Without a doubt, the most considerable benefit of having flexible muscles is the reduced risk of injury. We preach this to our personal training clients in Harrogate all the time, if your muscles and tendons are tight, it will take a smaller range of motion to snap them. Much like you would need less distance to snap a short elastic band as opposed to a long one. If your muscles and tendons are flexible, they'll have a lot more range of motion before they snap or tear.
It would also take considerably less force to achieve the same muscle length if the muscle is flexible than it would if the muscle was tight. This is especially important for runners and other endurance athletes.
If you look at the simplified image of the leg muscles up top and imagine if the hip flexor is tight (the green one). Not only will this be putting undue stress on the lower back muscles but as you run, in order for your leg to extend backwards, your gluteus maximus, the (blue) opposing muscle, has to contract forcefully. The tighter the hip flexor the more force the gluteus maximus has to contract.
This extra force will go completely un-noticed because your body has learned to adapt to the load over a long period of time. But think about how many strides you take during a long run and how much extra energy you're using to perform the necessary movements. Thousands of steps... lots of wasted energy. If your hip flexors were loose, your running economy (the amount of energy your body uses to run) would massively improve. A better running economy would mean extra energy for the sprint finish. I've only used one pair of muscles in this example. The benefits of stretching ALL of your muscle groups would not go unnoticed.
For those that are trying to increase muscle size, stretching and Thai massage have been shown to contribute to muscular hypertrophy. Here's why: As explained before, your muscles are encased in a tough, fibrous, protective fascia. The fascia surrounds the belly of the muscle and is part of the tendon's structure at either end of the muscle. Correct stretching exercises will stretch the muscle and the tendon. They will therefore, also stretch the fascia and give the muscle more room to grow. It's like trying to blow up a balloon inside a lead box. If the lead box is bigger, the balloon will have more room to expand. Not only will you get bigger faster but you'll also rectify any muscular imbalances you may have accumulated during training, leading to better posture and an overall sense of well-being.
If you're a little bit unsure about how, where and how much you should stretch your muscles to get the most benefit, join one of our personal trainers in Harrogate for a free consultation.
The Fitness Rooms Blog is put together by some of the leading personal trainers in Harrogate.