Posture and strength effects the mobility of your joints and your flexibility over all. Your larger peripheral muscles are not the only reason you are tight!
Joints, core strength and the length of your muscles effect your range of flexibility and mobility.
Skeletal or postural muscles facilitate bone and joint actions, which dictate range of motion. Each joint has a distinct contact surface that determines its mobility and limitations.
Your hereditary posture, what you do for work and the sports and activities you do, all effect the mobility of your joints and flexibility of your muscles. So begins the battle to counter-balance these forces as postural and muscular imbalances move your spine out of alignment effecting your mobility and flexibility.
Pilates Improves both Posture + Strength
As Pilates instructors we look to improve the natural curves of your spine towards neutral, the most efficient and optimum posture with dynamic spring-based stretching and core strengthening.
Flexibility vs Mobility – Muscles vs Joints
When it comes to stretching, we must find balance between mobility and strength. However, understanding the difference between flexibility and mobility is helpful as they are two different things.
Tony Gentilcore, co-founder of Cressey Sports puts it best:
Mobility is how a joint moves, while flexibility is the length of a muscle.
The difference between the two lies in the understanding that muscles, such as hamstrings, have a certain length to them, whereas joints have a range of motion. Therefore, depending on your joint’s contact surface you may have more or less mobility in certain joints such as your spine, and hips effecting your ROM or range of motion and therefore your mobility in that joint and flexibility in that movement.
Strength + Stability Effects How Deep You Can Stretch; The Brain + Nervous System Decide
Your brain decides if you have enough strength and stability to even control the flexibility or range of motion that you actually have access to or hope to achieve.
The body oftentimes moves through it’s path of least resistance to function, so if you lack range of motion or mobility in one area, the body will simply steal it from another area that moves better. All of this happens without you even being aware of it.
If your back begins to take on the job that the hip joint should normally perform eventually it will break down and begin to hurt. It’s one of the reasons why lower back pain affects many of us.
Reasons You Are Tight:
Often times we blame our muscles for why we can’t maintain good postural alignment within a normal range of motion, when in fact there could be an entirely different reason why such as:
- Poor core stability of the lumbar spine and pelvis;
- Inability to flex at the hip joint in a weight bearing position;
- Core muscles are too rigid or poor lumbar flexion
When we have the above issues the brain and specifically the nervous system senses that you are not safe at the end range of motion and allowing you to do so may result in injury, so the muscles such as the hamstrings tighten up to limit the ability to move freely within a normal range and your back takes over.
Gripping + Pain Do Not Improve Your Flexibility
Stretching to a point of pain creates more rigidity and tension, and will hinder your progress!
Susie Hately, a yoga therapist I admire states, “If you are gripping or in pain whilst stretching and or over using your pelvis to compensate, to get a stretch sensation you will NOT be gaining a release but instead creating more tension and poor neuromuscular patterning.”
How To Stretch? Ballistic, Active, Passive + Dynamic
There are many different ways to stretch muscles and joints; ballistic, active, passive, and dynamic. Pilates spring-based tension aids and focuses on mostly dynamic stretching, beneficial to improve joint mobility and muscular flexibility.
Pilates Dynamic “Flow” of repertoire improves flexibility significantly.
Pilates stretches are movement-orientated (flexion, extension, rotation, lateral flexion) in which there is muscle activation and contraction present therefore, the muscles you are intending to stretch are triggered to relax more.
Pilates dynamic-active stretches are more functionally effective in that there is a gradual transition from one body position to another, and a progressive increase in range of motion as the movement is repeated several times in a controlled, smooth and deliberate manner.
Dynamic stretching is performed through an extended range of motion without exceeding a person’s static-passive ability. It actively contracts the muscle in opposition to the one you are stretching. The movement requires more coordination but improves functional mobility in sport and daily functional activities.
Pilates Dynamic Stretching Results in Greater Joint Mobility Improving Over-all Flexibility
In terms of improving balance and strength of muscles, pilates specifically had greater results on the following joints (Oliveira, Oliveira, & Pires-Oliveira, 2016):
- Trunk flexion movement (SI joint);
- Trunk extension movement;
- Hip flexion movement;
- Plantar and Dorsiflexion movement of the ankle joint.
Within the realm of Pilates, the strength part of the stretch and strength equation as a whole is very important—it’s what helps maintain physical integrity and alignment as one stretches a muscle, or increases the range of motion in a joint.
Dynamic stretches are created by the flexibility we create while we are moving. Hip Rolls and short spine both stretch and work front and back body simultaneously!
Stretching Past Your ROM Is Detrimental
Stretching your muscles in a normal range of motion is part of healthy joint movement, but it is very unhealthy for individuals to stretch past their limitations as it creates uneven mechanical wear on the joints.
Let us hope that with time and patience, we will all achieve the mobility of our joints and flexibility of our muscles to enjoy all of the activities we pursue…as that is the point of a flexible body…to enjoy life’s activities!