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Types of Flexibility

by admin on November 9, 2009

One of the keys to designing an advanced martial arts stretching routine and making rapid progress with your flexibility stretches is understanding the body’s locomotor system (called the musculoskeletal system) and the types of flexibility that are available.   The human musculoskeletal system consists of the body’s skeleton, muscles, tendons, ligaments and other connective tissues. The skeletal system provides structure and framing, the muscular system provides movement, tendons and ligaments provide connection and attachment. The musculoskeletal system enables structured motion of the body, and the available range of motion is what we call flexibility. The various types of movements of the body require different types of flexibility, which in turn require different types of flexibility stretches. To understand which types of stretches are beneficial to your martial arts stretching routine you should first understand the different types of flexibility.


Static Flexibility

Static flexibility is flexibility which does not involve movement. It is a measure of the full range of motion of a joint and its related muscular involvement. The measure of progress in a side split or toe touch are classic examples of gauging the static flexibility of the relevant muscle groups. There are two types of Static Flexibility; Static Active and Static Passive.


Static Active Flexibility

Static active flexibility refers to the ability to maintain a position of an extended range of motion while stretching the antagonist muscles using only the tension of the agonistic and  synergistic muscles for support. The ability to assume and hold the stretched position comes solely from your muscles. The static active flexibility is dependent upon the static passive flexibility in combination with the static strength of the stabilizing muscles. An example of a static active flexibility is the ability to stand on one leg while you raise and hold the other leg out in front of you without any other external support.

 Front Leg Raise Static Active Stretch to Increase Static Active Flexibility


Static Passive Flexibility

Static passive flexibility refers to the ability to maintain an extended position using some external force. The external force could be your weight, your arms and hands, some apparatus or a partner. The ability to assume and hold the stretched position does not come solely from the muscles of concern as in static active flexibility. An example of static active flexibility is the side split with the force of gravity aiding the range of motion.

 Side Split Static Passive Stretch to Increase Static Passive Flexibility


Dynamic Flexibility

Dynamic flexibility concerns motion and the ability to perform movements of a limb or body part  through its joint’s full range of mobility. Dynamic flexibility depends on the body’s ability to combine relaxation of the agonistic muscles along with contraction of the antagonistic muscles in a dynamic motion.  Dynamic flexibility is the type of flexibility that typically increases performance of a martial art. The ability to kick high with power or fluidly perform a block with an extended range of motion are dependent upon dynamic flexibility. An example of Dynamic Flexibility is the ability to perform a high side kick.

High Side Kick Drill to Increase Dynamic Active Flexibility


Your passive flexibility typically exceeds your static flexibility for any given body part. The difference between the passive and static flexibility for a joint is known as the “passive-static flexibility reserve” and represents the current potential for increase in passive flexibility. The flexibility of a martial artist is sufficiently developed when the maximum available comfortable range of motion exceeds the required range of motion for the technique being studied. Any excess flexibility over the minimum required to perform a technique is called the “tensility reserve” and this reserve allows the martial artist to perform his or her art smoother and without excessive tension which helps in preventing injury.

Once you understand the types of flexibility your body can exhibit, you can match this with the appropriate type of flexibility stretches in your martial arts stretching program to increase your proficiency faster.

We invite you to learn much more about the science of modern martial arts stretching and modern flexibility stretches by coming back to MartialArtsStretching.com often.

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