It's true there is a bit of controversy in the industry regarding the usefulness of flexibility training. Not everyone agrees, but below are some of the postulated benefits of flexibility:
- Used judiciously in physical therapy to correct muscle imbalances
- Used as an approach to increasing joint range of motion
- Reduces excessive tension of muscles
- Relieves joint stress
- Improves the extensibility of muscles/tendons
- Helps maintain normal functional length of muscles
- Improved flexibility enhances performance in daily tasks.
Much of the potential for any great increases in joint range of motion is thought to be genetically influenced.
Flexibility has also been postulated to reduce the incidence of injury, act as a key component to back health, and has been thought to reduce post-exercise muscle soreness (DOMS).
It is seen by many as a relaxing and rejuvenating activity, helping to alleviate tension developed during a workout, and also helps in relieving the stress of everyday living.
Reductions in flexibility start to become apparent by the third or fourth decade and progresses with aging. So those who are younger tend to overlook it, while those who are older tend to appreciate it more.
Whether or not the research one day soon proves conclusive in validating the postulated benefits, I personally see flexibility training as an essential component of a well designed training program and highly recommend it to my clients. It is not technically challenging and only takes a few extra minutes.
Whether you are in favour of flexibility training or not, never stretch cold muscles. Perform a warm-up first, since elevated core temperature facilitates joint range of motion increases.
You may want to save 'static' stretching (one component of flexibility training) for the cool-down period after you have completed your workout, since some of the research is showing that performing this type of stretch decreases the rate of force production. On the other hand, if you exhibit prominent joint dysfunctions, postural distortions or muscle imbalances, then chances are your physical therapist is recommending to stretch prior to your active warm-up.
Best wishes and Happy Holidays!