Being a personal trainer for 20 years has allowed me to see a few fitness trends come, go and then come back again. Stretching has been one of the greats, its benefits, risks and when to be performed has done many rounds.
I’m not going to tackle the greatest mobility trend “foam rolling” right now, I’ll save it for another time.
Below are some of the stretching rules I follow:
Don’t try and make a muscle more flexible just because you can
Have you ever heard the story of a yogi going skiing and needing knee surgery afterwards, due to a hypermobile (extremely flexible) knee joint? Might be an urban myth, though the logic is sound. If you have a joint with a good range of motion, taking that joint and making it even more flexible can cause instability and weaken the joint leading to injury.
Stretching before and during exercise can be good, or bad
Stretching a tight muscle when warming up to improve joint ROM (range of motion) can have a positive effect. Think calf stretching to improve ankle ROM pre-squat. Stretching a flexible hamstring before squatting on the other hand, could land you in a physiotherapy clinic with the hypermobile yogi.
Preparing for action
Movement Prep is one of the best ways to warm and, at the same time, work on improving your mobility. It’s also a great way to stretch between workouts, you don’t need much space or any equipment. Core Performance is a great resource tool if you want to know more about this modality.
Take stretching seriously
Stretching needs to be viewed like cardiovascular and strength training, planned well and done often. If you want to improve a rounded shoulder problem, stretching your chest a couple of times a week for 30 seconds is not going to help.
To sum it all up
Get a good trainer or sports therapist to evaluate your movement patterns and create a stretching program which keeps your body balanced, strong and performing at its best.
*It might seem like I’m hating on yoga, however it’s the opposite, I practice yoga myself and think it has many benefits beyond just the physical.