Does everyone need to stretch? Is more flexibility always better? Should I stretch before and after my workout? Doesn’t static stretching make you weaker and more prone to injury?
Go to your local bookstore or do a quick search on Amazon and you’ll see these topics covered in totality and yet the answers still are not clear. 15 years ago, what you’re about to read would get met with absolute agreement. 8 years ago you’d have to be careful which circles you spoke up about it. Today, it’s about like politics, just leave it alone unless you’re with your friends, and even then…who knows.
I could get labeled as a bit of a heretic by saying that you should do static stretching. It’s been shown in studies time and time again that static stretching decreases the entire purpose of strength/power/speed training and what makes us able to move….force production decreases after we perform static stretching. It is not be the end all be all we wanted it to be back in the day. However, static stretching has not been the devil the world has made it out to be. There is a gross misunderstanding afoot here.
For instance, what constitutes static stretching? This isn’t something that has been clearly defined. There are plenty of professionals out there that’d call any hold of 10s or more to be considered ‘static’ and there are plenty that wouldn’t consider the minutes held in yoga poses to be considered ‘stretching’. So where’s the line?
It’s really not all that complicated. The whole decrease of force production doesn’t seem to happen in most people until AFTER a 50second hold. Not to mention that the whole Con (decrease in force production) and Pro (tissue health and recovery) can be satisfied by……wait for it….holding stretches at the end of the workout and moving through stretches at the beginning.
Of course, just like about anything with the human body, stretching is quite a rabbit hole. For the sake of sanity though, let us handle the PNF, breathing, and flossing techniques.
Static stretching is definitely beneficial post workout. The following stretches will benefit the majority of the population. It’s a very general coverage for the body, but the majority of the population has stiffness in these areas.
This is the half kneeling hip flexor from deficit. You're simply staying nice and tall, abs tight, and getting a stretch through the front of the hip and the inside of the opposing thigh.
The split stance abductor mobilization. While down on one knee, keep the other leg straight as demonstrated in the picture. It’s important to maintain a long spine while giving yourself ample room with your hands out in front. Pull your hips forward to get the stretch. A common error is when the hands are too close to the hips. You need them out in front to be able to pull on the inside of the front of your thigh and get that adductor on stretch.
The adductors are actually an interesting group of muscles. It’s an area that’s kind of always “on”…standing on one leg, walking up or down stairs, sitting/standing, etc. So it ends up laying down a lot of dense fibrotic tissue, which is sort of a fancy way of saying that it gets stiff easily.
This is the overhead tricep stretch, and really much more is happening here than just stretching the tricep. You’re pulling open the lat (used in pullups/chin-ups and commonly stiff to the point that it locks down the shoulder blade creating many joint isssues at the shoulder and upper back). There are numerous other actions happening during this stretch as well, mostly through the shoulder and upper back. But the emphasis is driving the hand down the upper back while pushing the elbow to the ceiling. If you’re stiff in this area…this stretch will let you know immediately.
This is the rear foot elevated half kneeling hip flexor stretch. Say that 10 times fast. Stay nice and tall, pull the hip fwd slightly, abs and butt stay tight throughout. Common errors when doing this stretch include: trying to put the toe up but you definitely want the toe pointed down, cranking the foot up as high as possible on the wall while leaving the hip back and out of the game and the last one is actually leaving hip position out of the equation. You want to pull that hip forward to make it a hip flexor stretch, while your abs and butt are tight and pulling the hip open. This one is a wake up call, be ready.
Distance runners and those with desk jobs are the ones that find this stretch more exhilarating than most. Distance runners typically only lift their knee to about 30degrees of hip flexion and extend it to take the stride. Guess what muscle primarily flexes the hip the first 30degress and extends the knee…the very front of your thigh… Rectus Femoris, and it’s about to LTFU when sitting into this stretch.
The supine half butterfly. Lay on your back, pull your knee to the same-side shoulder and the foot to the opposite-side shoulder. The biggest mistake people make with this one is not keeping their shin at approximately 45°. The knee either gets pulled across the body, or the foot gets cranked on, which opens the hip up too far. You want an approximately 45° shin angle. The other thing is picking your head up off the floor. You want to relax and pull the knee up to the chest.
This is the Crucifix Stretch, It’s about as simple as it gets. Lay flat on the roller with your arm stretched out wide. You want a stretch through your chest. Those that are super stiff in this area shoulder go with a half roller or a rolled up towel. The crucifix stretch is definitely a crowd-pleaser.
There are people that do not need to stretch. These are people who are already very flexible. These are people that already have a lot of laxity in their body and don't need more stretching. For instance, the female body is typically more flexible. Males are usually more on the stiff side. Men typically need to stretch more, and females typically need to stretch less. This is not ironclad, only typically.
How long to hold each?
20 to 40 second hold on each stretch is going to be very appropriate for most people post workout.
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