Flexibility is important, and is often overlooked when planning a fitness program. 47% of stiffness is attributed to joint capsule and ligaments, 41% from muscle fascia, 10% from tendons, and 2% from skin. Increasing your range of motion (ROM) can be done largely because of the second one, the fascia. Self-myofascial release, or foam rolling, will help loosen up adhesions or stiffness in your fascia (the connective tissue on top of your muscles). Using a foam roller can be used as part of your warm-up and cool-down. Runners especially will develop tightness in their IT bands (lateral thigh) and should use a foam roller frequently.
Old school of thought was to static stretch as a warm-up to prevent injury during activity, research has shown that static stretching actually decreases performance because you are temporarily changing the length of the muscle, which operates in a length-tension relationship. This means that your muscle produces the most force at certain lengths of its ROM, so why alter the relationship? Static stretching should only be used during your warm-up IF there is also need for corrective exercise because of muscle imbalances around a joint. Otherwise, static stretching or PNF stretching should only be part of the cool-down. Foam rolling should be done before static stretching to get a more effective stretch.
The new school of thought is to warm-up doing dynamic stretches. This means that you perform exercises in all 3 planes of motion using your muscles to control the speed, direction and intensity of the stretch. An example would be a lunge with rotation of the trunk. This loosens up the joints and helps your body to self-lubricate your joint surfaces. If you have limited range of motion in one plane of motion, injury is more likely to occur during activity. An example would be a golfer, if they have limited rotation through the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex, they may injure their low back when trying to rotate with great force, not to mention they won’t hit the ball very far.
Contact me about getting yourself set up with the right corrective exercises and stretches to improve your ROM.
Source: NASM Essentials of Sport Performance Training