Flexibility – Self Test

Having a minimum range of motion in your joints is the starting point to training for sport, any sport, every sport. To be able to start to exercise, to train sport specific technique, and to do so without immediate risk of injury, every athlete needs to have a minimum level of flexibility.

Caution: if you have joint pain, have a joint condition, been diagnosed with a joint or bone disease, or have any injury, please do not self test your flexibility.  If uncertain, please do not self test your flexibility. Please refer to the bottom of this post for recommended appointment types, or email me at physio@theathletescloud.ca to discuss your conditions/circumstances.

So what is the minimum range of motion or flexibility needed, or at least recommended?

Lesman_Paredes_OHP_stretchI believe that anyone – age group youth athlete to masters athlete – with interest in training or competing in any event (i.e. from a 50m swim, to a sprint triathlon, to a half or full marathon or a granfondo cycling event) at a minimum needs to be able to perform the basic squat.

What is the position of a basic squat?

  • Heels flat on the ground;
  • Feet at or just slightly wider than shoulder width apart, and turned out slightly, approximately 30 degrees, but not more  than 45 degrees;
  • Knees bent directly over the feet, with the kneecap tracking over the 2nd and 3rd toes (without affecting the position of the feet – the feet remain flat on the ground);
  • Lumbar spine in a neutral position;
  • The entire spine from head to tail bone being in a straight line (i.e. no excessive curves either forward or backward, and no rotation);
  • With the athlete able to look directly forward; and,
  • With the athlete able to easily hold this position: balanced (i.e. without any support), while breathing comfortably at all times.

squat-postureThe advanced squat – essential for athletes who use their upper extremities (e.g. swimmers, racquet sport athletes, all athletic field events e.g. javelin, cyclists and triathletes who ride in a time trial/aero position) – adds to the position of the basic squat, the overhead press:

  • Shoulder blades retracted and depressed, without any compensation coming from the spine; and
  • Shoulders, elbows, and wrists able to extend into a straight vertical line.

If you are an athlete seeking your potential, or are simply looking to get into sport, for recreation, for health, or to participate in an upcoming event, then having the minimum level of flexibility is the starting point.

If you lack the minimum level of flexibility, then the following are guaranteed with any amount of training/exercise:

  1. Pain, whether during exercise, or delayed (typically referred to as DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness);
  2. Injury, if not immediately, then over time your body will eventually breakdown from having insufficient range of motion to repeatedly perform movements, and/or from having to fight against stiff, rigid, immobile joints resulting in (e.g.) tendonitis, chronic inflammation, swelling, bursitis of whatever is the weak link in the stressed chain;
  3. Increasing morning stiffness, a sense of fragility and brittleness (as opposed to a sense of suppleness, robustness, and resilience which are the result of healthy exercise/training);
  4. Increased risk of injury outside of exercise/training due to the stiffness, frailty, and pain resulting from unhealthy exercise/training.

Worse, athletes trying to short cut their way to fitness goals often end up developing the habits of taking pain killers, applying anti inflammatory gels, or buying into to the “no pain, no gain” narrative.  None of these are solutions which are congruent with anyone seeking health.

Health stems from first regaining a flexible, mobile, elastic, nimble body which allows exercise, fitness and health goals to be pursued without risk to your well-being.

If you seek health, if you seek your potential, if you seek performance, then you need to start right, from the beginning… by developing flexibility, by gaining the minimum range of motion your body needs in order to be able to complete the exercise/training demands you place on it.

A flexibility coaching appointment is recommended for athletes who do not have any pains, injuries, or joint or bone issues.

A physiotherapy pre-hab appointment is recommended for athletes who do not have any injuries, but do have either a history of pain, injury or have a medical condition.

If you are already suffering from aches, pain, or have sustained a sport injury, then a sports injury physiotherapy appointment is recommended.

Not sure where to start?  No problem, email me at coach@theathletescloud.ca and I will be happy to steer you to the type of appointment appropriate for you.

Additional posts on flexibility titled “Peak Performance is Flexibility Dependent”:

Additional posts on flexibility titled “Source of Power: Rotation”: