The principles of stretching and flexibility, both for pre-workout warm-up and as a sole means to improve mobility have completely changed since when you and I were growing up in P.E. class. In a nutshell, stretching can do more harm than good if not done correctly or if performed with the intent of hyper-mobility (exceeding bio-mechanical ranges). We also now know that joint stability and strength, are more important to athletic performance and lower injury rates, than flexibility is. Optimal range of motion is the goal, with flexibility as one tool to get there. Hyper-mobility or maximizing joint flexibility is never the goal for an athlete! In fact some pro-athletes do not stretch at all in a traditional since, but rather warm-up and cool-down, and loosen up occasional tight spots and trigger points with targeted stretches, foam-rolling and massage. Strengthening exercises, massage and compression-wear have taken over many areas for today’s relevant athlete, where stretching fell short in the past. Pre-workout stretching should be used only as a means to acclimate your body to its normal range of optimal motion, as well as loosening up any ‘tight’ spots or fascia adhesions. Pre-workout stretching is not the time to try to improve overall flexibility or push joints or muscles past their bio-mechanical maximum range of motion. Pre-workout stretching should only be done after you have first warmed up your core temperature and increased your heart rate with some form of mild cardio exercise, like spinning, jogging, jumping rope, or mild calisthenics. A warm muscle is a pliable muscle. A cold muscle is prone to high-risk of injury. Never stretch cold muscles! Ideally the time to work on your flexibility – if that is important to you, is after your workout when all your soft tissue are very warm and pliable. This may also assist in removing lactic-acid and in muscle recovery. However, while post-exercise stretching and massage may lower next day (DOMS) soreness, it may also inhibit muscle-gains by reducing inflammation and prostaglandins, which both trigger follow on muscle growth, and Growth Hormone secretion.
|My primary 'stretching' goals are to simply 'loosen up', prevent fascia-adhesions, manage scar tissue and to maintain optimal mobility - not to join some sideshow circus act with hyper-mobile joints!!|