Flex-ible vs. Flex-Able


By: Scott McWilliam


Welcome to Golf MATchanics Blog Page Golf 101. The goal of our blogs are not only to help educate the golf community about the benefits of Muscle Activation Techniques™ in your golf game, but also offer different topics, thoughts, and ideas to benefit your game.

This week's blog is offering a different view on improving flexibility by being Flex-able. I’ve been in the fitness industry for close to 15 years, my clients' goals have ranged between wanting to gain muscle and lose weight, to just wanting to age, feel, move, and recover better. But regardless of the goal, the common theme across the board, no matter what age, is to become more flexible.


According to the Mayo-clinic flexibility may:

  • Improve your performance in physical activities

  • Decrease your risk of injuries

  • Help your joints move through their full range of motion

  • Enable your muscles to work most effectively


So, what’s the difference between Flex-ible and Flex-able, besides flexable is a word I just made up to offer another view?  Give up? They’re mindsets. The mindset of individuals who want to be Flex-ible believes the only way to become flexible is to lengthen tissue by applying some type of outside force, such as stretching, massage, foam rolling, etc. While, the mindset of individuals who want to be Flex-able look at their muscular system as an integrated system, I’ll explain more in a minute, and rely on improving their own muscular contractile capability to improve their flexibility, via contacting vs. lengthening. So, let me explain.

remember when I was little, maybe around 8 years old, every time I watched the gymnastics competition in the Summer Olympics, I’d be mesmerized. I’d watch these men and women flip, bounce, catapult, and stretch their way to gold. Right then, I decided, I needed work on becoming more flexible. I spent weeks attempting to become more flexible by pulling, pushing, bouncing, and grunting my way to this vision of flexibility perfection. The worst part was I never improved -- never even got close to my toes, and worst yet it hurt!

It’s sad to say, as I got older my flexibility got worse.  I remember during football, baseball, and swimming practice my coach would set aside 20-30 minutes before and after practice to stretch.  I hated it! I was extremely inflexible and I got made fun of. I always envied the kids that were limber, like the gymnasts. I wished I could somehow become more flexible. The unfortunate thing was my inflexibility caused my injuries to sky rocket.

The definition of flexibility is the ability to bend without breaking. It makes sense why we are brained washed with this idea, if your muscles are “tight” or the range of motion is limited, then the only way to improve our flexibility, is to either to lengthen or manually manipulate the “tight” muscles, until you feel mobility. This is why people have developed the mindset that our muscles are like Gumby, moldable, like silly putty, or stretchable like a rubber band.

Then I became Flex-able!

I finally got flexible, by being offered a new mindset. I was 26 years old. After being certified as a Muscle Activation Technique Specialist in 2008, I learned that tightness is secondary to weakness and to improve your flexibility is to become a better flexor. That’s right, by improving the contractile capability of your muscles, the by-product is flexibility.  I honestly didn’t believe it, I so put this idea to the test.  Within a couple weeks I was touching my toes! I ditched the idea about trying to be Flex-ible and focused on becoming Flex-able.

Communicating between two systems

How do you become Flex-able? First, we have to offer a different view on how the muscular system works. The issue with the current model is that we believe a huge characteristic of muscles is their ability to stretch. Muscles do lengthen, but not in the way we currently think. Muscle have a coefficient of flexibility, but every material has this characteristic. A rubber band has a high coefficient of flexibility and is able to stretch pretty far without breaking. While a 4x4 piece of lumber, has a low coefficient of flexibility before breaking.  With this being said, there is a huge characteristic of a muscle that is being ignored -- it’s called nerve signal.

The communication system that drives the muscular system, consists of an electrical feedback loop, which is due to an interdependent integration between the Muscular System and the Nervous System. The Nervous System tells the Muscular System what to do, and the Muscular System does it, if it can. In a nutshell, when a demand is put onto the body, the mechanoreceptors, located in our joints, sense this demand through a change in lengthen of the muscles surrounding a joint. The signal starts through a sensory nerve that is attached to the muscle fibers.  The sensory nerve will send a signal to the spinal cord, where the communication is transferred to a motor neuron(s). The motor neuron(s) will send a signal back to the muscle, through a motor nerve, to tell the muscles to contract. This response is necessary in order to overcome or match the demand on the muscle(s). (This is very simplified, but I hope this builds a picture).

How can you become Flex-able?

The key tool to this mindset is isometric exercises. According to Wikipedia, isometric exercises or an isometric are a type of strength training in which the joint angle and muscle length do not change during a contraction. Isometrics are done in static positions, rather than being dynamic through a range of motion. By applying an isometric contraction in the direction of limited mobility you are asking your muscles to generate a contraction, which in turn will create the ability for your body to become more flexible.  Why are isometrics better, in my opinion? If your goal is to build more stability and mobility at the same time, then I suggest isometrics to help you own your joint control and in the long run own your body. If you are interested in just mobility, then keep to your current view, but a body with mobility, but lack stability, equals instability.

This was a very brief over view on the how to become more Flex-able through isometrics. Stay tuned for my next week’s blog: How Isometrics Can Keep Joints Healthy.

The Big Picture

I'm just offering you an opportunity. If you are open to change, try viewing your muscular system as a highly interrelated electrical system feed back loop, between the Muscular System and the Nervous System. The results could create more flexibility in your joints, but more importantly you'll be building neuromuscular integrity. Neuromuscular integrity means control.  By improving muscular control you'll have the opportunity for your joints to be healthier. In my opinion, the best effect of isometrics is the sensation of feeling the muscles contraction, you are feeling your body getting stronger and you aren't forcing your body to go into positions that isn't comfortable. When you are able to improve muscular contraction -- you definitely more Flex-able.

I challenge you to try isometrics for a week and see if you feel any better. Leave a comment at the bottom telling me about your isometric adventure.