When one thinks about the term “pliability” they generally associate the term with being flexible. While there is certainly some truth to that belief, pliability is much more than one narrowly defined skill or ability. Additionally, there seems to be a preconceived notion that those who are larger in size, whether muscularly or overweight, can’t achieve muscle pliability. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
So, what is muscle pliability? Contrary to popular belief, it has its origins not in movement capability, per se, but in adaptability. In other words, while a pliable muscle is flexible, a flexible muscle isn’t always pliable. In this article, we’ll be diving a little deeper into what this means and why it matters. But first, it’s important to define ‘muscle pliability’.
What is Muscle Pliability?
In short, muscle pliability is defined as muscle tissue that is long, soft and resilient, allowing it to adapt to the external environment in a safe and efficient fashion.
When discussing pliability, you can think of it as an all-encompassing term that describes both flexibility, mobility, absorbability, and capability to disperse force upon its environment safely. In effect, having pliable muscles is the key to high-performance, intensity, injury prevention, and peak recovery.
Below are several strategies that you can implement in order to improve pliability:
- Massage Therapy
- Foam Rolling (i.e. Trigger Point Therapy)
- Dynamic and Static Stretching (Warming Up, Cooling Down, etc.)
- Healthy Lifestyle (Nutrition, Hydration, Sleep, etc.)
As you can see, developing muscle pliability requires many of the same strategies that mobility and flexibility require, making it an obvious umbrella term used to describe a muscles entire range of capabilities, including but certainly not limited to flexibility and mobility.
If you’re not yet convinced of the benefits of having pliable muscles and are unsure why it matters in the context of your life, the following section is for you!
Benefits of Muscle Pliability
Having pliable muscles are beneficial both for the average Joe or Jane journeying through daily life, as well as the competitive athlete seeking to optimize their physical health and performance.
Not only does it allow the body to reach full range of motion (ROM), but it also enables the body to carry greater load under greater tension for longer durations and distances. Moreover, for the athletic reader, it also improves agility and reaction time.
From a general health perspective, pliable muscles also happen to have greater oxygen uptake, better blood flow, and more neuromuscular efficiency, among other things.
Ultimately, muscle pliability allows for a full contraction and, in contrast, full relaxation. All of these reasons mentioned above are reasons why pliable muscles are the most efficient at muscle recovery, repair, and performance.
Below is a summary of the various benefits of muscle pliability:
- Optimized Performance
- Improved Reaction Time
- Promotes Full ROM
- Greater Oxygen Uptake
- Better Blood Flow
- Neuromuscular Efficiency
- Cellular Health
- Improved Muscular Recovery and Repair
As mentioned, the benefits of having pliable muscles are vast, and should be considered a priority, both for the average person, elite athlete, and everyone in between.
The importance of muscle pliability can’t go unnoticed. Not only is it extremely beneficial for the performance athlete but it also plays a major role in the physical health and longevity of the average Joe and Jane. No matter your health and fitness goals, pliable muscles have their place. While it’s primary function is in physical capabilities, it also acts as a preventative mechanism from injury. The good news is that improving muscle pliability requires similar, if not the exact same efforts required for improving one’s flexibility and mobility. In other words, as long as you’re implementing physically beneficial exercises such as foam rolling, massage therapy, and stretching, you’re also improving muscle pliability.
In summary, there’s no denying the importance of developing pliable muscles. Additionally, while it’s often confused with flexibility and mobility, muscle pliability is much more than that. Implementing a daily regimen that involves exercises that promote pliability is imperative. Through intention, consistency, and execution, anyone can develop optimal muscle pliability and be well on their way to peak physical health.
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- Shortsleeve C. What is Muscle Pliability. AskMen. 2021.
- Mohr AR, Long BC, Goad CL. Effect of foam rolling and static stretching on passive hip-flexion range of motion. J Sport Rehabil. 2014.
- Kaufman R. What is Muscle Pliability and Why is it Important. SteelFit. 2021.
- Owens E. Olympian or Not, Pliability is Key. DelosTherapy. 2018.