Different people have different bone structures, so nobody is going to feel the same stretch the exact same way, and not everyone is going to naturally have the same range of motion. This is perfectly okay.
To determine your current level of flexibility and better understand where you may need to focus your efforts, work through these flexibility tests that gauge the elasticity in your lower body.
- Flexibility Test for Your Hamstrings
Most people think it’s best to test your hamstring flexibility while standing, but doing so while lying on your back better isolates the hamstrings, so they don’t get assistance from the hip flexors or spine.
How to do:
Start by lying on your back with your legs straight. Lift one leg upward, then determine how far you are able to reach up your leg with your hands while keeping your back and head on the floor. It’s great if you’re at least able to touch your shins, then work towards being able to touch your toes.
If you are unable to do this, wrap a yoga strap or towel under the base of your foot and use the strap to help slowly pull your leg deeper into the stretch. Hold the stretch for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Practice daily to help increase your comfort level in this position.
- Flexibility Test for Your Hip Rotators
This is an important focus area for those who sit at a desk all day, as the external rotators of the hips tend to become very tight. This tightness is amplified if you add a regular running routine.
How to do:
Start by lying on your back with your left leg bent and your foot flat on the ground. Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Lift your left leg off the ground and reach for your hamstring or shin. Use your hands to pull your leg closer to your chest. You’ll start to feel tension on the outside of your right hip.
If you’re unable to reach your hamstring, this is a big indicator that your hips are really tight. To work towards improving your flexibility, place your left foot against a wall at a comfortable distance that allows you to feel tension without pain (which means the stretch is working).
- Flexibility Test for Your Outer Hips and Spine
It’s difficult to test your spinal flexibility on its own, so you can combine this assessment with a hip test.
How to do:
Lie on your back and pull both knees towards your chest. Keeping your upper body flat on the ground, slowly rotate both knees to one side, getting as close to the ground as possible. Repeat the movement on the opposite side. Stretch your arms out at your sides for support if needed. Remember to keep your back flat on the ground when rotating your knees from side to side.
The goal is to be able to reach the same distance on both sides. Otherwise, this can indicate an imbalance.
If you feel more tension in your hips or back as you lower your knees down to the side, this is an indication that these areas are tight. Focus your efforts on releasing tension in these areas.
How low are you able to bring your knees? If you’re nowhere near the ground, this is definitely something you should work on. Find some pillows or blankets to support your legs while you settle into that position for a few minutes each day. Gradually remove the support as you progress closer to the ground.
Another accurate and conclusive method to measure your range of motion is by using a Goniometer.
A Goniometer is essentially a protractor with two arms extending from it. It is used to measure a joint’s range of motion. They’re most often used in physical therapy to track the progress of a joint’s movement. There are many joints you can measure using the goniometer, such as the knee, hip, shoulder, or wrist. It’s important to align the center of the goniometer along the center of the joint, using the two arms to track how far a limb can bend or extend.
- Familiarize yourself with the goniometer before using it.
A goniometer has two arms: one that’s attached to the circle with the angle degrees on it, and a movable arm that does the measuring. Make sure you understand how the moving arm points to the angle degrees so that you’re able to measure the range of motion accurately.
Once the moving arm of the goniometer is aligned with the moving limb, look at the goniometer to determine the angle degree.
- Align the center of the goniometer with the center of the joint.
The center of the goniometer, also called the fulcrum, should be placed right on the fulcrum of the joint you’re measuring. The center is the round section attached to the stationary arm. Aligning the fulcrums of both the goniometer and the joint will ensure an accurate measurement.
For example, if you’re measuring the hip joint, the center of the goniometer should be placed right where the hip joint is, in the center of your hip.
- Hold the goniometer’s stationary arm along the limb being measured.
Once the center of the goniometer is on the joint, align the stationary arm (the arm attached to the circle) with the limb that’s going to remain in place. This is the limb that you’ll hold steady while the other limb rotates. If you were measuring your knee’s range of motion, the fulcrum of the goniometer would be on the fulcrum of your knee joint, with the stationary arm of the goniometer aligned with your thigh. If it helps, imagine you’re aligning the arms of the goniometer with the bones in your body.
- Move the joint through your range of motion.
While holding the goniometer and stationary limb in place, move your joint as far forward or backward as possible. Be careful not to move any other part of your body except the limb that’s being measured. Stretch the joint as far as it will safely go, then hold your limb in place.
For example, hold your arm in place while bending your wrist forward. The hand would be the limb that’s about to be measured, and you’d be keeping the arm stable and unmoving.
- Adjust the moving arm of the goniometer to align with the moving limb.
Once you’ve stretched your limb as far as it can go, slide the moving arm of the goniometer so that it’s aligned with the limb that stretched. You should now have the stationary arm of the goniometer aligned with the stationary limb, and the moving arm of the goniometer aligned with the moving limb. Make sure the goniometer’s moving arm is aligned with the center of the limb that moved. The fulcrum of the goniometer should still be on the fulcrum of the joint. When properly aligned, it should look as if you used the goniometer to trace the angle of your stretch.
- Record the angle on a piece of paper.
The moving arm of the goniometer should be pointing at the angle degree on the stationary arm, showing you the range of motion. Look at the reading on the goniometer before removing it from your body in case the goniometer’s arms move once it’s removed. Write down which joint you measured, what type of movement was done, and the range of motion in degrees.
Getting the Range of Motion (ROM) of your hip: (Assistance is required)
You can also determine the flexion and extension of your hip joints using the goniometer. Lie down on a flat surface on your back with your legs straight. Flexion of the hip is the movement of one leg being raised up towards the body. Measure this angle by placing the goniometer on the side of the hip and aligning the arms. To measure extension, lay on your stomach and raise your leg up as far as possible. For the most accurate measurement, try not to lift your hips from the floor while raising your leg. The fulcrum of the goniometer should be on the fulcrum of the hip joint, with the arms aligned on the moving leg and your waist. The average flexion for the hips is 100 degrees, while the average hyper extension is 20 degrees.
You can buy a goniometer on any online shop, like Amazon.
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