The issue of flexibility exercises is an interesting one in conjunction with injuries and avoidance. The simple answer is ‘no’ you do not need flexibility exercises to avoid injury. But I dislike just giving an answer without an explanation. While it is handy because you already know where this article is leading, at the same time understanding the why and how is generally much more important when dealing with your body and its health or well-being.
Flexibility exercises are also known as static stretching. Up until recently when people would ‘warm up’ before activity it would involve a lot of static stretching which is simply holding the body in a particular position and attempting to stretch the muscle to greater length. While it makes sense that lengthening the muscle would be useful as a warm-up, static stretching didn’t really help as much as people thought because the muscle was often tight and cold with a lack of blood flow.
You would stretch the muscle a small amount but it would not even be near the level of looseness a warm muscle might have. But with advancing science we learned that static stretching is great to do after a workout when the muscles are very warm and at or near their normal maximum length.
Generally speaking a muscle is shorter when it is cold and longer when it is warm. If you want to increase the ‘normal’ length you should be trying to increase its length when it is already at or near the maximum length. In this case that is post workout.
Of course the more flexible you are then the less chance you will have to become injured. Loose muscles are less likely to cramp or strain because they can absorb more force. Plus increased range of motion naturally helps avoid positions that could incur an injury. So in essence flexibility exercises can help avoid injury. But dynamic programs are much more needed prior to exercising and will do more to prevent injury.
Dynamic actions are ones where you move the body through a range of motion slowly to begin to warm up a single muscle or group. You can then increase the range of motion and tempo as the body gets warm. There is no bouncing or holding but instead mimics movements similar to sport or athletic motions.
Typical stretches would be walking lunges, arm circles, twisting side to side, and even slow kicks. This helps reduce muscle tightness and warms up the muscles and joints to prepare them for work. While it doesn’t help increase flexibility in ensures that the body is more ready for what you are about to put it through than static stretching. If you have watched professional sports teams warming up on the field you will see a lot of this along with light jogging.
The increased blood flow is key as well as loosening joints and areas that tend to become tight during inactivity such as the back, neck, and shoulders. Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of dynamic versus static stretching prior to activities or events.
The Bottom Line
You really need to use dynamic stretching to avoid injury but flexibility exercises will help prevent injuries as well. Flexibility is always a big key to the body because as you age you naturally use it. Children, in some cases, are like little rubber balls with their flexibility that can amaze us at what they can do without incurring an injury. Flexibility exercises can help you get back closer to that point of our youth but also keep using dynamic motions prior to working out to avoid injury.