the areas that need it. ...
  5. Stretch frequently. ...
  6. Make sure you are stretching the muscle safely.

At what age is it hard to be flexible? ›

Our collagen levels begin a slow decline from the age of 25, causing bone, muscle, tendons and cartilage to become less flexible over time (Essentials of Anatomy & Physiology, 3rd Ed 2022). As we age, our bones tend to diminish in size and density making us become frailer.

Is it ever too late to improve flexibility? ›

It's never too late to become flexible, but it does get more difficult with age. As we get older our tendons become more rigid, and the muscles and joints that allow for easy mobility become stiff.

Is it better to stretch in the morning or at night? ›

Stretching first thing in the morning can relieve any tension or pain from sleeping the night before. It also helps increase your blood flow and prepares your body for the day ahead. Stretching before bed relaxes your muscles and helps prevent you from waking up with more pain.

Do you need rest days from stretching? ›

If you skip rest days, it could lead to longer spells out through injury. Working out when your body and mind are tired means you're more likely to have bad form, trip or stumble. You're also at risk of overuse injuries as you constantly stress and strain the body and don't allow it the necessary time to repair itself.

Should I stretch before or after walking? ›

You may be eager to get started on your walk – perhaps the weather's inviting or you have chores to hurry back to. Still, taking the time to properly warm up and stretch before you walk, and then cool down and stretch again after, should be a priority.

What are the disadvantages of stretching? ›

Bouncing or overstretching can be counter-productive. It can cause micro-trauma or tears in the muscles or connective tissue. As a result, this can create a weakness that may surface later in the run. Stretching should be performed for a prescribed period of time, generally not to exceed 5 to 10 minutes.

Can you become flexible if you stretch everyday? ›

A daily regimen will deliver the greatest gains, but typically, you can expect lasting improvement in flexibility if you stretch at least two or three times a week.

What is a disadvantage of active stretching? ›

Because momentum is used to exert the stretch, the involved tissues do not readily adapt to this type of stretching, and can actually upregulate muscle spindle fiber activity, reducing range of motion (4). Because this type of stretching may also lead to injury, it is generally not advised (6).

What are the three flexibility tests? ›

Flexibility and balance tests
  • Sit-and-reach test.
  • Back-scratch test.
  • Lumbar stability tests (trunk extension, trunk flexion and side bridge)
Sep 13, 2019

What is the flexibility test for older adults? ›

The Chair Sit and Reach test is designed to test the functional fitness of seniors. Purpose: To assess lower-body (primarily hamstring) flexibility.

What are the 4 tests of flexibility of a system? ›

In order to qualify as being flexible, the automated system should clear four tests: Part variety test. Schedule change test. Error recovery test.

What is a normal level of flexibility? ›

If you can touch your toes while keeping your legs straight, Dr. Larson said, you probably have a good amount of flexibility in your lower back, hips and hamstrings. If you can only reach your knees, that's a possible sign of tight hamstrings, stiff hip joints or perhaps pre-existing spinal injuries.


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