To really take advantage of the many benefits of stretching, a record of flexibility should be kept. For sports trainers and coaches in particular, it is vitally important to test and chart an athletes’ flexibility on a regular basis. This is important for two reasons.
Firstly, it provides a starting point from which to measure improvements and gives an indication of any areas that may be weak, limited or inflexible.
Secondly, in the event of an injury, this baseline flexibility provides a goal to achieve before resuming exercise or returning to competition. It is vitally important that flexibility is regained after an injury. Therefore having a record of what the level of flexibility was before the injury is very useful as a target to achieve.
During the year set a minimum standard of flexibility for the activities engaged in. If an athlete becomes injured, it should be the goal to achieve the minimum standard of flexibility required for that activity before returning to exercise, competition or strenuous training.
What follows is a brief example of a few basic flexibility tests. These are the most commonly used tests but they are by no means the only ones. If more are required, consult a professional sports trainer for ideas about tests that are specific to the athletes’ particular sport. Remember The Rules for Safe Stretching in chapter 5 and once a test is used it is important not to vary it in any way. It must be kept the same each time it is used.
All the following tests are best done using a goniometer; a devise for measuring body limb angles. If a goniometer is not available, any standard 360 degree protractor will give a good indication of the angle at a particular joint.
Sit and Reach Test
The sit and reach test is probably the most common test used to measure flexibility in the back, hips and hamstring muscles.
Sit on the floor with your legs straight and your feet flat 38 against an upright board. Bend forward reaching towards, or as far past, your toes as possible, and then record the distance reached. This test will give a good indication of hamstring, hip and back flexibility.
Shoulder Flexibility Test
Unfortunately, participants in sports such as swimming, tennis (or any racket sport), any of the throwing events in athletics and especially contact sports, are extremely susceptible to injuries of the shoulder. Shoulder flexibility should be a prime concern for anyone participating in these sports.
Start by standing upright with the hand pointing down. In this position the hand represents the 0 degree position.
Then raise the arm directly forward and above the head, as in the picture to the right. Its furthest point is then recorded. An average acceptable reading of 180 degrees is expected for athletes.
Now move the arm down and behind the back to its furthest position, as in the picture to the right. This measurement is recorded and should
exceed 50 degrees.
Hamstring Flexibility Test
Lie on the ground face up, with arms straight beside the body, as in the picture below. Raise one leg as far up as possible. Keep the leg straight and measure the angle at the hip joint. An angle of 90 degrees is considered average to good.