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by Thomas Kurz
Those readers who have read my previous article “Flexibility Problems, or Kiddie Stretches for Adult Joints–You Have to Be Kidding!” and also listened to the interview on flexibility and strength for PhysIdex.com already know the mystery sport, the subject of the question in my previous article.
For those who have not read the previous article, I repeat my characterization of the sport:
“There is a sport in which all athletes display both great flexibility and great strength, even though very many of them begin training long past the age of 16. The sport is so strenuous and puts such a great load on one’s joints that if they were not in the safest positions they would be destroyed.”
And here is my question again:
What is the sport I am hinting at, the one in which all athletes display both great flexibility and great strength?
Before I wrote this article, I got a few guesses (in comments on the previous article). Most were sports that do not meet the criteria for developing both great flexibility and great strength in adults. Only three commenters named the correct sport.
Olympic weightlifting is that sport. There are research papers showing this, but those who look and actually see don’t need those papers to, well, see the obvious. A look at Olympic weightlifters doing their lifts is enough…. Those who see notice how a weightlifter’s hip position in the low squat or in the bottom position of the snatch transfers to the side splits, how the hip position in the split-style clean and jerk transfers to the front splits, and how alignment of the back and shoulders in the snatch transfers to the back bridge. Here are photos showing how training for a snatch develops flexibility for splits (see the front view) and back bridges (see the side view).
By the way, it has been known since the 1970s that Olympic weightlifters rate second only to gymnasts in overall flexibility (Jensen and Fisher, 1979).
Jensen, C. R., and Fisher, A. G. 1979. Scientific Basis of Athletic Conditioning (2nd ed). Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger.