How Flexibility Works?
How Gender Affects Flexibility?
1. Pelvic Anatomy
The previous study suggests that Females are more flexible than male because of Anatomical and Physiological Differences in both sexes. According to Micheal J Alter, Author of Science of flexibility, the pelvic area allows women to have a greater range of motion than man. “Man’s pelvic bones are generally heavier and rougher the cavity is less spacious, and the pubic arch and sacrum are narrower and the acetabula are closer together than women’s. Women have broader and shallower hips than men, this shallowness of the female pelvis permits a greater degree of joint range of motion than man”, said M. Alter.
2. Elbow Hyperextension
3. Muscle Mass
4. Relaxin Hormone
Relaxin is the hormone that plays an important part to increase laxity (looseness) in ligaments during pregnancy. In females, it is secreted in blood circulation by the corpus luteum in the ovary, during pregnancy it is also released from the placenta. In men, relaxin is secreted from the prostate gland and can be found in the semen, but is not generally found in the blood circulation. Role of relaxin can be understood better during female menstrual cycle and pregnancy whereas relaxin in men is not yet completely cleared. However, there is evidence that it may increase the movement of sperm cells in the semen. The relaxin hormone is lauded for its function in pregnancy, parturition and other aspects of female reproduction. At the same time, the role of relaxin in male is still debated.
5. Spine Structure
What is The Best Time For Women to Improve Flexibility?
Estrogen has an immense effect on musculoskeletal function. It directly affects the structure and function of musculoskeletal tissues such as muscle, tendon, and ligament. In these musculoskeletal tissues, estrogen improves muscle mass and strength, and is also responsible for new bone formation. There are some days in the cycle when estrogen is at its peak and a woman can feel more strength in her bones. During these days she can be surprised by herself that she can lift more weights than usual. These estrogen boosted days are important for strength training and muscle building.
Similarly, Relaxin levels in the circulation rise after ovulation, during the second half of the menstrual cycle. At this stage it is used to relax the wall of the uterus by inhibiting contractions, and it also prepares the lining of the uterus for pregnancy. If pregnancy does not happen, relaxin levels drop again. So, these are the days when relaxin is high and can provide laxity in ligaments. These days will support female’s bodies to extend their limit and to stretch more.
What Are The Factors That Limits Flexibility?
The most common factors of limiting flexibility are bone structure, muscle mass, excess fatty tissue, connective tissue, physical injury or disability.
The bone structure of the joint places some limits on flexibility, depending on its type and its current condition. According to which age can also be a factor limiting flexibility since older joints tend not to be as healthy as younger ones.
Muscle mass can be a factor when the muscle is so heavily developed that it interrupts the joint’s complete range of motion for example, large hamstrings limit the ability to fully bend the knees). Excess fatty tissue also imposes a similar restriction.
Age is a limiting factor as we can see adults are generally more flexible than older ones, kids are more flexible than adults. After adolescence flexibility level off and then decreases. Although flexibility decreases with age, the loss is minimal in individuals who remain active.
As we have already discussed how gender plays an important role in flexibility. It’s not a myth that females are more flexible than males if we consider differences in joint structures, hormones and muscle mass. Practice as a key helps both sexes to achieve great mobility of joints sooner or later.
Summers are more supportive of flexibility than winters. Even many people feel much better stretching in the afternoon rather than in the morning. A good warm-up is also responsible for good stretching. The nature of the warm-up should be intense enough to cause some sweating but not fatigue. Warm-up is necessary to raise the temperature of the body because joints and muscles offer better flexibility at the body temperature of 1 to 2 degree higher than normal. Stretching without warm-up limits flexibility and can increase the risk of injury.
People under training programs like yoga, gymnastics and dancing seem to be more flexible than those who follow resistance training programs or bodybuilding. People in weight training programs majorly focus on large muscles like trapezius, pectoralis major, biceps-triceps, latissimus dorsi and posterior deltoids but only a few of them exercise to strengthen rotator cuff muscles like supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor, which are majorly responsible for the external rotation of shoulders. Spending less time with stretching muscles and connective tissues promotes muscle imbalance and reduced range of motion.
Less active joints can cause chemical changes in connective tissue which restrict flexibility. When connective tissues are unused, it provides significant resistance and limits flexibility. According to the study, the stiffness in the hamstring area is due to prolonged sitting. People who spend most of their time while sitting or following a sedentary lifestyle are facing more issues of stiffness and reduced flexibility than others who are active physically throughout the day.
5 Important Advantages of Flexibility
- Delays physical deterioration associated with aging
- Decreased risk of injuries and helps muscle to relax after workout.
- Decrease pain and aches in muscles happen due to DOMS.
- Improve range of motion, hence enhanced ability to move joints freely and easily.
- Improve posture and appearance.
Where flexibility is enriched with so many benefits, hypermobility leads to many disadvantages. When connective tissues have too much elasticity then there is an increased risk of injury. Too much laxity in the body responsible for unstable joints that demands more control around joints. Muscles or fascia follow elasticity where the elongated muscle can come back to its original resting length again after a passive stretch, whereas ligaments follow the principle of plasticity where it assumes a new and greater length always after a passive stretch. Hypermobility puts a lot of strain on tendons, and ligaments, that occur micro-traumas, which can lead to more serious injury, such as joint dislocation, ligament strains and tears, or tendon inflammation. Hypermobility is not bad until and unless following strength training for joints. Strength training is always important with the flexibility to provide a better strengthening to muscles, tendons and ligaments and prevent instability of joints.
Though Gender is one of the important factors of flexibility, still there is a story of immense pain and struggle behind every flexible human. We all have to go through that tolerance of pain to perform a beautiful shape of Scorpion Bend or a Forearm Wheel. Practice is the only key for both sexes to improve the range of motion and joint mobility, sooner or later. Quarantine is the best time to improve your bends and to build your immunity while staying at home due to COVID-19.
Follow these simple 20 minutes stretching exercises for your splits flexibility at beginner level.