Fitness & Nutrition Tips

Ask a Coach Q & A: Is it possible to be too flexible?

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Question: Is it possible to be too flexible?

Answer: By Katy Jercich, Head Health Coach

Maintaining flexibility is important to overall health and performance, but yes, there is a point where too much flexibility compromises joint stability opening us up for injuries.

In general, the muscles, tendons and ligaments around your joints should be both stable and flexible. When we stretch these soft tissues and the tissues effectively lengthen, it translates to flexibility. What leads to injury is when joints become so excessively flexible that they become unstable. Tall Redwood trees can survive earthquakes and high wind speeds because they’re flexible enough to move with the elements, and stable enough to move as one unit without snapping under pressure. Ideally, our bodies should operate with the same balance of structural strength and flexibility as Redwoods.

Things to watch for:

Is your range of motion excessive?
Range of motion refers to the degree a joint can move between a flexed position and an extended position. Every person’s range of motion is unique for each joint. Exercises like deep knee bends may increase your range of motion- you’ll get deeper into your squat- but an excessive level of flexibility might mean the muscles surrounding your joints need to be strengthened first to add stability.

Are your joints hypermobile?
Hypermobility is a term used to describe joints that stretch further than they should. If you can bend your thumb backwards or put your leg behind your head, chances are you have at least some hypermobile joints. While great for entertaining and party tricks, hypermobile joints need extra attention during workouts to avoid injury. The extra flexibility can almost always lead to a lack of stability. While both flexibility and mobility are associated with the range of motion around a joint and elasticity of soft tissues, understanding the difference between the two is where the importance lies. Mobility refers to the range of motion around a joint under “specific” circumstance, like a barbell squat where your joints are weight bearing and under a load. Flexibility refers to the range of motion of a joint “non-specifically” or non-weight bearing, similar to a grade school sit and reach. Mobility has an additional component of stability, unlike flexibility.  In other words, with mobility we want things to move that should, and we don’t want things to move that shouldn’t. Determining how and when to use certain exercises to develop strength for stability and also flexibility are critical to your workout regime.

Are you recruiting the right muscles?
Stability and strength create the foundation needed to safely increase flexibility. Our joints guide us into position, but our muscles hold us there. Activating the right muscles allows for proper alignment and less joint stress. For example, when maintaining a hip bridge, make sure you squeeze your glutes (butt) and your hamstrings (back of the thighs). If you feel pain in your lower back, it could mean you’re putting unneeded pressure on the joints in your spine. Focus on activating your muscles while holding position to gain stability and strength.

Next steps:
It’s possible you might be too flexible altogether or just in certain muscles. Whether we know it or not, most of us have a wealth of knowledge/intuition in how our bodies should and shouldn’t be moving. If a motion doesn’t feel right, we usually know it. If something hurts or feels uncomfortable, it’s a good idea to talk to a health coach or another healthcare professional. It’s important not to work through pain; moving well means moving safely and protecting your body.

When push comes to shove, don’t skip your stretch session just yet. Check with a coach for individual recommendations, and incorporate resistance training a few times per week for a well-rounded program. At Studiomix you can opt for classes such as Strength + Conditioning or Build accompanied by Yoga  for optimal results. It’s great to be bendy, but strength and stability come first to avoid injury.

Thanks for reading! Please send us your other pressing fitness & health questions via Facebook, Twitter or directly to coach@studiomix.com so that we can keep you motivated and always in the know.

 


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Fitness & Nutrition Tips

Chronic Pain is Telling You Something. Are You Listening?

Chronic Pain San Francisco


Bob Gazso
, Katy Jercich, and Vincent Som

Think movement, not muscle
If your shoulder hurts that doesn’t necessarily mean your shoulder is injured, or that it’s your only injury. One of the biggest challenges in diagnosing pain is finding the root cause. When a muscle aches, we need to consider more than just the muscle that hurts. Our brains and bodies focus on creating total body movements (like doing a pushup) and not on a single muscle (like your triceps). When you have pain, the cause is likely part of the greater movement system.

When working out, it’s better to go for functional movements like squats, lunges and deadlifts over simple, seated bicep curls. That’s because modern athletic training approaches fitness with balance, coordination and acceleration exercises, and leans away from simply focusing on repetitive movements for singular muscle groups. The same goes for injury treatment and prevention. Muscles work in systems. They’re all part of both the problem and the solutions.

Avoid band-aid fixes
Think of a car. If there’s a problem with the alternator that’s causing the battery to die, the best solution is probably not replacing the battery. The bad alternator will just keep killing the battery and you’ll have to keep replacing it. It’s better to fix the root cause, the alternator, than to keep band-aid treating the symptom.  Changing the battery or massaging your shoulder might help it feel better in the short-term, but it’s not fixing the problem.

Listen to your body
If you’re in pain, listen to your body. Our bodies are good at telling us if something isn’t working (and it usually hurts!) Talk to movement professionals about pain and what it could mean. Ask your trusty coach, physical therapist or body worker for a full body assessment to help figure out what’s causing your pain.

 

References:

Craig Lievenson, DC on Functional Training http://www.craigliebenson.com/functional-training/
ACE Fitness on What is Functional Fitness? http://www.acefitness.org/fitnessqanda/fitnessqanda_display.aspx?itemid=285

 


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