The Methodology of Developing Flexibility
The area of the methodology of training refers to two types of flexibility: general and specific. General flexibility refers to the idea that each athlete has to have a good mobility of all bodily joints, irrespective of specific requirements of a sport or event Such flexibility is a requirement in training, and it assists the athlete to undertake various training tasks and perform substantial unspecific exercises, or elements from related sports. On the other hand, specific flexibility implies the quality which is sport or joint specific (i.e., specific flexibility of a hurdler differs drastically from that of a butterfly swimmer).
Since the development of flexibility is more easily achieved at a younger age, it has to be pan of the training program of each young athlete, irrespective of sport specialization. If a desired degree of flexibility is achieved, it does not mean that flexibility training should be neglected. On the contrary, from this point on, flexibility programs must have the objective of maintaining the achieved level. Flexibility exercises have to be incorporated in the warm-up part of a training lesson. As already indicated, flexibility exercises have to be preceded by a general warm-up (jogging and calisthenics) of at least 10 minutes. The selection of exercises and their complexity and difficulty has to be related to the athlete’s level of preparation and toe specifics of the sport. Each selected exercise has to be performed in 3-6 sets of 10-15 repetitions (or up to a maximum of 80-120 repetitions per lesson), while during the rest interval relaxation exercises have to be considered (shake the group of muscles that have performed, or execute a light and short massage). Throughout performance the amplitude of an exercise has to be increased progressively and carefully. At first exercises are performed with an amplitude which does not challenge the athlete, increasing it then progressively up to one’s limits. From this point on, each repetition should aim to reach this superior limit, and even to further it.
For the ballistic method there is a high variety of exercises: flexions, extensions, and swinging. As suggested by Bompa et at (1981) flexibility may be achieved by employing free exercises, medicine balls, stall bars, and benches. The use of medicine balls (i.e., flex the hips while holding the ball with arms extended) increases the leverage of a limb. As well, it accentuates the momentum, which results in a more effective development of flexibility.
For both the static and PNF methods the athlete tries to take the position of the joints so that the sought flexibility will be enhanced. Then the performer statically maintains the position for 6-12 seconds (6-10 sets) for a maximum total of 100-120 seconds per training lesson for the chosen joints. Such a time requirement may be built up in a progressive manner over a period of time (10-18 months). Throughout the performance of static flexibility the performer should attempt to relax the antagonistic muscles so that they will yield to the pull of the agonists, thus reaching a more acute angle between two limbs.
As far as the periodization of flexibility is concerned, most of it has to be achieved during the preparatory phase. The competitive phase will be regarded as a maintenance period, when the energy and strain placed upon muscle groups will be directed towards specific training. However, in either case, flexibility has to be part of an everyday training program and should be performed towards the end of the warm up. Best results were attained when flexibility was trained twice a day (Ozolin, 1971). Even athletes performing 46 training lessons per week still may develop flexibility during early morning training, thus ensuring an adequate flexibility