Why is flexibility an important component of physical fitness?

Susie Whitworth
Stretching helps promote flexibility, which increases range of motion. The better your flexibility, the more safely you can perform exercises and promote your physical fitness.

Flexibility is an important component of physical fitness because it increases range of motion, which allows you to perform exercises more safely and helps to improve your fitness level.   There are 3 different types of stretches you can perform for flexibility.  I like to start with Foam Rolling, which is also known as Self-myofacial Release (SMR).  This technique helps break up adhesions (knots) and lengthens the muscle.  SMR is followed by static stretching.  I recommend SMR and static stretching twice daily whenever possible.  Active or dynamic stretching is another form of stretch.  Examples of dynamic stretches include the Iron Cross Stretch, leg swings front to back or side to side, prisoner squats and tube walking to name a few.  The Iron Cross Stretch is depicted in the video below.

Dynamic stretching is best used prior to an activity instead of static stretching.  Static stretching has been shown to decrease strength as the muscles lengthen, so be sure to save the static stretching for after your game or activity.


Flexibility is a huge part of Physical fitness training. Some benefits include.

  • Improved Muscle Coordination
  • Enhanced Enjoyment of Physical Activities
  • Reduced Risk of Low Back Pain
  • Improved Posture
  • Reduced Muscle Soreness
  • Decreased Injury Risk, improved performance

Flexibility, like any other form of training, should follow a systematic progression. This is known as the flexibility continuum. There are three phases of flexibility training: Corrective, Active and Functional.

Corrective flexibility is to improve muscle imbalances and altered joint motion. This includes static stretching and self-myofascial release (SMFR).

The next progression is Active flexibility. Active flexibility is designed to improve the extensibility of soft tissue and increase neuromuscular efficiency.

The final progression is Functional flexibility. Functional flexibility is integrated, multiplanar soft tissue extensibility, with optimum neuromuscular control, through a full range of motion.

Picture of stretching

Flexibiltiy is an important component of physical fitness because it allows the participant to move through a full range of motion without compensatory motions.  Compensated motion will eventually lead to overuse injury.  In addition, if someone does not have the proper motion for a specific activity, it may lead to an acute injury during activity.  Flexibility allows for healthy muscle/joint tissues and keeps us moving smoothly.

This is true for muscles that are over tight as well as muscles/joints that are too lose.  We want to be able to move through a normal range of motion but we also need to be well held together.

In order for the musculoskeletal system to work at optimal levels, prevent injury, and be free of inflammation or pain, it is necessary for all the muscles surrounding our joints to be in balance with each other by maintaining an optimal length to work properly. Many joint movements work with pairs or groups of muscles that have equal and opposite functions. For example, the bicep flexes the elbow pulling the forearm toward the shoulder whereas the tricep muscle on the back of the upper arm extends the elbow pulling the forearm back toward the hip. In order for the elbow joint to function properly, both the bicep and tricep have to be able to produce forces that move the bones of the elbow with equal force, balance, and coordination.

Often times, the activities of daily living, repetitive occupational or athletic movement, incomplete exercise technique/programming, or poor posture, lead to one of the muscles surrounding a joint to become over-short and the other over-lengthened. In the case of the above example, it is the bicep that often becomes too short and the tricep too long. When this happens, the elbow is continually pulled into a flexed (bent) position as the bicep becomes too short and the tricep becomes too long allowing for the motion to continue. Once this occurs, the joint becomes unbalanced and more stress in put on certain parts of the joint. This can lead to injury, inflammation, and chronic pain as seen in conditions such as tennis elbow, golfers elbow, tendonitis, and arthritis.

The most effective way to maintain proper muscle length, muscle function, and joint health is to include flexibility activities SPECIFIC to the over-short muscles and strengthening activities for the over-lengthened muscles. A trained fitness professional or health care practitioner can assess and recommend which muscles need to be lengthened, which need to be activated or “shortened” and how injury can be prevented through correcting the imbalances.

Flexibility can correct muscle imbalances and improve extensibility of soft tissue which increases joint range of motion. When connective tissue tightens and becomes shortened due to lack of flexibility you will not be able to obtain maximal performance and your risk of injury becomes greater. A progressive system is a very useful way to properly stretch these tissues. Stretching should be done before and after a workout.

Physical fitness has many components--strength, muscular endurance, VO2 max, mobility, flexibility..... the list goes on and on.  One of the big ones is flexibility because of the affect flexibility has on all the other components.  Flexibility allows us the be more effective and have more enjoyable experiences not just in athletics but also in our day-to-day activities. 

As we get older, maintaining our flexibility is extemely important because muscle and joint flexibility is crucial to injury prevention.  If our body is properly conditioned, activities we will be more pleasureable.  The cool thing about flexibility is that it is something everyone can improve by performing simple stretches and exercises--many while sitting at your desk at work.  Do a little research, consult a personal trainer and make life more enjoyable.  Hope this helps.  

It’s a key component in developing neuromuscular efficiency. Normal extensibility of soft tissue along with optimum control in all 3 planes allows for the safe full range of motion of a joint. Without this extensibility, you end up with muscle imbalances, poor posture and improper movement patterns and every day aches and pains and even worse, injuries. So take the time to stretch before and after a workout. It’s important and feels great.

Flexibility training is important to reduce risk of injury for all activities that we perform, whether that be reaching for a platter on the top shelf of the pantry, swinging a golf club, or performing a chest press on a weight machine at the gym. In our day to day lives, we are performing activities that require us to bend, reach, and twist. If we don't have normal extensibility of the muscles we need to do these activities, an injury could occur. Good flexibility not only reduces the risk of pain and injury, it promotes good posture, relieves joint stress, increases range of motion, and improves quality of life. All good reasons to incorporate flexibility into your training routine. 

Flexibility is extremely important for physical fitness. Poor flexibility decreases your body’s ability to maintain proper posture, limits proper joint motion increasing the risk for low-back pain, joint pain, and injury during everyday activities. Conversely, having adequate flexibility and mobility will help reduce joint stress decreasing general aches and pains, in addition to improving your overall quality of movement.

Flexibility training will help to improve and maintain muscular extensibility equilibrium. Along with creating a balance in length of your muscle, the simple act of stretching can compliment gains made by resistance training. Both resistance training and stretching will cause slight tearing in muscle tissue which heals quickly and causes muscular growth and improvements in strength, as well as, help protect against injury.



Good flexibility promotes healthy muscles and joints. Improving and maintaining a good range of motion in your joints can enhance your quality of life. Improving the elasticity of muscles and connective tissue around joints allows greater freedom of movement and enhances your ability to participate in many types of sports and perform activities with greater ease. Optimal flexibility also makes activities of daily living such as bending, turning, and lifting easier to perform. Participating in a regular stretching program increases circulation to the muscles being stretched, helps decrease low back problems, improves postural alignment, promotes graceful body movement, can improve self image, and helps to maintain proper motor skills throughout life.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.