Flexibility or Strength? That is the question

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

Hello our amazing followers!

A while ago we made a post about flexibility on our Instagram (if you have not already, make sure to check out our Instagram @kadani_health_sciences for more interesting content about health sciences). This post was very popular, therefore, we decided to elaborate a bit on the topic and write a blog post about it.

The benefits of physical exercise are undeniable and it makes us very happy to see that year after year more and more people of different ages chose to exercise on a regular basis. Many people believe that strength and flexibility are two mutually exclusive things and one cannot build strength without sacrificing their flexibility and vice versa. This is a very common misconception. In fact, strength training and flexibility training enhance one another, and, therefore these two trainings should go hand in hand.

Today we will talk about flexibility and our path towards our individual flexibility goals.

What is flexibility?

Flexibility is the ability to move muscles and joints through their complete range. It is important to realise that flexibility is not a general term, but rather specific to a particular joint or set of joints. It is also important to realise that if a person is flexible in the upper body, it does not mean that they will be as flexible in their lower body, and vice versa. Moreover, according to SynerStretch, flexibility in a joint is also "specific to the action performed at the joint (the ability to do front splits doesn't imply the ability to do side splits even though both actions occur at the hip)."

Our Central Nervous System (CNS) plays a crucial role in our flexibility. Nerve endings are dispersed throughout our muscles and tendons, and if a stretch doesn't feel safe for the muscle, those nerves will fire, signalling pain and resistance. In other words, flexibility is all in your head!

Did you know that healthy babies are born able to do the splits, because they have not yet learned what ranges of motion may be unsafe

Flexibility is known to decrease with age. This phenomenon can be explained by more rigid fibrous tissue that replaces the muscle tissue. However, it should be remembered that just like strength, flexibility can improve with adequate training at any age. In one of the pilates classes that Karima attended, a 73-year old woman achieved her first front split, which was amazing!

Another reason we lose flexibility is from living a restricted and sedentary life. Our bodies become lazy and joints settle into a limited range of motion. Generally, a little bit of stretching every day could significantly improve flexibility. In fact, stretching actually slows down the processes of fibrous tissue formation and muscle dehydration by stimulating the production of tissue lubricants. Which means, stretching has an anti-aging effect! Why not set an alarm every day and stretch for 10-20 minutes, which could prolong your youth?

We're very keen on living an active lifestyle and try our best to maintain the balance between strength and flexibility trainings. We also want to save as much money as possible on anti-aging creams and serums, so we try our best to incorporate stretching into all of our workouts. Both of us are at different levels of flexibility, and we have very different goals, but hopefully you can relate to one of us and learn a thing or two from our stories.

Danielle's story:

To start off I'm gonna be completely honest and say that I did gymnastics from 7-9 years old, which doesn't seem like a long time, but it gave me the building blocks to maintain my flexibility throughout my childhood and teenage years. Regardless of how active I was, it only took me about 1-2 weeks of targeted flexibility training to get back into my front splits.

BUT. Here is a big fat but. As we mentioned earlier, just because your joint feels safe and comfortable in one direction, does not mean it feels safe and comfortable in all directions. My middle split has been the bane of my life for as long as I can remember. During the lockdown, I made it my mission to finally achieve my middle splits. Low and behold, 9 months later, I still can't do it.

Before you get worried, I want to reassure you that my extensive history of youtube split tutorials and desperate google searchers have confirmed that it usually takes at least 2 years for someone to achieve such an intense joint range of motion like we need for a split - especially if you are attempting this after puberty and haven't been doing yoga or gymnastics regularly. So before you give up, please remember that - like many things in life - consistency is key.

Karima's story:

I consider myself a "naturally flexible" person. What I mean by that is that I have always been unintentionally flexible in my hamstrings and lower back. I can toot my own horn a little and proudly say that my flexibility allows me to do really crazy yoga poses like the Mermaid version of the dancers pose and perfect pike pose.

Here are some yoga poses (asanas) that I practice to improve my flexibility in the hip area.

My goal at this stage is to find a beautiful front split and maintain it long enough to take a cool picture for my Instagram (as they say "insta or it didn't happen").

In order to improve my flexibility, I spend 20 minutes doing a split flexibility work out with Tracey Hoe on FitOn app, which offers a lot of cool free online workouts, including HIIT, yoga, pilates and strength workouts. I also try to squeeze in a yoga session once a week and 2 or 3 LesMills body balance workouts.

We would strongly recommend subscribing to LesMills on demand. It is an amazing platform full of fun and exciting workouts that are suitable for all levels. LesMills offers agile workouts like Body Combat and GRIT. If you are looking for building muscle power then you would love Body Pump. And of course everyone who wishes to have a nice yoga and pilates inspired workout, would adore Body Balance releases.

But, just like for Danielle, it takes time (like a really long time!) to achieve my flexibility goal. Despite my strong will and eagerness, and regular training I am still not able to brag and post pictures of me stretching in a gorgeous front split (preferably with a smile on my face). I guess patience is key. I will keep training and one day (hopefully soon) I will share my success with you, our dear followers.

We hope that you found this post interesting and learned something new. Please let us know about your stretching routine and flexibility goals by either DM-ing us @kadani_health_sciences or by leaving a comment below.

We cannot wait to hear your stories!

Lots of love,

Danielle and Karima

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