The Truth Behind Stretching

Static Stretching is the form of stretching you are probably most familiar with. We all have memories of standing up in PE Class and reaching for our toes and feeling that pull in our Hamstrings. But how many of us do our stretches properly and are there better methods for improving flexibility and mobility? There is a ton of information out there on stretching, functional training, flexibility vs mobility, etc. so it's really easy to get lost. Let's clear up some main things to consider for this part of your training program. First of all, let's understand the differences between some of these terms that, unfortunately, are occasionally used interchangeably in fitness today.

Flexibility is your bodys ability to move a joint through its complete range of motion.

Neuromuscular efficiency or Mobility is your bodys ability to properly use the nervous system to recruit the correct muscles to move the body in all planes of motion.

Regardless of your goals (weight loss, muscle gain, athletic performance, etc.) muscle imbalances play a role in how you move, which in turn, affects your workout performance. Nearly everyone suffers from at least a few Postural imbalances. This can be the result of a few different things like a sedentary lifestyle, repetitive daily movements, poor training technique, stress, and other factors. For example, the advancements in technology today that allow people to work for hours at their desk unfortunately has dramatically increased work related injuries with things like low-back and neck pain.

Performing exercises with poor technique, neglecting underactive muscles, and ignoring muscle imbalances and never stretching properly can not only hinder athletic performance but also cause injury which would obviously dramatically halt your results and workout efforts.

Okay, so we know that most people have postural distortions that need to be addressed in your exercise program. But how?

I usually employ different stretching methods with clients depending on what phase of their training program they are in. The next two paragraphs again are just a general guideline and vary depending on the client, their goals, and the phase of the program they are following.

For example, the majority of my clients workouts involve some form of SMR (Self Myofascial Release or Foam Rolling) and Mobility work during the warm up. Foam rolling or SMR is used by applying gentle force to an adhesion or knot in an overly tight muscle. From there, we move on to some mobility work of the similar area so that my client is in the best possible posture to perform the rest of their workout.

To finish most workouts, we will perform a second round of SMR of either the same or another overactive muscle. Afterwards we will perform a few rounds of static stretching. The static stretches will usually be involving some of the muscles we worked out that day and some of the overactive muscles we mentioned early. We will passively put those muscles to a point of tension and hold that position for a minimum of 30 seconds for each.

If a client has a very clear posture distortion that needs to be addressed, I may give them homework SMR and Static Stretching to do AFTER their other workouts when we aren't together.

There is tons more information on Stretching, Mobility, and Flexibility but hopefully this brief overview was able to help you understand some of the basics. If you guys have any more questions on any of these topics or just your exercise or workout program in general please feel free to reach out and I would be happy to help out! Take care guys and don't forget to get some stretching in this week! =)