Flexibility (anatomy)
Flexibility or limberness refers to the absolute range of movement
Range of motion
Range of motion , is the distance that a movable object may normally travel while properly attached to another object. It is also called range of travel, particularly when talking about mechanical devices and in mechanical engineering fields...

 in a joint
A joint is the location at which two or more bones make contact. They are constructed to allow movement and provide mechanical support, and are classified structurally and functionally.-Classification:...

 or series of joints, and length in muscles that cross the joints. Flexibility is variable between individuals, particularly in terms of differences in muscle length of multi-joint muscles. Flexibility in some joints can be increased to a certain degree by exercise, with stretching
Stretching is a form of physical exercise in which a specific skeletal muscle is deliberately elongated, often by abduction from the torso, in order to improve the muscle's felt elasticity and reaffirm comfortable muscle tone. The result is a feeling of increased muscle control, flexibility and...

 a common exercise component to maintain or improve flexibility.

Quality of life is enhanced by improving and maintaining a good range of motion in the joints. Overall flexibility should be developed with specific joint range of motion needs in mind as the individual joints vary from one to another. Loss of flexibility can be a predisposing factor for physical issues such as pain syndromes or balance disorders.

Gender, age, and genetics are important for range of motion. Exercise including stretching often helps improve flexibility.

Many factors are taken into account when establishing personal flexibility: joint structure, ligaments, tendons, muscles, skin, tissue injury, fat (or adipose) tissue, body temperature, age and gender all influence an individual's range of motion about a joint.

Individual body flexibility level is measured and calculated by performing a sit and reach test, where the result is defined as personal flexibility score.


The joints in a human body are surrounded by synovial membranes and articular cartilage which cover, cushion and nourish the joint and surfaces of each
. Increasing muscular elasticity of the joint’s range of mobility increases flexibility
Flexibility may refer to:* Flexibility , the distance of motion of a joint, which may be increased by stretching* Flexibility , in the field of engineering systems design, designs that can adapt when external changes occur...



Ligaments are composed of two different tissues: white and yellow. The white fibrous tissues are not stretchy, but are extremely strong so that even if the bone were fractured the tissue would remain in place. The white tissue allows subjective freedom of movement. The yellow elastic tissue can be stretched considerably while returning to its original length.


Tendons are not elastic and are even less stretchy. Tendons are categorized as a connective tissue
Connective tissue
"Connective tissue" is a fibrous tissue. It is one of the four traditional classes of tissues . Connective Tissue is found throughout the body.In fact the whole framework of the skeleton and the different specialized connective tissues from the crown of the head to the toes determine the form of...

. Connective tissue supports, surrounds, and binds the muscle fibres. They contain both elastic and non-elastic tissue.

Areolar Tissue

The areolar tissue is permeable and is extensively distributed throughout the body. This tissue acts as a general binder for all other tissues.

Muscle Tissue

Muscle tissue is made of a stretchy material. It is arranged in bundles of parallel tendons.

Stretch Receptors

Stretch receptors have two parts: Spindle cells and Golgi tendons. Spindle cells, located in the center of a muscle, send messages for the muscle to contract. On the other hand, Golgi tendon receptors are located near the end of a muscle fiber and send messages for the muscle to relax. As these receptors are trained through continual use, stretching becomes easier. When reflexes that inhibit flexibility are released the splits then become easier to perform. The splits use the body’s complete range of motion and provide a complete stretch.


Flexibility is improved by stretching. Stretching should only be started when muscles are warm and the body temperature is raised. To be effective while stretching, force applied to the body must be held just beyond a feeling of pain and needs to be held for at least ten seconds. If held too long, the muscle will become too loose and stretchy. Increasing the range of motion creates good posture and develops proficient performance in everyday activities increasing the length of life and overall health of the individual.


Dynamic flexibility is classified as the ability to complete a full range of motion of a joint. It also controls movement as the speed increases while stretching parts of the body.


Static-active stretching
Active stretching
Active stretching eliminates force and its adverse effects from stretching procedures.Before describing the principles on which active stretching is based, the terms agonist and antagonist must be clarified...

 includes holding an extended position with just the strength of the muscles such as holding the leg in front, side or behind. Static-active flexibility requires a great deal of strength, making it the hardest to develop.


Static-passive stretching
Passive stretching
Passive stretching is a form of static stretching in which an external force exerts upon the limb to move it into the new position. This is in contrast to active stretching. Passive stretching resistance is normally achieved through the force of gravity on the limb or on the body weighing down on it...

 is similar to static-active, but one holds a position with help of gravity. Doing the splits is an example of static-passive stretching.


Ballistic is separate from all other forms of stretching. It does not include stretching or any kind of bouncing motion. The actual performance of ballistic movements prevents lengthening of tissues. These movements should only be performed when the body is very warm; otherwise they can lead to injury.

Limits of Flexibility

Each individual is born with a particular range of motion for each joint in their body. In the book Finding Balance by Gigi Berardi, the author mentions three limiting factors: Occupational demands, movement demands and training oversights.

Internal Factors of Flexibility

Movement demands include strength, endurance and range of motion. Training oversights occurs when the body is overused. Internally, the joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments can affect one’s flexibility. As previously mentioned, each part of the body has its own limitations and combined, the range of motion can be affected. The mental attitude of the performer during the state of motion can also affect their range.

External Factors of Flexibility

Externally, anything from the weather outside to the age of the performer can affect flexibility. General tissues and collagen change with age influencing the individual. Young performers should be aware of over-stretching. Even basic things such as clothing and equipment can affect a performance. Dance surfaces and lack of proper shoes can also affect a performer’s ability to perform at his/her best.

Signs of Injury

Stretching for too long or too much can give way to an injury. For most activities, the normal range of motion is more than adequate. Any sudden movements or going too fast can cause a muscle to tighten. This leads to extreme pain and the performer should let the muscle relax by resting.

Risk of Injury

Pediatric Emergency Care shared an incident of a cheerleader. While doing the splits, a cheerleader, who had performed the splits many times before, did it just like any other time and heard a pop. Exaggerated forces were applied to the muscle-bone junction when the splits were performed. Afterwards she walked with a limp and had pain in her gluteus maximus.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.