The Myth of Stretching

If you are anything like I was when I was in high school, we’ve been taught the static stretch, dynamic stretches and then you go right on with you training or with practice.

There are two types of stretches: the static and the dynamic stretch and often what I was taught is no cool down, no pre-workout mobility, in the beginning we do some toe touches, some hamstring stretches, usually with the rounded back to begin with and then maybe some high knees and some butt kicks, which are the dynamic stretches. Then we went ahead and went on with our work out.

I always see runners doing some static stretches before they go for their run. So I understand that all of this is just passed on misinformation from a coach or somebody else that we’ve gotten this from.

The first thing I want to address is static stretching. Static stretching is not all bad, it can have its benefits, but as a preworkout it is not going to be the most optimal warm up.

This causes your body to down regulate and shift into a more parasympathetic mode, slows down the nervous system and studies show that this inhibits performance especially in explosive sport. It?s even been shown to increase likelihood of injury.

We do not want the body in that more relaxed state.

You are probably wondering what are the benefits of static stretching. This modality is especially effective at the end of the workout as a post-workout mobility exercise, so once your muscles are warmed up the stretching really benefits and can cause that increase range in motion.

If you a performing these static stretches at the beginning of your workout when your muscles are cold, you often don’t really get that increase range in motion but what it do instead is create the micro-tears in the muscle. Once you create those micro-tears in the muscle what happens is, your muscle becomes a lot more likely to get injured.

One thing I need to address is PNF stretching, proprio neuromuscular facilitation. This is just a big fancy word that means your muscle length and range in motion is controlled by your nervous system.

As I said before, when you do those static stretches it affects the way that your nervous system fires and your motor patterns. When you are doing those PNF stretches what you do is we manipulate your nervous system, for a lack of a better terms, to get that full range in motion. This is also going to be included in all the post workout modalities.

The next one I want to address is the dynamic stretching or the preworkout warm up. This is what I mention in the beginning that is going to be far superior to static stretching at the beginning of your workout.

An example of these are high knees or but kicks or lungs, anything where we are increasing the range of motion but also actively moving. Unlike the static stretches where we reach and hold.

If you are running in a certain form or pose method, they often called this movement prep and what you are doing is you are warming up that motor pattern, so that way you can get your body firing I the correct motor pattern for your running or your cycling.

Now there is going to be an exception to this rule; sometimes you have mobility problem where your body is not able to hit a certain range of motion and that lack of mobility is going to effect proper form or proper execution of the training or the exercise. This is one time when we can do some static stretching or something to increase the range of motion before the actual training or the workout.

In this instance it is still going to be beneficial if we do get some kind of warm up whether it’s through a jog or through some dynamic stretches. Then work on those static stretches or the PNF stretches to get your body to the full range of motion needed.

For example, if you are not able to hit the full range motion in squats, you don’t have the ankle mobility to get low enough, your heels will raise off the ground causing the likelihood of injury to increase.

So it’s really going to base on your activity, you modality of training whether it be swimming or lifting also another great tool for this as far as preworkout goes is going to be a soft tissue work or some myofascial release. So this will help relax that body and get those tense muscles loosened up so you can hit those end ranges motion without sacrificing form or putting yourself in jeopardy of getting injured.

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