epISODE
147
Fitness

All About Your Flexibility - Are You Stretching Right?

two moms stretching
by megan dahlman
March 22, 2022

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Having good flexibility isn’t what you think it is. Usually, we all look down at our bodies and say either “yep, I’m tight and need to stretch more” or “nope, I’m pretty good…I’m pretty flexible.” But that’s not the full picture. Being flexible is about so much more than just having long and loose muscles. So today, I want to help you make sure you’re stretching right.

In PE class growing up, there were always two weeks a year that we were subjected to a battery of various physical challenges. Do you remember this?

It was the Presidential Physical Fitness Test.

They did away with this form of testing in 2012, but if you were one of the lucky ones to experience the test, you probably remember the odd mixture of thinking “this is so stupid” combined with “I’m totally going to win”.

The test involved at least five of the following exercises:

  • sit-ups (timed for one minute),
  • push-ups (as many as possible without resting),
  • pull-ups (as many as possible) or flexed arm hang (as long as possible),
  • a 30-foot “shuttle run”,
  • a one-mile run,
  • And the “V-seat reach” (to gauge flexibility).

The “V-seat reach” measured your flexibility by seeing how far past your toes you could reach your fingers while sitting with your legs out straight.

Do you remember how you did?

I always did okay. I could reach my toes, but couldn’t reach far past them.

However, I remember some kids in my class could wrap their arms around their feet, while others could barely touch their knees. There were some super-flexible kids and some very stiff kids.

But was this actually a good measure of flexibility?

In episode 145 we talked all about elastic eating habits, or how to become more flexible with your food choices, and ultimately experience freedom with food.

Today, I’m teaching you all about the more commonly known concept of flexibility, and how it relates to your muscles. This is important for you because flexibility is one of the key aspects of fitness. (6 key aspects: muscular strength, cardiovascular stamina, balance, coordination, power and flexibility. If any of these 6 components are missing, your body will feel off and you won’t be fully thriving.)

All about Flexibility

You might be reading this and thinking “I’m already flexible, I don’t need this.” Oh yes you do…

Or you might be listening and thinking “I’m so stiff and rigid like a board, and I hate working on my flexibility.” Yep, you need this, too.

There are two types of flexibility: passive and active.

  • “Passive” flexibility involves using leverage, or having some assistance to push/pull you into the stretch. Picture laying on your back and having a friend see how far they can push one of your legs up.
  • This is what most people think of when they think of being flexible. How far can you go.
  • “Active” or dynamic flexibility involves using your muscles to pull you into a stretch or a deep range of motion. This would be like reaching toward or past your toes without grabbing onto anything for leverage. Your muscles do the work, and it’s a good demonstration of how “mobile” a body part is.
  • This is often referred to as mobility

Both are important. Passive flexibility shows how “stretchy” you are, but it’s the active or dynamic flexibility that matters more.

Let’s go back to the sit and reach test:

  • Many of the kids doing the V-seat reach were extremely flexible, and in fact were probably hypermobile. They were so flexible that they didn’t have any strength throughout that range of motion.
  • They were floppy and unstable.
  • I’ve trained a lot of women like this throughout the years. They’re super flexible, but because of that there’s no structure and stability. They move like a wobbly mess. They drop into a squat and can pretty much sit down on the floor, but it’s like a baby giraffe.
  • While on the flipside, some of the kids had a little bit of active flexibility, but very little passive flexibility. They were as tight as a drum.
  • They were strong and could muscle their way into the movement, but their overall range of motion was pretty limited.
  • I’ve also trained a lot of women like this. They’re stiff and tight, and getting into a squat feels really uncomfortable and they can barely sit their hips down to knee level comfortably.
  • The sweet spot is right in the middle - being flexible, both passively and actively, but not so much that you’re floppy.

All about Flexibility

You might be listening and thinking “I’m already flexible, I don’t need this.” Oh yes you do…

Or you might be listening and thinking “I’m so stiff and rigid like a board, and I hate working on my flexibility.” Yep, you need this, too.

There are two types of flexibility: passive and active.

  • “Passive” flexibility involves using leverage, or having some assistance to push/pull you into the stretch. Picture laying on your back and having a friend see how far they can push one of your legs up.
  • This is what most people think of when they think of being flexible. How far can you go.
  • “Active” or dynamic flexibility involves using your muscles to pull you into a stretch or a deep range of motion. This would be like reaching toward or past your toes without grabbing onto anything for leverage. Your muscles do the work, and it’s a good demonstration of how “mobile” a body part is.
  • This is often referred to as mobility

Both are important. Passive flexibility shows how “stretchy” you are, but it’s the active or dynamic flexibility that matters more.

Let’s go back to the sit and reach test:

  • Many of the kids doing the V-seat reach were extremely flexible, and in fact were probably hypermobile. They were so flexible that they didn’t have any strength throughout that range of motion.
  • They were floppy and unstable.
  • I’ve trained a lot of women like this throughout the years. They’re super flexible, but because of that there’s no structure and stability. They move like a wobbly mess. They drop into a squat and can pretty much sit down on the floor, but it’s like a baby giraffe.
  • While on the flipside, some of the kids had a little bit of active flexibility, but very little passive flexibility. They were as tight as a drum.
  • They were strong and could muscle their way into the movement, but their overall range of motion was pretty limited.
  • I’ve also trained a lot of women like this. They’re stiff and tight, and getting into a squat feels really uncomfortable and they can barely sit their hips down to knee level comfortably.
  • The sweet spot is right in the middle - being flexible, both passively and actively, but not so much that you’re floppy.

What is the result?

The result is muscles and joints that feel open and loose, yet strong and durable. In turn, you’ll move better and will be less likely to get injured. Yay!

Thinking back to that Presidential Physical Fitness Test, I wish I had known why we were doing some of the exercises and stretches in the test. Why did these things matter? What did it really prove?

That V-seat reach only evaluated part of the flexibility equation, and just on one section of the body.

And the floppy kids got the best scores.

Summary

The big idea here is that…If you really want to gauge your flexibility, follow the movements during your next workouts, moving your body through full ranges of motion with control and precision. Watch your depth improve and see how this skill transfers to your other exercises and activities throughout the day.

Your action steps now are to:

  • Commit to always doing a dynamic warm-up and passive stretching cool down
  • While doing dynamic movements, don’t just go through the motions - take your time to explore your deepest ranges of motions
  • Watch how it completely impacts how your body feels and moves. It’s incredible.

More Resources

Do you know what your unique body type is? Take the FREE Body Type Quiz now!

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Trainer, nutrition coach, and Christian mom — in a culture that’s obsessed with “gym-selfies” and a number on the scale, I’m passionate about helping moms discover what it feels like to actually love their bodies and thrive in them.
Read More About Megan
Hi! I’m Megan.
Self-Care Simplified is for Christian moms that want to be equipped and encouraged to take simple steps towards the healthy life you want for yourself and the people you love.
Be sure to subscribe to Self-Care Simplified wherever you listen to your favorite podcast.
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Hi! I’m Megan.
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Self-Care Simplified is for Christian moms that want to be equipped and encouraged to take simple steps towards the healthy life you want for yourself and the people you love.
Be sure to subscribe to Self-Care Simplified wherever you listen to your favorite podcast.
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