Flexibility – The Intersection of Strength, Capability, and Health

Be loose and flexible.

You walk by tightening muscles. Objects are lifted by tightening muscles. Every physical activity is based on muscular contraction. At the same time opposing muscles expand (or should), but tightening muscles do the work.

A muscle might be strong but inflexible. Inflexibility is a tell-tale symptom that the muscle is in a pre-shortened condition. It is always pulling on an attached bone, even though the attached bone isn’t moving. Since the bone isn’t moving, the opposing muscles must also be tight. That leads to joint compression as bones are continuously pulled toward each other. That’s not good. Joint restriction or joint pain lies in the future.

With flexibility, muscles are restored to their normal length after working (contracting). That’s good. Joints are not being compressed during down time. Circulation and oxygenation benefit. That’s why before-and-after-exercise stretching is recommended as a health practice.

Capability is another gift from flexibility. Strength is the force a muscle can generate. Capability to do useful work begins with strength but doesn’t end there. Capability also depends on operating distance. With normal (according to design) span, a strong muscle can work over a long distance. This person is fully capable.

The opposite is true for a pre-shortened inflexible muscle. Its operating distance is too short. Strength is still there, but capability is lost.

Multiple methods are available to build flexibility. Stretching, massage, self-healing movements are examples. A proper mindset supports them all. For the body-mind connection, a sense of “letting life expand” is preferred to “holding life together”.

A recommended visualization is that the entire body is expanding outward. By analogy, think of a mechanical exploded diagram. Picture the legs drifting away from the pelvis. Feet float off the lower leg. Fingers drift off the hands. Arms float off the shoulders. The breath expands each joint upon inhale and contracts the joints on exhale. Let this pattern diffuse throughout the body.

Envision that each joint has “play” in it. Play means secondary motion is possible. For example, consider a joint that is designed to move front-to-back. A knee joint fits this description. Play in the knee joint allows a little side-to-side movement. Play is a sign of non-compression. A sense of freedom accompanies it.

Flexibility pays great dividends. It’s worth developing. Physical flexibility also feeds into mental flexibility. Life feels less restricted, and a “can-do” attitude develops.

Furthermore, energy isn’t wasted by pressing bones together.


Jack Menear