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6 Ways to Improve Flexibility, Part 6: Active Flexibility

29 Jun 2008

If you think of flexibility techniques set on a continuum in terms of progression and duration of the held stretch, then active flexibility could fall between static and dynamic flexibility. Active flexibility is often used as a progression before trying dynamic flexibility. So what is active flexibility?

Active flexibility typically refers to the ability of opposing muscle groups (what we trainers often call agonist and antagonist muscles) to work together in order to move a joint through its full range of motion. In active flexibility, you often flex or contract a muscle group (the antagonists) to achieve a stretch in the opposite muscle group (the agonists). Flexing the antagonist group has a similar effect to the help resistance you would get if your trainer were stretching you out—they both allow you to gain a little more range of motion than if you were just holding the stretch. On your own, you would contract the antagonist muscle group for 2-5 seconds as you feel a stretch in the agonists and repeat for 5-10 repetitions. Even though the goal is to improve flexibility and lengthen a tight muscle group, engaging the opposite muscle group will actually help you improve strength at the same time.

Like dynamic flexibility, nearly any static stretch can be done as an active flexibility exercise. In fact, it’s recommended that active flexibility be done for most exercisers as a progression to dynamic flexibility work. Active flexibility can be a part of your warm up or cool down depending on your goals and needs—be sure to ask your fitness coach how it can specifically benefit you!

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