Do you know the difference between muscle elasticity and flexibility? Many people confuse the two terms. Even in sports and health, they are often interchangeable when they are not the same. Elasticity is a component of flexibility.
We invite you to discover what muscle elasticity is, the benefits of having good elasticity and how to achieve it.
What is muscle elasticity?
Elasticity is the ability of muscle fibres to contract and return to their original state, i.e. their normal position.
One of the properties muscles possess is allowing them to perform their functions correctly.
The other properties are excitability, contractility, extensibility and plasticity. We explain what each of them consists of.
- Excitability. The ability of muscle tissue to generate a contraction in response to an impulse from the nervous system triggered by a chemical, mechanical or electrical stimulus.
- Contractility. It is the muscular faculty that enables the ability to contract with force.
- Extensibility. The muscle can achieve a stretch beyond the resting length.
- Plasticity. The ability of muscles to modify their structure to adapt to the work they perform.
Maintaining good muscle elasticity allows the muscle to return to its physiological shape after contraction, i.e. it will enable the muscle to exert force without losing its structure and, therefore, to function correctly.
The elasticity gives the muscle the option of movement to avoid injury during exercise or, in other words, a muscle that is not elastic loses the ability to move.
Difference between elasticity and flexibility
The ability to move and move about is made possible by the joints’ movement capacity and the muscles’ contractile properties.
The muscles act in pairs, sometimes more than one pair, so that the muscle called the agonist carries out the movement and the antagonist exerts resistance to make a move smooth and controlled. At the end of the action, the muscles return to their initial position. This capacity is elasticity.
The concept of flexibility is different. Flexibility does not move but facilitates movement through joint mobility. The greater the flexibility, the greater the range of motion of both the joints and the muscles that adapt to the range of movement set by the joints.
Flexibility is, therefore, the sum of the concepts of joint mobility and muscle elasticity:
Benefits of good elasticity
Now that we are clear on muscle elasticity, the benefits of maintaining it are.
- Good muscle elasticity benefits the practitioners of a given sport and the rest of the people in their daily routines, enabling the optimal performance of the movements required to carry them out.
- In sports, optimal muscle elasticity increases performance and reduces the risk of injury.
- Muscle elasticity promotes blood circulation. As a result, the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles increases and metabolic waste is eliminated more quickly. This speeds up post-exercise recovery.
- Low muscle elasticity is one of the factors predisposing to spine-related pathologies, such as low back pain, probably due to lack of activity and low abdominal tone.
- Muscle elasticity also benefits muscles when they are at rest. Even without any movement, muscles experience slight contractions that can cause an excessive increase in muscle tone. By promoting blood flow, elasticity reduces style and the likelihood of contractures.
How to gain muscle elasticity
Some people naturally have more elastic muscles than others, but we can do our part to gain more elasticity. You can do several things to increase your muscles’ elasticity.
- Eat a balanced diet and include foods that help boost muscle elasticity, such as fish rich in Omega 3 (salmon, trout, sardines…); fruit and vegetables rich in antioxidants such as red fruits, carrots, tomatoes and grapes; healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, seeds and nuts.
- Take dietary supplements to help you care for and recover your muscles, especially those that promote the production of collagen, a protein needed to maintain good muscle function.
- Supplement your nutrition with glycine supplement to promote muscle recovery after exercise. Glycine is an essential primary amino acid for our body. Although it is produced naturally, it is made in small quantities, so an extra supply of glycine helps to recover muscle losses and, at the same time, prevents contractures and muscle problems.
- Warm up your muscles before training and stretch after exercise.
- Incorporate some stretching techniques into your routines. It is essential to be consistent and dedicate a few minutes daily to keeping your muscles elastic, as it is much more effective than dedicating a whole hour one day a week. Here are some exercises to do this:
- We stand upright and raise our arms with our hands clasped together. We bring our hands as far up and back as we can.
- Standing with your legs, try to touch the floor with the palms of your hands without bending your knees. Hold for 1 minute or as long as you can.
- Standing, we perform a stride with the right leg, advancing it as far as we can by bending the knee. Hold for 1 minute and change legs.
- Standing up, we bring our right arm to the left, sticking it to our chest. We hold it with our left arm, putting force on our right arm. We do the same in reverse.
As you can see, increasing and maintaining muscle elasticity has essential benefits for our muscles and the body. Follow the recommendations and take better and better care of yourself!