Active flexibility is the range of motion that you can achieve by using your muscles to put your joint there (i.e., if you use your shoulder muscles to pull your arm back behind your ear as far as you can). You’ve probably heard us mention active flexibility before—we kind of won’t shut up about it.
It is normal to have greater passive flexibility than active flexibility, but the greater the gap between these two ranges of motion, the more unstable your joint (passive flexibility is the range of motion you can achieve by having some external force move your joint while your muscles are relaxed—i.e., using a wall or a friend to push your arm behind your ears). When you can push your shoulder or your hip far past where the muscles can actually work, you are putting your joint in a position where it has no muscular support. In this position it is easy to damage the connective tissue (tendons and ligaments).
It is normal to have greater passive flexibility than active flexibility, but the greater the gap between these two ranges of motion, the more unstable your joint.
So, while it is important to train passive flexibility if you want to increase your range of motion, never neglect your active flexibility! Always set it as a goal to keep the two as close together as possible. Not only will this help to keep you injury-free, it will also make it easier to warm up, and give you better tricks!
- You can try many repetitions of actively moving your limb, gradually trying to go farther each time. It is important to do this without momentum, as momentum in this context can greatly increase the chance of injury.
- There are many ways to work on active flexibility depending on which part of the body and what your goals are (you would train differently to be able to kick high than to be able to hold your leg up high without moving). One method is resistance stretching where you passively stretch your body and then work on engaging your muscles in that position by squeezing into whatever is pushing on you. Start that slowly, not squeezing with your full force, and holding for only about 5 seconds each squeeze.
- Active back flexibility can be increased by lifting your body into backbends (supermans) and doing standing to backbend and back up with weights (this should be done very carefully at first, the goal is to increase abdominal strength since those are the muscles that support the spine as it bends). There are more, but that is a good start.
Both Get Bent! and Bendy Body, of course, employ active flexibility techniques to safely increase your strength in range of motion. 🙂 Find out the difference between the two workouts in the video below: