I have decided to split “flexibility” up further, because it is just such a vast amount of information.
Lets talk about two ways that muscles can be dysfunctional due to flexibility concerns, as this will help with the next post.
Shortened vs. Lengthened –
This has become a pet peeve of mine in the last few years. I know many people who obsessively stretch their hamstrings because they feel “tight.” As we discussed previously, most people have sedentary jobs and thus spend most of their day sitting down. If you think about the position your legs are in while seated you will see that the distance between the torso and legs is lessened. This means that the hip flexors are in a shortened position. The opposing groups (have the opposite function) to the hip flexors are the glutes and their synergist helpers, the hamstrings. Necessarily the hamstrings and glutes will have to lengthen then in order to allow the hip flexors to shorten. Both the hip flexors and the hip extensors are dysfunctional; however, the methods of fixing their dysfunction and reactivating them must be different.
If you have a 4 foot piece of elastic that has the potential to stretch 9 feet but works best at 6 feet, this elastic should be elongated for optimal functioning. Now consider the same piece of elastic which has been stretched to its absolute maximum of 9 feet. If you stretched the second piece of elastic further it might tear. Your hamstrings are the second piece of elastic in this analogy. Both pieces could be considered “tight” but only one needs to be lengthened.
It is thus more logical to refer to the dysfunction of a muscle as “shortened” or “lengthened.” Yes, the hamstrings feel tight, but they are tight in the same way as a guitar string is tight. Stretching them may feel better in the short term; however, the person who does this is causing more damage than good. The goal here should be to activate the posterior chain through weight lifting, and to lengthen the hip flexors through stretching. This will help bring the lumbo-pelvic-hip-complex back into alignment and allow the different groups to work properly.