The IronPlate Guide to Flexibility


Flexibility is often overlooked or set aside on our wellness journey as we chalk up our aches and pains to getting older, that tough workout we did the day before, or even our lack of physical activity. Some of us have it, but most of us don’t and wish we did. Flexibility is one of those things that with some time and effort, we can and should improve. 

Our muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons work together to help us glide through our daily movements. If one area of our body is stiff or tight, it could throw the rest of our body’s movements off track leading to strain or injury. Most of the time our body compensates and we are somewhat unaware these imbalances exist until we attempt something a bit more challenging, or worse, tweak something the wrong way. Training the flexibility of our joints is just as important as focusing on the strength and endurance of our bodies. The American Council on Exercise (ACE), defines flexibility as “the range of motion of a given joint or group of joints or the level of tissue extensibility that a muscle group possesses.” In other words, how easy we are able to move through our motions. 

Flexibility benefits:

  • Improved balance and stability

  • Fluidity through our range of motion

  • Improved ability to complete our activities of daily living

  • Decrease in stress

  • Improved posture

  • Decreased muscle imbalances

  • Reduced pain & tightness

  • Improved exercise performance

  • Injury prevention 

These benefits sound great, but what can we do to improve our flexibility? First and foremost, the more you move, the better your joints move as well. Adding exercises like yoga, Tai Chi, swimming, etc can increase your strength and flexibility. Stretching is also a key component to gaining flexibility. There are several different types of stretching*, each with their own benefits.

Types of stretching:

  • Static: The most common type of stretching-is a stretch held a single position for roughly 30 seconds. 

    • Passive Static Stretching: Using some type of outside assistance to help you achieve a stretch. (I.e. body weight, strap, gravity, another person, or stretching device.)

    • Active Static Stretching: the force is applied by the individual .

  • Dynamic: Stretch performed by repeatedly moving through a slow controlled range of motion. This type of stretching is generally utilized to increase flexibility for a specific sport or activity. (I.e. long exaggerated strides to prepare for a race). 

  • Active Isolated Stretching: This stretch technique is held for only two seconds at a time. It is performed repeatedly for several repetitions, each time exceeding the previous point of resistance by a few degrees. Much like a strength-training regimen, AIS is performed for several sets with a specific number of repetitions.

  • PNF: (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) One of the most effective forms for improving flexibility and ROM, was originally developed as part of rehabilitation. It offers three different techniques:

    • Hold-relax

      • Perform a passive 10-second pre-stretch.

      • Hold and resist force applied by the fitness professional, causing an isometric contraction in the target muscle group, for six seconds.

      • Relax the muscle group and allow a passive stretch; hold for 30 seconds to increase range of motion (ROM).

      • There should be a greater stretch during this final phase due to autogenic inhibition.

    • Contract-relax

      • Perform a passive 10-second pre-stretch.

      • The fitness professional applies resistance, counteracting the client’s force of concentric contraction of the target muscle group, without completely restricting the joint through its ROM.

      • Relax the muscle group and allow a passive stretch; hold for 30 seconds to increase ROM.

      • There should be a greater stretch during this final phase due to autogenic inhibition.

    • Hold-relax with agonist contraction

      • This technique is similar to the Hold-relax technique, but differs for the final stretch.

      • Relax the muscle group and allow a passive stretch. Concentrically contract the opposing muscle group of the target muscle group that is being stretched; hold for 30 seconds to increase ROM.

      • There should be a greater stretch during this final phase due to reciprocal and autogenic inhibition.

  • Ballistic: Was widely used years ago as a way to trigger the stretch reflex by using bouncing movements. Currently it is used for athletic drills. It is not highly recommended now to the general population due to its high risk of injury. It can however be safely done if you start with a low-velocity and slowly increase velocity. It should also be preceded by static stretching. 

  • Myofascial Release: Through the use of a foam roller or similar device, myofascial release relieves tension and improves flexibility in the fascia (a densely woven specialized system of connective tissue that covers and unites all of the body’s compartments), and underlying muscle. Small, continuous back-and-forth movements are performed over an area of 2 to 6 inches for 30 to 60 seconds. The individual’s pain tolerance will determine the amount of pressure applied to the target area.

It’s important to remember that all stretching should occur only when muscles are properly warmed up. At IronPlate Studios, we usually take you through a dynamic warm up and static stretch cool down, unless, we feel you might benefit from additional flexibility help. If you’re unsure which type of stretching might be best for you, just ask your trainer at IronPlate Studios!

*Majority of the above definitions coming directly from the American Council on Exercise at