Stretching is a very valuable tool and should be part of your daily routine.
Let’s talk about flexibility vs mobility. Being flexible is great, but many people that are flexible have the most pain. Let me explain…being flexible means you score well in attaining passive range of motion. This does not guarantee that you will also score well in an active range of motion test. If you cannot actively move your limb into the same range of motion your body can go into via the passive test = your flexibility is useless and you will be prone to injury.
Ex. Lets say your trainer can move your hamstrings to 110 degrees of motion when laying on your back. You should be able to actively move your leg to that same range of motion, if you cannot you do not possess mobility, rather only flexibility.
Another layer of mobility is having a proper length tension relationship. If your anterior chain is tight and your posterior chain is flexible, this length tension imbalance will cause you a host of issues. Please watch the short length tension test below to learn more.
There are a few different forms of stretching that can be used for unique purposes. Misguided and misplaced stretching can lead to more harm than good if not used in the right manner or time.
There are 3 main forms of stretching: Static, Dynamic, and Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF).
- Static Stretching: This is where you put a stretch on a muscle and hold it for an allotted amount of time. This type of stretching should never be done as part of your pre-lifting ritual. Studies show that static stretching can weaken a muscle, lower force production and negatively affect connective tissue. It has also been shown to increase the risk of injury when done before lifting or before any physical activity. We need to understand that static stretching does not and will not physically lengthen a muscle, and it is primarily a method of relaxing a muscle. It should be obvious that we do not want to relax a muscle and then attempt to constrict it with a workout. In order to use static stretching to your advantage it should be done at least 4-6 hours after lifting or athletic activity. Adding it to your evening routine is our best recommendation. The yin nature of stretching will help calm down the nervous system setting the table for a better nights rest.
- Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF): This is a contract relax method and a good style to use pre- workout to increase mobility for movement. The effects of PNF stretching can last for 4-6 hours. This version does not decrease blood flow to the muscle as static stretching does and creates rapid flexibility.
- Dynamic Stretching: This version uses momentum to force the muscle into further extension. Movements such as knee raises, or high leg kicks. This is also a great pre-workout stretch as it excites as well as warms up the muscle for activity.
Just remember that before a workout, you are striving for mobility over flexibility.
Time seems to be the biggest limiting factor in peoples lives, we never have enough of it. If you want to add some flexibility training to your lifestyle I suggest adding in the core 4 stretches 4-5 days per week. It only will take you 10-15 minutes and they seem to be the muscles needing the most love. We will be targeting the Hip Flexors, Gluts, Ql and Lats for this stretch sequence. I provided two series of how to conduct this sequence as many people lack the flexibility to get in all the positions on series 2 of the core 4.
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