In lieu of any joined up thinking which may lead to a decent blog post, here are a few random thoughts on the subject of flexibility.
For one reason or another, it’s a topic that’s been floating around WG for the last while so I feel it’s worth noting a few points.
1 – Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Many people who love to stretch do so because they’re good at it. And a lot of folk who need to stretch really suck at it.
And guess what, we all love to do the shit we are great at and hate the shit we suck at.
Unfortunately, if we are to progress in our training, we need to suck it up and prioritise the training of our weak points, and if that means stretching, then stretch.
If you can already touch your elbow to your toes but can’t deadlift your bodyweight, guess what…….
2 – Some things just can’t be stretched.
There are times when a muscle just will not be stretched no matter how hard you try.
And usually with good reason.
Two common examples, the hip flexors and the hamstrings.
The hammies are probably the number one go to when someone stretches. Tell anyone to stretch and they likely try to touch their toes. So why can’t everyone touch their toes? Because ole hammie wont stretch.
Why won’t hammie stretch? Because he’s already being stretched by that pelvis thats in anterior tilt all day long. If it stretches any further it’ll be in danger, so sorry bud, I’ll tighten up to protect myself thankyou very much.
Sort the pelvic tilt and the good ole hammie will do whatever you want it to.
Hip flexors are a pain at the best of times. They get so wound up and tight they can cause a whole lot of trouble. Problem is, they’re deep and have several sections meaning that stretch your doing is most likely hitting only one region, and I doubt that’s the region that needs stretched.
Plus when a muscle gets this tight, especially if it forms a “trigger point” or a “knot” the muscle will stretch all around it but the adhesion itself remains steadfast. And that aint good.
3 – Leave your ligaments and tendons alone!
First off, they don’t like being stretched in the first place. They don’t rebound like the muscle does. Stretch these and your likely to simply destabilise the joint. It might feel like you’ve gotten more flexible, right up until the point it falls apart on you!
4 – The IT band WILL NOT STRETCH!
That bad boy is attached to the bone, and bones are pretty solid.
You can stretch the muscles that form and attach to the IT band, namely the TFL, Glutes and Quads.
5 – Maybe you’re flexible enough already?
Ever consider how much you need to be able to move? Will extra flexibility really help you?
6 – If you don’t build strength through your full range of motion, adding more ROM is irresponsible.
Strength + Flexibility = Mobility and mobility is the ability to move fluidly, with full control throughout the full range of motion.
Notice the words “with control” in that sentence? Over the years I’ve met many a yoga practitioner or semi-contact martial artist who could demonstrate incredible passive stretches, yet had no strength to back it up. They struggled to do something as simple as a basic squat.
If you don’t build strength in your range of motion you are simply putting yourself at risk, it’s one fo the reasons back and knee pain is prevalent in the karate world I grew up in.
I myself had bad knees for a time, once I got strong and developed mobility, pain went away.
Move into and out of your stretch, do it slowly and fluidly, even build up to adding light weight to the movement.
As an aside, between Kettlebell Swings and Romanian Deadlifts, you’ll probably develop a better hamstring stretch than any amount of toe touches.
7 – Stretching is NOT a warm up
This just will not go away. Stretching is for after training, better yet, several hours after training.
It is no way to warm up.
OK, once you have warmed up and done some mobility work you may find yourself in need of some specific flexibility to work to get into the positions you’ll be training that session, this is fine, the stretch you do there and then is perfectly functional.
Otherwise, save it for the cool down or for in front of the telly that evening.