About a month ago I had the pleasure of sitting down with my colleague Coach Brian Klepacki, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Functional Movement Specialist with Critical Bench to ask discuss why stretching will not make us flexible. To be honest, I grew up in a time where whether it was school sports, dance class, organized sports teams, I was encouraged to stretch, not only to warm up my muscles for a better performance & to prevent injury, but also because I was led to believe that stretching would help make me more flexible. Apparently this was, and still is incorrect. So, I sat down with Coach Brian and asked him to clear the air on the misconceptions about stretching and flexibility.
Coach Brian agrees that this is a topic that is definitely misunderstood. He also hammered home the point that stretching has the potential to create and improve the quality of life and the quantity of life because, it has been proven to lengthen life if done correctly . . . and who does not want to enjoy that?!
So is stretching even necessary? I mean if you’re not an athlete, if you’ve never been injured, if you’re not currently injured, if you’re not in some sort of rehabilitative program and have no real health concerns is it really necessary? The short answer is “YES!” And here is why . . .
Stretching should be one of those things that regardless if you’re healthy, regardless if you’re an athlete, regardless if you are old or young, you should still be incorporating some type of stretching protocol. It doesn’t have to be lengthy and it doesn’t have to be in-depth. It can be very surface level as long as you’re incorporating some kind of stretching exercise or protocol in your DAILY routine. Yes . . . daily routine and you will begin to see some incredible things happening to and with your body.
So flexibility by definition is the range of motion of a joint or group of joints; it is the ability to move joints effectively through a complete range of motion. Stretching and flexibility are not really the same however, they are similar in that in order to become flexible you have to apply certain stretching principles. So flexibility is good and ]it’s good to train flexibility because there are so many benefits that can be achieved with respect to the length of your life and your quality of life will be improve if you have good flexibility.
Now stretching is the form of physical exercise in which a specific muscle or tendon or most of it, is deliberately flexed or stretched in order to improve the muscles plasticity to achieve good muscle tone. Therefore, stretching is the result of flexibility training. So when people say, “I need to stretch,” they’re really doing a form of flexibility training.
There are differences between different types of stretching and in order to achieve good flexibility, you have to apply different stretching protocols. For example if you are a figure competitor, you’re going to stretch much differently than someone who has never been in a gym before, because you will have very different requirements that your body needs, in order to perform best as an athlete as opposed to somebody who sits behind a desk for the better part of their day.
There is really two major groups of stretching, dynamic and static. And within those two main groups there are several subcategories of stretching. Dynamic stretching is your big explosive movements and they often look a lot more like exercise. Static is just the opposite. It’s static, it’s passive and it’s done without any, or with very little movement. Now there are several different types of stretching within these two main groups and they employ different techniques and styles to give very specific results for your overall mobility and performance.
If you find this whole topic a bit confusing, or if you are a beginner and you want to include more flexibility training into your healthy living routine, start simple. Get on a treadmill! Yes, get on a treadmill or an elliptical and spend five minutes going through your normal pattern of movement to increase your temperature. Once you increase your core temperature, your body is primed and ready for movement. Choose some dynamic stretching exercises you will enjoy and just MOVE! The body has an incredible capacity to prepare for movement by doing movement and being actively engaged in movement. It’s basically a simple formula . . . move. This is something that everybody needs to make a priority in terms of lifestyle, wellness and quality of life.