Body temperature is an important consideration when attempting to improve joint flexibility. Increased temperature helps to facilitate increases in range of motion (ROM), while decreased temperature tends to preserve increases in muscle length. Prior to performing stretching exercises, body temperature must be elevated through a warm-up. The warm-up can be passive, meaning a hot bath or shower, or preferably, active, meaning a brief session of cardiovascular activity. Although many individuals use stretching as a warm-up, such a practice is ineffective and counterproductive. Pre-stretch muscular activity (of a resistance training or cardiovascular nature) is important in two regards.
First, body temperature is elevated. Second, muscles are subject to thixotropy, which is the tendency of gels to become less viscous after being shaken or otherwise disturbed by outside forces. This explains why periods of inactivity tend to cause muscular stiffness (probably resulting from microscopic bonding and adhesions between actin and myosin strands), and why muscular viscosity is restored when muscles are subjected to movement. The most appropriate time to stretch a muscle (from the perspective of body temperature and the thixotropic effect) is either after resistance training in the weight room, or after engaging in cardiovascular activity, such as sparring, bag work, or similar activities. In this way, the target muscle tissues are warm and viscous (which facilitates lengthening), but in the process of cooling (which tends to preserve long-term improvements in length).
Humidity also plays a factor in stretching and flexibility development. Athletic experience suggests certain temperatures have varying "quality" depending on the humidity. In other words, an athlete will have an easier time warming up in 70 degree temperature at 90% humidity than in 70 degrees at 70% humidity. Although the exact mechanisms of this phenomenon are not yet fully understood, most coaches and experienced athletes acknowledge that increased humidity has the effect of intensifying the effect of temperature.
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